Sales Handbook 2023-A Complete Sales Management Guide To Boost Revenue
There was a time when sales were all about cold-calling. The better you were at engaging a prospect and getting them excited about your offering on a cold call–the better salesperson you were considered. The first pitch, the first conversation defined your capabilities and your success. However, today, times have changed drastically.
A report by InsideView revealed that 90% of the decision-makers never even respond to cold calls–let alone be convinced or interested in the product. Clearly, selling in the digital age is different, and so your tactics have to be.
As a sales manager, the onus of keeping up with the times and incorporating the latest tacts and trends (at least the ones relevant to your business!) to your sales process falls upon you. We’re here to help.
We’ve prepared a complete sales handbook–combining the traditional sales techniques with the latest trends and development for every sales manager who wishes to drive growth. It’s got every puzzle piece you’d need to build up an effective sales strategy and implement a goal-driven sales process.
Understanding Sales Management
Sales management is all about taking care of your business revenue targets– it includes everything from building and guiding your sales team, to overseeing operations, and executing strategies to consistently grow and meet your sales goals.
We’re not trying to overwhelm you–but truth being said, sales management is no cakewalk. As a manager you are in charge of three key aspects:
Source: Tally Solutions
This may sound like stating the obvious, but the most important part of your role and the most crucial element of your business’ success is building a good sales team. As a sales manager, it is your role to find the right sales team for your company and manage it well.
Not to mention, your task doesn’t get done at finding the right talent and assigning them their targets and responsibilities. In fact–that’s just the beginning. You then have to provide your team with the right training, guidance, and resources to do their job well. Why– you may ask?
There’s a difference between being a good salesperson, and being great at selling what your business offers. While you may get a witty, street-smart, convincing, and diligent seller, they’d only be able to nail their sales targets when they know what they’re selling, who they’re selling to, and what are the common pain points they’d be solving. That’s exactly what you need to continuously guide them with.
With a well-trained and skilled team–and their respective targets, you’re all set with the foundation of your sales management.
Next up, you have to work on the ‘how’ of your sales process. You need to define a sales process, set a sales cycle, and lay down an assembly line for your time to work in.
When you set a process–you streamline the execution–making sure that not only the efforts of your sales team are targeted but also efficient. That way, you ensure that there are more conversions and lesser lost deals.
This is where the sales pipeline and the sales funnel comes into the picture (oh yes, they’re different!). We’ll get into the nitty-gritty of what these entail later on.
Last but definitely not least, you also have to ensure that your team is headed in the right direction and is continuously improving. That’s where sales reporting and analytics come into the picture.
With efficient reporting, you can understand how close your team is to your business revenue goals. Not just that, you are also able to identify segments of your sales process or individuals in your sales team that need attention and direction from your end.
Sales reporting encompasses identifying key metrics, measuring them regularly at the company as well as the individual level, and using those to draw insights into your sales process and improve it.
Now that we’ve covered an overview of what sales management looks like, here’s why sales management is a win-win for all.
Who benefits from effective sales management?
A quick and dirty version of the answer to this would be–everyone. Everyone directly or indirectly invested in the sales process is a lot happier if there’s effective sales management in place. This includes you–the sales manager, your team–the salespersons, and your customer.
You–the Sales Manager
When you have well-defined and well-executed sales management at your business, you have clarity. At each point, you have a clear picture of what to expect, where you’re headed, and what’s missing from your sales process. If you think about it, that’s an unmatched superpower to have–knowledge.
You know exactly when you need to hire more talent, you know what your team’s upto, you know how well your team’s performance is. So, you make better decisions, faster. You iterate faster, you deliver faster, and most importantly, you convert leads into customers faster and meet your targets.
Your Team–the Salesperson
When you have a well-laid out onboarding, training, and development plan for your sales team, along with clear goals for each individual–your salesperson has a better understanding of what’s expected out of them.
Not just that, with key metrics, regularly tracked, each salesperson gets a boost to perform better and knows when a little more effort from their end is required. All in all, sales management ensures that your sales team members are not overwhelmed with targets and numbers and have all the support they need to ace their job.
Most importantly, when your sales team works efficiently, your customer reaps the most benefits out of it. First of all, your lead doesn’t have to wait for too long to be contacted by a sales representative. Secondly, they have complete knowledge of the product and all their apprehensions are addressed and lastly, they feel valued.
Given that we’ve established that sales management is crucial to any business–let’s dive deep into each and every aspect of sales management to aid your sales management efforts.
To begin with, we’d like to mention that Sales Operations is very subjective to your business–who you hire, what training you provide your team with depends totally on your business and what your offer. However, the key is to always establish:
- A standard screening and hiring process for your sales team.
- An effective training and development process for every new hire.
- A common resource hub for every salesperson to refer to and use.
For the benefit of this handbook–and because we believe that every business has its own way to run operations, we’d move on to the fundamentals of sales strategy and sales analytics for you.
All About Sales Strategy
Sales strategy is essentially a comprehensive piece of documentation that lays out how your product or service is going to be positioned in the market to prospects. It tells a salesperson how to selling your offering by enlisting the customer needs it fulfills, its key differentiators, and more. Not just that, it also sets objectives and methodologies to deploy to get to your target audience and convert them into leads.
As a sales manager, you’d often find yourself devising two types of sales strategies:
Outbound Sales Strategy
Outbound sales is the conventional way of approaching sales–wherein your sales representative takes the first step and reaches out to an unsuspecting lead from your target audience and tries to pitch them the product or service you’re offering. The age-old cold calling is one of the most common methods of outbound sales.
Your outbound sales strategy includes all activities and techniques you use to convert a potential customer. Broadly, it has the following phases:
Phase 1: Identification
In this phase, you deep dive into your offering and identify the market segment you wish to target with your offering. In simpler words, you define your target audience. While laying out this phase of your strategy, you also do some market research and understand your audience better. In the end, you have a clearly laid out target person for every salesperson to refer to.
Phase 2: Lead Acquisition
In this, either through paid or marketing efforts or by simply purchasing lead data from different sources, you get a list of possible people who might be interested in what you sell. It is important to note here that this lead information is not filtered and you have no way of knowing whether they’re actually interested in your product or service. More often than, they’ve not even consented to become your prospect buyer. They might have just shared their contact info or a marketing or lead generation campaign or with a third party that you work with.
Phase 3: Outreach and Qualification
This is the phase where filtering happens. In this, your team sends out emails or calls or messages to this database of possible prospects. Once your sales representative connects with them, they find out whether or not they’re even remotely interested in your offering or are looking to purchase something similar to what you sell. Based on that, they qualify the lead for further communication.
Phase 4: Persuasion
This is where your sales representative has to make the most effort. Here you provide them with all the product information, frequently asked questions, unique selling points, and standout features that can help them convince the lead to purchase your product or service. In this phase, your salesperson makes as many calls and sets up as many meetings as needed to convince the prospect to convert into a paying customer. Your task here is to empower them with the right resources and knowledge material to make a convincing pitch.
Phase 5: Closure
The final phase is where your customer is convinced and ready to pay. In this phase, once the customer seals the deal, your salesperson’s work is done. However, you do have to ensure that depending on the business type, your salesperson has all the documents and tools needed to wrap the deal. For instance, they should have all payment options handy to offer to your customer.
All said and one, such a push-type strategy, that bases sales on convincing powers and a sense of urgencies, now has an alternative. Instead of going and pushing the customer towards the product, sales teams now try to pull the customer to their offering. That’s where you need to devise an inbound sales strategy for your sales team.
Inbound Sales Strategy
For the unacquainted, inbound sales is a pull strategy. It relies more on addressing customer’s needs and pain points than pitching the product. The idea here is not to convince the customer for the purchase immediately but to serve as a concierge who can resolve their challenges. While devising the inbound sales strategy, you need to focus on the needs, challenges, goals, and interests of individual buyers. So, in this strategy your customer makes the decision to buy the product on their own— you just guide them through the decision-making process.
Your inbound sales strategy primarily includes automated techniques to get prospects interested in the product and collect their data. Once you have the information, you then provide them with a buying experience that’s altered to their needs. More often than not, your inbound sales strategy would closely complement your marketing strategy.
Your inbound sales strategy would have four key phases:
Phase 1: Identification
The first step of your inbound sales strategy includes setting up workflows that would provide your sales team to get information about possible suitable buyers. This could be an email workflow that alerts your sales team when a particular email is opened indicating the buyer’s possible interest. It could also be a website page or a social media form that an interested lead fills out indicating their curiosity in your offering. Even though this may look similar to lead acquisition–it is not. In inbound sales, you don’t acquire a lead, you generate it organically. Here the prospect has consented to learn more about the product. Needless to say, here you already have a qualified lead to work with.
Phase 2: Connection
In the second phase, your sales representative approaches the lead. Unlike in outbound sales, here your representative is not set out to convince the lead to purchase your product or service. Instead, they understand the need of your customer. Here you train your team to be able to build trust and authority over the prospect instead of merely pitching the product. Since you have relevant information about the prospect–using that–your team shares personalized messages with them, understands their behavior and preferences, and focuses on connecting with them as a potential friend or advisor and not “just another sales guy”. In this phase, you need to make sure your team has all the possible information about the prospect and is able to profile each individual distinctly and does not approach them with a one-size-fits-all strategy.
Phase 3: Exploration
Once a prospect enters this phase, your sales representative turns into an advisor. They further build trust and authority with the prospect by solving their queries, understanding and addressing their concerns, and even customizing the product or service slightly to match their requirements and helping the prospect understand how the product would fit perfectly into their needs. This is the phase where you need to train your sales team to have patience. They need to let the customer explore the product/service as much as they want while being in the shadows ready to help out wherever the customer gets stuck. In this phase, they’re not pushing the customer to complete the journey, they’re merely helping them make their journey smooth. The customer must reach the end on their own.
Phase 4: Recommendation
Now that your rep has built the trust, and understood the prospect well–they reach out to the buyer with a somewhat customized solution for their needs and offer that as a recommendation to them instead of making a hard sell. They still are first and foremost a worthy advisor to the prospect and not a sales representative. In this phase, you need to train your team to able to build a customer-centric pitch–they should be able to show the customer that they’ve done their research, they understand their needs, and most importantly, value the customer. With the trust and the relationship built over a period of time, the buyer most likely prefers to stay with the brand.
Once you’re done with the strategy, you put them into a funnel. Be rest assured, irrespective of the strategy you choose to deploy, you’d always work in a sales funnel.
All About Sales Funnel
A sales funnel is a visual representation of your customer’s journey from a prospect to a buyer. It essentially highlights the steps the lead takes to finally come to the decision to purchase your product or service.
Stages of a Sales Funnel
Any sales funnel essentially has 4 stages.
Stage 1: Awareness
In this stage, you have every possible person who knows that your brand exists–that’s about it. It is a stage where you undertake all possible activities to gain visibility among your target audience.
Stage 2: Interest
In the interest stage, you start the convincing–whether inbound or outbound leads–all fall in this stage when they not only know about the product or service but are also eager to learn more about it.
Stage 3: Decision
As the name suggests, this is the stage where your prospect takes a call on whether or not to go for your offering. More often than not, leads in this phase are nearly convinced–they just need a final nudge. This is the stage where your sales representative needs to think on their feet and offer discounts and customized options to your leads.
Stage 4: Action
At this stage, the deal gets closed and you have another won lead in your sales pocket. The only worry left on your plate is to ensure that the purchase and onboarding experience of your customer is hassle-free.
Source: Sales Hacker
You may be wondering by now that why do you need a sales funnel when you already have a sales strategy in place–doesn’t it define all that you need to do to get your customer to complete their buying journey? Well, honestly, you’re neither entirely mistaken nor completely on point.
The strategy happens before the action–the funnel takes care of what’s happening while your sales team is in action. You devise a strategy to be able to drive your customer through their journey. However, the funnel lays out the journey as it happens. The strategy includes all the tactics you apply to convince a prospect to buy your product. However, the funnel divides your prospects into the stage at which they are in their journey so that you can deploy the right strategy to convince them. In a nutshell, a strategy tells you what do to, the funnel helps you do it right.
Still, confused? We can understand–explore the sales funnel in detail here. Also, don’t forget to check out our guide to building a foolproof sales funnel.
On the flip side of a sales funnel, is the sales pipeline. While the sales funnel highlights the customer’s journey. A sales pipeline includes all the activities that your sales team undertakes to convert a lead into a customer–it is a process defining your actions. The sales funnel, however, defines your customer’s actions–the steps they take to complete their journey from a lead to a customer.
All About Sales Pipeline
A sales pipeline is the visual representation of your sales process–it is the steps you take to convert a prospect into a paying customer. A sales pipeline essentially becomes the perfect aid to help you understand your progress, prioritize leads and predict your sales revenue in the near future.
Stages of a Sales Pipeline
Any sales pipeline has 6 stages:
Stage 1: Prospecting
Here you find the possible leads. Your prospects enter the awareness stage of the funnel.
Stage 2: Qualification
The qualification stage work in parallel to the interest stage of the funnel. Here you qualify leads from the awareness stages and move them to the interest stage if they are eager to know more about your offering.
Stage 3: Proposal
In this stage, you try to move your customer from the interest phase to the decision phase by making them an offer.
Stage 4: Negotiation/Consideration
Here you convince customers who’ve entered the decision and push offers and discounts to nudge them towards a purchase.
Stage 5: Closing
This corresponds to the action stage of the funnel–the customer makes the purchase and you provide them with all the support they need to seal the deal.
Stage 6: Retention
This stage may or may not fall in your purview. In this phase, you or the corresponding support team works to providing a good service and experience to your customer in order to retain them.
Source: Woo Fresh
As a manager, your role is to ensure that the team is following the best practices to make your sales pipeline as efficient as possible. This includes setting up adequate documentation, making room for follow-up calls, ensuring easy payment and contract processing, and more. Explore the pro-tips for sales pipeline management here.
We’ve now come to the last, and probably the most important part of your role as a sales manager–sales analytics and reporting.
All About Sales Reporting
Once you’ve devised the right sales strategy for your business, and are keeping an eye on your sales funnel and have a streamlined pipeline–you’d think your work is done. You’d think your team can now take charge and run the show for you.
Even though you’ve set the stage for your team, you also need to make sure everyone plays their part well. That’s where reporting comes into the picture. Sales reporting is the process of collating your customer data and sales numbers to draw conclusions about your sales team’s performance–both individual and as a unit.
We understand that your sales representatives are not students that need to be monitored and accessed. However, without tracking the progress of your sales team, you have no idea about your business’ performance. After all, let’s face it, your business is only as good as the revenue it generates and the customers it wins and retains. That’s what a sales report tells you.
If you’re still not convinced, here are a bunch of reasons why you need to imbibe the process of sales reporting in your sales process.
Why is Sales Reporting needed?
Reason 1: It shortens your sales funnel.
A daily sales report is key in letting you access the quality of a lead. Based on the interaction that any member of your sales team has with a probable lead, they’re able to analyze and record how responsive a lead is. Using that, your team knows which lead they should spend time on–and which one to park for later. Thus, reducing the time spent on contacting cold leads.
Reason 2: It helps you make informed decisions.
As a manager, you’re in charge of making decisions that don’t just affect your team, but the entire business–given that sales is such a crucial part of it. With clear data to rely upon, you’re able to make informed decisions like when to hire more people for your sales team or when you invest in a tool to assist your team in working more productively.
Apart from these two major reasons, sales reporting also help you in:
- managing and motivating your team.
- making your sales process efficient
- improving your sales performance with better insights.
We’re sure that you’re convinced that you can do sales without sales reporting. Now before we deal with the techniques, types, and other nuts and bolts around sales reporting–let’s quickly over the key metrics you need to track to prepare a sales report.
Understanding Sales Metrics
Sales metrics are key indicators that you regularly monitor to get an idea about the sales performance of your sales team, individually and as a whole. Some of the most common metrics for most businesses include:
- Sales Funnel Metrics
- Sales Key Performance Indicators (KPIs)
- Activity Sales Metrics
- Pipeline Sales Metrics
- Lead Generation Sales Metrics
- Outreach Sales Metrics
- Primary Conversion Metrics
- Channel Sales Metrics
- Sales Productivity Metrics
Moving on, preparing different types of sales reports would be of no use if you’re not able to analyze these reports and draw meaningful insights from them. That’s where you need sales analysis.
How to analyze your sales reports?
If you really dive into it, there are umpteenth techniques to analyze a report. In fact, more often than not, it’s about the perspective you look at a report from. If you’re looking just at the revenue number, that’s one way to analyze your sales performance. However, that’s not the only way. In fact, there are 7 quite popular sales analysis techniques that you can deploy in your sales process:
- Sales trend analysis: Reading common patterns over a specific period and drawing conclusions from that.
- Predictive sales analysis: Finding common patterns in a larger portion (usually years) of data and predicting possibilities based on that.
- Sales pipeline analysis: Studying every possible data that directly impacts the performance of your sales pipeline and using it to understand your team’s performance.
- Product sales analysis: Analyzing the performance of each product that you sell and comparing their performance with one another for decision-making.
- Sales effectiveness analysis: Exclusively monitoring the performance of individuals on the same parameters as the ones used to analyze the overall performance of the sales pipeline.
- Diagnostic analysis: Reading common patterns to figure out the reason behind a supposed trend and using that to devise future strategies.
- Market research: Collecting data directly from the customer to understand their stance on your sales process and using that to make improvements.
- Sales compensation analysis: An overview of sales compensation for each sales rep. Since a lot of sales reps work on a commission basis, over and above their base salaries, as a manager, it is imperative that you know how much they need to be paid depending on the sales they bring to the company–goes a long way in monitoring performance and planning budget allocations. For this, you record individual sales and calculate individual compensation based on that.
While we have covered an overview of these techniques, to know how you can deploy these sales techniques–do check out our detailed report on these top sales analysis techniques.
Find An Ally For Your Sales Team
In today’s day and age, you can just stick to the traditional methods and ways of handling sales. To scale rapidly, and empower your team to be able to beat your competition at reaching out to a prospect–you need to invest in modern tools.
The tool key tools that you and your sales team needs are:
- Sales Management Tools: To get a 360° view of your sales pipeline, and customer profile and manage the sales funnel well. (Check out the top 5 sales management tools here!)
- Sales Analytics Tools: To monitor and track the performance of your sales team and generate sales reports in real time. (Check out the top 5 sales analytics tools here!)
Understanding Sales in 2023
By far, we’ve covered all the possible concepts and jargon you’d find while handling sales. However, we’ve not yet gotten into what you should expect from sales going ahead. Here are the top 4 sales trends that you should tap into this year to stay ahead of the curve:
Video outreach can up your game
“Salespeople who use video will connect at three times the rate of those who don’t, reducing the inefficiency of the outreach process as a whole”, said HubSpot Sales Director Dan Tyre. Need we say anything more? Videos are being preferred everywhere–it’s time they made their way into the sales process too.
Automation is the key
Why would you engage your salesperson in a conversation that even a chatbot can handle? Sales in 2023 would be highly automated. From chatbots to auto-demo scheduling, AI and automation would make reaching out and connecting with prospects much easier for sales teams. As a result, sales representatives can focus more on devising the best ways to convince prospects to convert instead of getting caught up in administrative affairs.
Every experience must be personalized
Customers feel valued when they are recognized by a brand on a personal level–and this does not mean you send out emails to your customers addressing them with their first name. While that too is a part of the personalization–that’s an old story now. In 2023, personalization would mean completely customizing your communication, and sometimes even your offering, to match your customer’s needs.
Selling would become social
Gone are the days of cold calls and bulk emails–this is the age of social media. So, a lot of selling would be driven by your customer’s interactions on social media. It would include going beyond creating your business profile on different social media channels and leveraging them to attract and engage leads. That being said, we’re not saying conventional ways are going to completely die out–they would just be complemented by social selling reducing the burden on your sales reps to make too many cold calls and random emails.
Source: Super Office
Over To You
For the longest time, sales have been driven by intuition. Now, it’s time to drive sales through tried-and-tested processes and insightful data. The ball is in your court now–you have to take the leap towards building an efficient sales process for your business. And don’t worry–wherever you get stuck you’d always have this sales handbook to help you out!