Sales management for startups: Managing a B2B sales team

A startup, at its gestation stages, often finds it challenging to build and manage a strong business to business (B2B) sales team. This is mostly due to an unclear understanding of what sort of a sales cycle that particular business should adopt. A sales cycle simply refers to the different stages from identifying a sales lead to closing the sale. These stages are remarkably similar for both retail to business to business (B2B) sales. Some would also argue that the final stage goes beyond merely closing the sale to seeking out referrals to repeat the whole process with.

Some products have characteristically longer sales cycles because given the type of the product, the consumer only needs to buy one every few years so and they are set. In short, the consumers have a diminished need to replace these products. But the thing to keep in mind is that all the consumers don’t all buy these products at the same time. Statistically, there’s bound to be a time lag which could ensure that the sales could be year-round.

After defining the specific sales cycles for your particular brand of product, it’s imperative to recognize the best way to manage your sales personnel. This article will primarily expand upon various management techniques of a B2B sales team. The only common thing to keep in mind while employing these techniques is that you need to ensure that your sales team maintains a high volume of sales activity while at the same time being consistent with the quality of their work.

For example, you may insist that your salespeople make a minimum amount of sixty cold calls a day, but also make sure that they have a good, tried and true call script for maximum success.

The success of this obviously depends on the basic competency levels of the salesperson. Managing a sales team is mainly about developing the skills of all the salespeople so they are all on a level playing field. There are several steps you can establish to achieve a sophisticated level of sales management:

#1 Set objectives for the salespeople

When your sales team is just starting out, it’s important to lay down the objectives that each salesperson should accomplish. A useful technique to emphasize the importance of these objectives would be to tie in the objectives with performance parameters which would determine raises, bonuses, and promotions.

#2 Establish quality parameters

After setting the objectives, you’ll need to establish a few clear parameters which can be logged into a sales CRM so you can run reports and measure the actual with the planned over time to ensure that the performance of the sales team and the business as a whole are staying on track i.e. act as a set of diagnostic tools for the health of the business.

No matter the type of business, there are certain common types of performance metrics which can be effectively keyed into the CRM software that a business would employ such as the amount of revenue booked, the volume of activity of each salesperson, and the quality of the work.

  • Amount of revenue booked: This parameter can be measured based on the total bookings with clients, na number of bookings made during the last quarter, amount of new customers and the frequency with which they are acquired, and average customer retention.
  • Volume of activity of each salesperson: This parameter can be measured based on the quantity and quality of customer interaction during specific periods, the amount of appointments made with new clients per week, the number of follow-up emails sent per week, the amount of proposals sent out to leads, and the number of cold calls made.
  • Quality of the work done by the salespeople: This parameter can be measured based on the extent of the product knowledge of the salespeople, their overall understanding of their customer base bot potential and existing, the ease with which they can adopt to the sales process, knowledge of conversion rates in case the business goes international, and their ability to effectively utilize the company’s existing resources.

#3 Encourage feedback from salespeople

It’s not enough to just measure performance with the parameters. Any healthy business would actively encourage feedback from the sales team at least every quarter on what’s working and what’s not. This way you can ensure that you have a good handle on the pulse of your business which allows you to root out any resentment or negative feelings while at the same time, doubling down on the things that do work in the team. This would help in ensuring that you can maintain a culture of consideration and listening in your team which will serve to further the company’s long term success.

These steps would ensure that low performing and the average salespeople are given a structure through which they can keep up with the high performing members of the team. However, setting up this system should be the extent of the support offered by the management to the low performing sales team members. You must remember to set up a mentoring system for the more successful salespeople and prioritize their success over the other members as the company would benefit more in the long run from their advancement.

Apoorv Bhatnagar is a Digital marketer at Freshworks Inc. He generally writes about software that improve your marketing, sales or hiring process.