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Effective communication is a fundamental necessity for success in sales and business in general. And yet, all too often, when you analyse why your hard thought-out sales strategy didn’t bring in the projected revenue there appears a huge disconnect between what you expected of your sales team and what they actually did.
While not all this can be attributed to miscommunication - certainly there are other factors at play when it comes to managing people - it does bear asking the question, are you effectively communicating the sales plan to your sales staff?
Your sales team can't achieve your sales plan targets and goals unless they thoroughly understand the plan itself. In fact, your sales plan should actually describe how you will communicate the plan to your team and how you will give them skills, tools and strategies they need to implement the plan's actions.
Here’s some frequent “misunderstandings” that can arise and what to do about them to ensure you are effectively communicating the sales plan.
“I didn’t realise my sales target had changed”
With a change in the sales plan there is often, understandably, a change in sales targets. While reps should make it their business to review their targets regularly and ensure they are on track, it is ultimately your responsibility as sales manager to ensure they have understood any changes. People have short attention spans these days; especially when they are busy. Just because you have informed them of changes in writing, don’t assume that everyone has reviewed them and understood. Use meeting time to highlight and draw their attention to changes - not matter the size - and check with each rep individually to make sure they have understood.
“My new sales target was too high”
Communicating the sales plan should be a two-way street. Give your team a chance to share their thoughts and concerns and check in regularly. While they might be somewhat aggressive, you have devised your sales team’s targets because they are achievable. Make sure your sales plan not only clearly includes the targets themselves but the strategies, tactics and tools you expect your team to use to achieve them. Change can often be overwhelming but by precisely communicating how you expect them to arrive at the expected results, you can alleviate many of yours reps’ concerns.
Again, carve out a portion of meeting time each week to highlight particular strategies, tactics and tools that are associated with the sales plan. Use interactive activities to ensure that reps are really onboard with what you are asking.
“It wasn’t clear that I would be judged by that metric”
If your team doesn’t understand how you will measure their results, you are simply not setting them up for success. If they don’t know what success looks like, how do you expect them to achieve it? The sales plan should encompass ALL the KPIs by which you will measure results. Dollars in can be fairly simply to communicate but if you have other overall goals, such as bringing in new business or expanding into a new territory, you need to make sure they understand this too. Each rep should have their own document which outlines not only their revenue targets but all the ways in which you will measure their results. Make use of performance tracking software and regular reminders to ensure they stay on track.
“Why is my bonus only $xxx ??!”
Rewards in sales are vital. They are your primary tool in motivating your sales staff. However, they can also cause great discontent if what a rep receives if different from what they expected. Make sure your sales plan clearly defines rewards, financial or otherwise. Remember, a reward structure and sales compensation plan should be clear and simple to understand. If you don’t clearly communicate this, you risk upsetting your staff and the thing designed to motivate them can lead to you losing them.
As we all know, making assumptions can lead to disaster. And when it comes to your team’s results, finding out a rep “didn’t know” they were supposed to do something or “misunderstood” an integral piece of the sales plan is not only frustrating, it can be incredibly damaging to your bottom line. Make sure you are clearly and effectively communicating the sales plan to your sales staff every step of the way. Consider taking the CPSA’s Professional Sales Management program to stay up-to-date with the best ways to communicate your sales plan and help your team achieve success.
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