You have no doubt heard the phrase, “People are your most valuable resource.” Nowhere is that more true than in the world of B2B sales. Experienced, committed, savvy sales professionals are your most valuable asset, especially if you empower them to be valuable. Good sales reps are not service bots or order takers simply tasked with achieving quotas; they are skilled professionals who understand the value of what they are selling, how that value proposition meets customer needs, and the lifeblood of your revenue generation engine. When it comes to managing sales reps effectively, empowering them to succeed always yields better results.
Empowering your sales team doesn’t mean you just assign them a quota and turn them loose to deliver. It means managing sales reps so that they have the authority to make key decisions and take ownership and pride in sales results. To empower your sales reps, you need to give them the tools necessary for success and show them how to use those tools effectively. You also need to create a culture of openness and communication so that they understand management’s expectations, and arm them with the information and resources they need to meet those expectations.
Remember that as far as your customers are concerned, your sales team is the company. They are the first point of contact and therefore the face of the company, so it’s important for them to be positive and prepared with all the information they need to answer questions and solve customers’ problems. Putting informed, well-trained sales reps on the front line motivates the sales team to perform at their best at the same time they improve customer service. You need your sales team to be fully engaged, and engagement requires empowerment.
The Three Cs of Empowerment
Various elements are required for empowered sales reps, but it all stems from effectively managing sales reps. That means promoting the three Cs of salesforce empowerment: culture, clarity, and coaching.
1. Culture—Inspiring your sales team to achieve peak performance isn’t done in a vacuum. Your company’s culture has to inspire self-reliance and personal achievement. It needs to celebrate value, both for the customer and for the individual rep’s contribution to the overall sales effort. As a leader, you set high expectations and want to motivate each member of the sales team to perform at a high level to meet those expectations and feel fulfilled as individuals.
Empowerment is also built on trust. Of course, you want to hire the best talent available, but they can only perform to the extent that your management style allows. Foster trust in your sales reps to know their jobs and give them the effort you hope they will give you. Acknowledge accomplishments and milestones. Ask for their input. Create a collaborative culture in which reps are willing to ask for help when they need it and there is a sense of healthy competition.
2. Clarity—Creating a sales culture of empowerment requires effective communication and, most of all, clarity. This means setting clear goals and expectations, as well as establishing well-defined areas of responsibility.
You want to empower the sales team with information by telling them not only what is expected of them, but also who, when, why, and how. For example, make it clear who is responsible for specific territories, accounts, and functions. Set deadlines as part of your expectations so everyone understands when tasks are due. Explain your thinking behind key decisions to explain why; or at least impart what information you feel is needed to help the team understand the foundation for performance goals. One example of this is how more companies are sharing their financial goals with employees to support various management decisions. Above all, show them how to get the results you expect, including what tools are available and how best to use them.
In clarifying expectations, establishing joint sales goals will also promote empowerment. Setting objectives should be collaborative. Promoting open dialogue and sharing information makes it easier to establish mutually acceptable goals that everyone can accept.
3. Coaching—When managing sales reps, your job is not only to set the bar, but also to show them how to exceed expectations. Part of empowerment is helping your sales reps with professional advancement. Knowledge is power, and the more training you provide, the more empowered your sales team will feel. Be sure coaching is consistent, even-handed, and tailored to each individual’s needs.
Use metrics as part of your coaching strategy so that team members can track their own performance and improvement. Also be sure to help make connections between quantitative results and qualitative performance; activity as it relates to results. At MarketStar, we use a framework that tracks Activities, Objectives, and Results (AOR) as a sales accountability and training platform.
Empowerment Requires the Right Tools
In addition to training, the sales team needs the right tools. Having an efficient sales technology stack gives reps more control over sales processes and more insights that can inform independent decision-making. In contrast, not having the right tools, or not using the right tools effectively, can hinder sales processes, lengthen the average sales cycle, and impede your overall ability to achieve revenue goals.
As part of the tech stack, be sure you have the tools to qualify and prioritize leads, CRM tools to track customer and prospect data, data management, and analytics to facilitate prospecting. Automation and machine learning can streamline some sales processes such as email, call logs, prospect follow-up, and other routine tasks so that reps are empowered to do what they do best—selling!
In addition to the sales tech stack, an empowered sales team needs to be kept up to date on the latest resources and content. Too often, marketing doesn’t keep sales informed when there are new whitepapers, case studies, blog posts, or even campaigns. The more selling materials reps have, the better they can perform. Review new content with the team regularly, create a central repository of collateral and supplemental materials, and be sure that everyone knows when new content is added.
In many ways, empowering your sales team is about removing impediments to success. Many of those tasks, such as filling the sales funnel, lead qualification, and even coaching, can be outsourced. MarketStar’s Sales-as-a-ServiceⓇ offering is designed to empower your sales team by removing obstacles, providing dedicated resources, and helping your sales reps be more productive through proactive coaching and the 3 C’s. That’s true empowerment.