Sales managers often feel that they lack valuable information on the call effectiveness of their sales and marketing efforts. However, there is not a lack of data, but rather too much data that is neither targeted, contextualized, nor specific enough to provide value in the day-to-day of effective sales performance management.
For telephone outreach, long the most challenging to collect but most useful source of accurate data, managers have been required to either attempt to manage effectively without access to this information and rely on hunches, or endeavor to establish time-consuming and cumbersome practices to track phone-based activity.
These practices have typically consisted of weekly or even daily conference calls, self-maintained spreadsheets, or weekly roundups of manually entered CRM activity. To achieve the ends desired, it is at the expense of the time and effort of reps who are being required to conduct this “administrative,” non-revenue-generating work.
It’s a classic catch-22; the more reliable the information needs to be, the more time and effort it takes – valuable time reps could instead be spending out in the field. Even still, the very nature of these data collection exercises means they often result in a low level of accuracy that is difficult to overlook.
Managing Sales Performance with Data
(1) CRM Data Updates by Sales Reps: On average, data residing in the CRM is typically expected by management to be entered by the rep and data is manually inputted. This process results in the “fire drill” effect whereby reps set aside a sliver of time to fill out CRM with something resembling weekly activity records. Most often, this data is optimistic and less than accurate at best. Many reps refuse to complete these tasks and rely on weak management, revenue pressure, personal reputation, or attainment-against-quota to get a hall pass.
(2) Management Spreadsheets re: Sales Data: Even with the prevalence of CRM systems, there are many firms, which struggle with CRM adoption and utilization. Nowhere is this more prevalent within large, decentralized sales teams, where adoption tends to hover just below 60%. Because of this, managers often rely on “offline” processes to give them only what data they need to report upstream, without hoping to extract it from centralized corporate systems. Spreadsheets have long been the most manual, low-tech, and understandable way to report activity for sales managers.
In this scenario, a manager maintains an activity spreadsheet that would be periodically circulated to reps with the direction to complete relevant fields, save, and send back to the manager, who would incorporate team data by hand, add variance as needed, consolidate data into a master document, and deliver to senior leadership. Though this approach is straightforward and easy to manage, the data from these reports are just as questionable as CRM entries for all the same reasons; subjective, cursory, and incomplete. They are nothing a sales leader could rely on to run the business.
(3) Conference Calls Conducted by Sales: In sales, perhaps the most immediately recognized management method is weekly conference calls with reps.
This process typically consists of regular calls where reps self-report their activity levels live, so managers can make sure their team is engaged and “doing the right things” each day.
Invariably, reps can game the system and report around exactly what the manager is expecting to hear, rather than what is happening.
Sales Performance: Call Activity Data Matters
Underlying each of these standard reporting methodologies is an implicit awareness of the importance of the daily activity data of reps to the goals and objectives of management.
Why else would any sane manager expend so much time and effort trying to get this data to gain better insight into the team?
In fact, for industries like banking, managers in search of this data will sometimes resort to daily team calls, even on occasion multiple times per day.
So, why? What is so important about the daily call activity of reps?
Managers have lived without it for a very long time. What is the problem with continuing apace without rocking the boat and introducing new measurement standards and cultural changes?
“If you can’t measure it, you can’t improve it.” — Lord Kelvin
The implications are profound for managers who don’t correctly account for the daily, repetitive behavior of reps.
If a manager can’t get their arms around their team behaviors that are predictive of success, they cannot hope to improve their performance in any systematic or meaningful way.
Moreover, improving performance is the very definition of sales management. The activity that you’re engaged in every day is a company asset.
Every interaction provides insight if it can be accurately captured and analyzed.
As a sales leader, either you are applying this data to your processes, or you are wasting it and the opportunity to drive revenue and growth.
Top 5 Questions for Sales Team Managers re: Phone Call Best Practices
Without an accurate understanding of daily rep behaviors, particularly phone communications, managers are forced to rely on hunches, historical trends, and instincts to do their job.
So, how can a manager establish a standard of behavior which defines success within a particular role without this information? Ask these 5 questions:
- How many calls should be made to clients?
- How many conversations should result in the desired outcome?
- How many times should an agent call a prospect before giving up?
- What is the optimal time to be on the phone?
- In short, what are the behaviors of the top 10% of reps that should be used to benchmark the middle 60% for sustained success?
If you don’t know what works, you cannot manage to a standard and cannot increase the average effectiveness of your team.
If you do not know what works, or you cannot provide a clear, reasoned blueprint for success, you cannot hire and onboard new reps without enduring a high rep churn.
If you don’t know what works, you can’t gain an understanding of the rep-to-customer behavior patterns that drive customer loyalty and increase retention. If you can’t do those three things, you can’t be an effective sales manager.
But what would happen if you could adequately capture and accurately apply daily sales activity?
Also, how would this affect the ability to build and manage a high-performance sales organization?