We’re so proud to be celebrating Women in Sales Month once again.
For each week in October, we have an amazing slate of women sales leaders who will be sharing their unique insights. From offering advice for sales managers new and more experienced to surveying the anticipated landscape of sales in the years ahead, when it comes to Improving Sales Performance, these ladies know how it's done.
Today, we are joined by Giovanna Savorgnan, Director of Sales at WFAA.
Gio shares so many amazing observations, such as:
- Why it’s important for everyone, from the top down, to fully believe in the mission of the organization.
- How the best managers are as good at coaching as they are teaching.
- And, lastly, why really great sales leaders have to lean into the unknown.
The Pillars of a Successful Sales Department
When asked how she monitors the performance of her sales department, Gio emphasizes:
- The Importance of Alignment: “Everyone needs to believe in the mission and believe in what we're doing. We don't need robots, but everyone needs to understand what we're trying to accomplish. So, it starts there and then funnels down to everybody else in the department, from sellers to account managers, you name it. They all need to understand and be aligned as well because if we have fractures in the system, it will get in the way of our success. It'll certainly slow things down.”
- Clear Strategy: “Second is a clearly defined strategy of what we're trying to accomplish. It's one thing to tell AEs, I'm using them as an example, ‘This is our strategy, so let's go do it.’ And it's another thing to say, ‘This is our strategy. This is why we built the strategy this way. These are the tactical steps that we can take to get there. Does everybody agree?’”
- Key Performance Indicators (KPIs): “Are we doing the number of activities we need to be doing? Are we hitting our revenue goals?” If we aren't, what's holding us back? in assessing a sales department's performance.
“To me,” Gio says. “Those are the three big ones.”
The Evolving Role of Sales Managers
Stephanie asks, “What should salespeople, sales managers, really be focused on? Where should they really be paying attention?”
“I really think that the sales managers, particularly local sales managers, have one of the hardest jobs in the building,” Gio says. “They're managing up, they're managing down and they're managing across. And then they've got clients, of course, and a lot of times they're dealing with things that they need to fix.
“So, I think the successful sales manager is really good at problem-solving.
“They're also good teachers and motivators. You know, we often say that, ‘you shouldn't have to motivate people,’ that they should have it within themselves. But everybody has a bad day, so you do have to be there to help them through.
“I also think that the job of the sellers has become much more complicated, and there has to be empathy, because a lot of people have been here when we sell one product, and now we're selling a whole bunch more, and so you need to have empathy with your sellers. But, at the same time, push and push, because their future is dependent on change.
“And then I think the other one is just learning. You know, I think a sales manager has to be a coach and a teacher, and the teaching part they need to know just as well as the AEs or they lose credibility really quickly.”
Changes in Sales Leadership Over Time
When asked, “What makes a great sales leader?” Gio says: “A good sales leader has to really lean in to the unknown because we don't know where things are going. No business does. So, the ability to just lean in and go for the ride is important.
“I think we all have a tendency, like it or not, to go, ‘Well, we've never done it that way.’ But I look for sales managers that are just like, ‘Hey, I got this,’ no matter what. Like a, ‘I want to be the first on the roller coaster’ mentality.
“But then I also want someone that really cares about their people, particularly this next generation. They don't want a boss; they want a partner. And there's a balancing act, but it's real and it's not going away. So, looking for someone who's going to really partner with their sellers and celebrate their successes.
“The other one I would bring up...is that our job, often, is to roll rocks uphill and to solve problems and you've got to like that.”
Advice for New Sales Managers
For new sales managers, Gio advises approaching the role with humility, being open to learning, and asking questions.
“I always tell people that that leadership isn’t something you’re born with,” Gio says. “It is something that you learn. You have to go in with a mindset that you're learning this new role. Be somewhat humble about it and, with that, ask a lot of questions.
“Be honest about what you don't know, ask questions, ask questions, ask questions. Don't be afraid to try something and make a mistake. Just try.
“I'm looking for independence and I'm looking for people that are willing to take a chance, willing to learn, willing to adapt.
“And sometimes you might not agree with a strategy or something but have to keep an open mind and give it a try.”
The Future of Sales Departments
The conversation wraps up with Gio sharing her insights into potential changes in sales departments over the next three to five years.
“When I got here in 2018, we had, I believe, five people inputting orders. Today we have one. And you think that's impossible, but it was because of technology. So, I think technology is going to continue to play a role.
“It'll never substitute face-to-face interaction and the relationships that we have with our clients. That’s impossible. But it will continue to be there and, and you know, it's our job to figure out how to use it efficiently so that we can ideally, have more people on the front line versus less.
“I also think the job is becoming, particularly for a seller, more sophisticated, and so our sellers need to get more sophisticated, if they aren't already.”