Assemble the A-Team

Last week in part 1, the focus was on high level strategy, the thinking before the doing. Part 2 here is all about getting stuck in and creating the setup for success

Let’s get practical

What if you are the newly promoted sales manager, the first time team leader who now has not just their own target to think about about a whole set of team targets and divisional KPIs to get to grips with? 

What if that buck now stops with you?

In order to succeed there’s a recipe out there and it contains a healthy mix of process and inspiration. If this all sounds daunting, the good news is that the day to day is heavily weighted to process and just a little sprinkling of inspiration is needed to get deals over the line from time to time.

If you are that first time sales leader and you’re staring 2021 in the face then there’s two things that are, in my humble opinion, vital to know. 

Firstly, keep it simple. The number of times I’ve seen grand plans with multi-touch flow charts, insanely complicated funnels and the rest … 9 times out of 10 they don’t work. Keep it simple, keep the process bitesize.

Secondly, think of building a commercial pipeline as pushing against a flywheel. In the early stages there is a tonne of friction. Calls not returned, inbound leads not happening, opportunities not being qualified. It can be like wading through treacle to begin with, but as the process builds it does get easier. I promise.

Commercial team meetings 

The most effective structure for a commercial team I’ve seen is the Monday morning stand up and the Friday afternoon review. 

Do the Monday morning session early on a Monday morning. If it’s later, 10.30am, 11.00am then all that will happen is the first part of the day is spent just prepping for the meeting. The time gets frittered away and it’s Monday lunchtime before actual work is happening. While it may not be popular, get this up and running as early as possible on a Monday morning, ideally as soon as the first coffee is in its mug. 

Challenge yourself to be really strict on timings. Aim for 20mins max.

Have an agenda with a repeatable format and ask the team to fill out their section in advance of the meeting (typically this becomes the final task of the week before). In that agenda, as sales lead you can update the team on company news, distance to target, margins and offers, things to be aware of that week etc. Then go round each of the team and ask them what their top 3 priorities are for the week ahead and what they need in order to achieve those tasks.

Why do it this way? It keeps the session focused and it gives you as sales lead up-to-date intel on what is blocking deals, be it a missing price on an item, some weak marketing collateral, a lack of a relevant client testimonial etc. This then means the onus is then on you to go and do something about it.

The Monday stand up encourages the team to prioritise on what is Urgent/Important for that week. They have the autonomy to self select their key actions and you’re responsible for supporting them in getting there.

Don’t just get everyone to say what they are going to do for the week. It’ll become a contest for who can bring in the longest to-do list. Not only is it a pissing competition but it’s also boring and completely ineffective. 

The final kicker in taking this approach is holding each team member to account at the end of the week in the Friday review. Simply ask, how did they get on against their key actions from Monday.

The Friday review is just that. Friday afternoon time to check in and see what has been achieved against started key priorities. Don’t set this for 5pm on a Friday. Sales takes energy and by Friday 5pm a good team is absolutely toast. A mid afternoon check in is the most effective. The time after the meeting can be used in different ways depending on where things have got to with target and actuals. Those final 2 hours could be frantic selling to get the required bookings in, getting some drinks in or somewhere in-between.

Again, for the Friday weekly, set a documented agenda. Lift across what was said on Monday and get the progress updates from each of the team. Done right, this is not about finger pointing or blame, it’s about sharing successes, highlighting gaps and spotting trends as to why deals are sticking so it can be remedied. 

The A-Team gets to work

A high performing sales team will happily share their crash and burns with each other. They all respect each other and can share those vulnerabilities in the hope that others learn from their mistakes – this can create the best atmosphere. 

As sales lead, this weekly structure is easy to run. Two 20 minute meetings in the diary, a meeting agenda template that rolls from week to week and the team populating their own comments. It also gives you a really firm grip on knowing what is likely to convert and what has obstacles – crucial stuff to take into that monthly sales projection meeting with the MD.

Next week in part 3, it’s time to talk technology. How to take the Keep It Simple mantra into the land of CRM and creating an easy to understand sales pipeline and opportunity tracking.