This is a guest post from Cassandra Aceves, one of our friends at Badger Maps. They know a whole lot about outside sales teams, and we’re happy to feature some of their insights here!
Getting customers for your business is hard. In the software-as-a-service (SaaS) world, we talk a lot about inbound marketing, but there are many other ways to get sales.
An outside sales team can be a huge help to your company. They meet potential customers face-to-face, and that can result in a lot of sales.
But putting together and managing an outside sales team isn’t easy. It requires a number of skills and habits that you may not have had to use before. With these seven tips, though, you’ll be managing a rock star outside sales team—and getting a ton of sales—in no time.
1. Hire the right people for the job
The first step to managing a great outside sales team is making sure the people you hire are the best fit for the job. Sales isn’t the easiest field, and you’re going to want motivated individuals who are willing to go above and beyond to close the deal.
Look for go-getters who show a lot of drive and determination. The type of people who will not give up easily will help your company grow and succeed. You’re also going to want to look for people who are good listeners, as this is a key component to closing deals.
Your sales reps need to be able to listen to your prospects to determine their needs and present your product in a way that solves their problems.
Another key characteristic to look for is comfort speaking in front of people. Outside sales depends on face-to-face customer interaction, so great salespeople have charisma and social skills. Pay attention to the interviewee’s body language during the interview.
Do they seem comfortable speaking with you or does it seem like they have no desire to be there?
Also, look for their ability to take constructive criticism. Reps need to be able to take feedback and be willing to learn how to improve as a salesperson.
A great opportunity to test this is during the interview process. Have an interviewee pitch a product to you. Then give them feedback and have them pitch the product a second time.
Pay attention to how they react to your feedback. Do they ask questions? Do they make an effort to use that feedback and make changes? These are things to consider when hiring for your next outside sales position.
2. Train the right people the right way
Once you’ve hired the right people for the job, you want to make sure you train them the right way.
Providing clear and concise training material for your newly hired reps will ensure that they spend less time training and more time selling. Create an organized and structured training timeline, and you’ll notice that they’re better prepared when they’re in the field on their own.
It’s also a good idea to assign your rep a mentor during the training process. A mentor is someone who they can turn to for questions or assistance in the beginning. The rep can also shadow their mentor to try and mirror the tactics they use during the sales process.
Once the rep feels confident in their knowledge of the product and process, have them put their training to use and get them out in the field. Yes, the rep is going to make mistakes in the beginning, but they’ll learn a lot faster if they get real-world practice.
The sooner they make mistakes, the sooner they’ll learn how to correct those mistakes and grow to become a great outside sales rep.
Throughout the training process, it’s important to check in periodically with your newly hired rep. Even just taking 10 or 15 minutes a week to check in and ask how they’re feeling about training will ensure that it runs smoothly.
3. Measure key performance indicators (KPIs)
KPIs are useful for managers looking to hone in on the areas their team needs to improve upon. There are a few KPIs outside sales managers should play close attention to.
The first is lead response time. This is the amount of time it takes the company to follow up with a lead who’s indicated their initial interest. This initial interest could be a download, a subscription for a free trial, or a number of other things.
Ultimately, the goal is to minimize the lead response time so you’re contacting the lead as quickly as possible. The sooner you contact the lead, the more likely you are to convert them into a customer.
The next KPI to take into consideration is the sales cycle length. This is the time frame from your first interaction with the lead to when you close the deal and they become a paying customer. The shorter the sales cycle length, the better.
When your sales cycle is shorter, you’re converting leads into paying customers more efficiently. Longer sales cycles mean your prospect is less likely to convert into a customer.
Another important KPI is the closing ratio. To determine this ratio, divide a rep’s number of sales by the number of leads. Ultimately, an outside sales rep’s goal is to have a high closing ratio and convert most of their leads into customers.
These are just a few KPIs to consider. There are many more ways to measure your reps’ performance and evaluate areas for improvement. As a manager, it’s a good idea to do a weekly check-in with your reps to discuss KPIs.
4. Provide incentives
Once you’ve determined how you’ll measure reps’ performance, you’ll want to provide the right incentives to help motivate your team. There are different types of incentives you can provide that will get your reps excited to increase their sales.
Additional paid vacation can be a great incentive, as it doesn’t require additional operating cost. In the grand scheme of things, five additional vacation days for a rep won’t significantly impact your sales. Extra vacation days could be just what your rep needs to boost their motivation and drive their numbers up.
Another incentive you can use to encourage your reps to increase their sales is new equipment. Offering a new laptop or iPad as a prize to the highest-selling rep creates an environment of healthy competition and enthusiasm in your team. Reps acquire a fun work toy and a badge of honor for their hard work. Managers can get on board with a new tool the rep can use to become more efficient.
There are also team incentives you can provide to your reps. These could include a group dinner or a fun team event. Not only does this encourage the group as a whole to improve their numbers, but it also provides an opportunity for great team bonding, which boosts morale and motivation.
5. Take advantage of sales tools
There are tons of useful sales tools on the market right now, and finding the right ones for your company will help you better manage your sales team. Having a customer relationship management tool (CRM) to manage your customers will help your reps during the sales process.
CRMs organize and improve communication with both customers and your team. With a CRM, you can keep track of your customer history, so that anyone on your team can jump in and pick up wherever a colleague left off.
CRMs also make reporting easier, which means you’ll have an easier time managing your outside sales team.
These tools help your team become more efficient and increase their sales productivity. Picking the right CRM ultimately depends on your team’s needs. Thankfully, many programs have free trials, so it’s worth checking out a few and seeing which one is a good fit for your team.
Here are two we’re particularly partial to:
Directly communicating with your reps when they’re out in the field can be challenging. Slack lets you send direct or group messages to your reps. You can also share files and integrate with several other software platforms on Slack. And it can all be done from a phone when a rep is out in the field.
(Check out Hubstaff’s ultimate list of Slack tricks to find some cool ways to use Slack in your own team!)
Sometimes it can take hours for a rep to plan out their route and determine the best way to touch base with all of their customers in one day. Our sales routing tool Badger Maps is a quick fix for this problem and helps outside sales reps become more efficient.
Badger Maps helps reps optimize their routes and visually organize their customers. There are also management tools that give you the ability to track how reps are doing with clients and where they are in the sales process.
6. Establish a healthy work culture
Cultivating a positive work environment is an important part of managing your sales team. As the manager, you play an integral role in establishing the culture, so be sure you set the right tone as a leader.
It’s key to establish core values with your team and ensure that everyone knows these values. You should be a good role model—make sure you’re enacting the values of the team.
You can also ask your employees what they think of the current culture and how it could be improved. Strive to create a positive culture that encourages your reps to want to work harder.
The happier your employees are, the more willing they will be to put in the work. Team activities are a perfect opportunity for your outside sales team to take a break, bond, and have fun with one another.
Don’t forget that your sales reps are people too!
Make it clear that you value them as team members and wish to create a work environment they enjoy being a part of.
7. Be an effective manager
Being an effective manager is key to driving your sales team to success. In order to be an effective manager, you need to be a strong leader for your team. It’s your job to ensure that your reps are producing positive results.
Communication is key to being a strong leader. Be transparent with your team and make your expectations clear. Set attainable goals and take the time to listen to your team’s needs. Then figure out how you can help them succeed.
Think of yourself as their coach. It’s your job to assist them in the areas where they need improvement. Provide constructive criticism, but also take the time to ask them for feedback.
How can you be a better manager? What areas do team members feel they need more help in? Most importantly, have fun and strive to create a positive work environment where your reps feel like they can approach you and come to you if they ever need anything.
Build a successful outside sales team
A strong outside sales team starts with strong management, and with these management tips, you can lead your team to become a top performer in your company. Whether you’re working with a large company or a very small one, an effective sales team can significantly boost your company’s revenue.
Have you worked with an outside sales team? How did you find it? Share your experiences and tips in the comments below!