This article is the second in a three-part series on sales visibility. You can start with Part I here, or continue to Part III.
Every CRM promises to improve your sales visibility. It’s one of the primary selling points of CRM in the first place. But the meaning of the term ‘sales visibility’ can sometimes be unclear.
That’s because sales visibility can refer to two distinct views from two distinct perspectives: your sales team, and your management team.
Those distinctions are not always clearly defined or even acknowledged when the term is used, and can often be misunderstood as a result. Some of the more common—and harmful—misunderstandings are that sales visibility is an end-goal or cure-all, or that sales visibility is about micromanaging or spying on your sales team.
Neither is true, and both can sabotage attempts to improve your business processes—and improving your business process is precisely what good sales visibility is supposed to allow you to do!
So what is sales visibility, why is it important for your business, and what does CRM actually do for you and your team in terms of visibility?
In Part I of this three-part series, we looked at what sales visibility means for your sales team. In Part II, we’ll focus on what sales visibility means for managers and the importance of reconciling the two views. And in Part III, we’ll analyze the role of CRM in improving sales visibility and, ultimately, sales.
For sales managers, sales visibility at its best is still about improving sales numbers
But here’s the difference: while your sales team is likely focused on their own individual efforts and results, managers are responsible for enabling the success of the entire team.
Sales visibility makes sales management much, much easier. Just as good sales people need to understand their customers, good sales managers need to understand their customers and their salespeople. Where is each member of your sales team strongest, and where are they weakest? And what can you as a manager do to improve their skills, processes, and results?
Sales visibility gives management the insights they need to answer these questions, establish reasonable sales goals, and develop productive training, coaching, and management strategies. It’s not about finding and punishing low performers. It’s about elevating everyone on your sales team and seeing better results for your company as a result.
What sales visibility means for managers is understanding what the sales team is doing, has done, and how they’ve done it; identifying where and how they can do better; and understanding what management can do to enable or assist sales.
Importantly, sales visibility is a means, not an end. Sales visibility enables sales management, not sales enforcement. Good managers don’t simply use their view into the sales process to enforce sales quotas and hand out attaways and tsks when those quotas are met or missed. That is punitive, not productive.
Good managers use their visibility into the sales process to learn from high performers and apply those lessons to elevate low performers. There will, of course, be times when low performers can not or will not improve the quality of their work despite being given the time, opportunity, and resources to do so. In those cases, you obviously must do what is best for the business. But finding and reprimanding or firing low performers is not the primary function of sales visibility.
Note: The same caveats from Part I still apply here: If your team has no sales process in place, then you need to establish one immediately. If there is no strategy, then there is no point analyzing sales tactics, and little progress to be made. But as a manager, it is also important not to be so rigid in your process that your team feels constrained or micro-managed!
Sales visibility helps managers set, evaluate, and improve the sales process
Once again, then, we being by breaking the sales pipeline down into a few important metrics for both you and your sales team. Your company likely tracks other metrics as well, but at the very least, you should be tracking these:
- Quantity: How many opportunities are in the sales pipeline? How many are at each stage?
- Size: How large is each opportunity? What is the average opportunity size? What is the average qualified opportunity size?
- Velocity: How quickly do opportunities progress through each stage? Do they tend to stall at some stages, or move quickly through others?
- Quality: How many opportunities offer enough value to offset the time and money that would need to be invested in that opportunity? (Translation: Is the juice worth the squeeze?)
- Close rate: What percentage of active opportunities close each evaluation/bonus period?
These metrics help sales managers track and understand their team’s performance, forecast future results, and—hopefully—adopt successful processes and adapt failing ones to achieve better results.
The more clearly and quickly sales managers can see these metrics, the better information they will have, and the more they can do with that information. What sales visibility means for managers is the ability to see sales processes clearly.
Sales visibility helps managers turn information into action
Good sales visibility allows managers to find areas where they can improve individual or group performance. At both levels, they can see the metrics and stages where improvement is most important or would be most impactful, formulate strategies for improving in those areas, and then test the results.
But sales visibility isn’t just about looking backward; it’s about moving forward. Understanding past results isn’t itself a result, but a way to improve future results.
There are many ways managers can use sales visibility to drive improvement, including:
- Evaluating process and performance to find patterns of success and failure
- Strategizing beyond the current evaluation period to ensure long-term goals and growth
- Adjusting sales processes based on past results to achieve future goals
- Setting specific process goals at the individual and group levels to boost long-term performance
- Setting specific sales goals at the individual and group levels to ensure process is tied to results
- Training and assisting team members based on these goals
- Tailoring their management style to fit team member needs
- Holding sales team members accountable for achieving their goals
- Mentoring sales team members to build positive relationships while bolstering skills
- Coaching sales team members regularly to ensure strong process and find opportunities to assist
- Hiring new team members who are (or can become!) strong sales people
Your role and individual management style will determine which of these are relevant, but all are enhanced through good sales visibility. Plus, visibility tools like CRM offer a way to manage like this in ‘real time,’ not just “when the numbers come in.”
For sales visibility to benefit your business, sales and management must stay on the same team
Good visibility makes a lot of information available to managers and salespeople alike. Most managers will be excited to have access to this information. But what sales visibility means for managers is not the same as what it means for salespeople. Increased visibility can cause concern in your sales team depending on how that information is used or appears to be used.
The most common concern from salespeople is that efforts to increase sales visibility will result in a whole lot of extra work with little-to-no benefit. The most troubling concern is that ‘sales visibility’ is just a fancy term for spying, and that it’s a way for managers to find and punish low performers or accelerate quota enforcement.
This means some members of your sales team may be resistant to increasing sales visibility, fearing that greater visibility means greater risk of being micromanaged or even fired.
Again, let me be very clear: if your goal for improving sales visibility is to spy on or punish your sales team, then you have no business being in business. Managers are not babysitters, or disciplinarians, or dictators. If either the manager or the sales team perceives management this way, however, you have a real problem on your hands.
Increase trust and buy-in by demonstrating value
It is crucial that managers use their visibility into the sales process in ways that are visibly beneficial to their sales team. This does not mean managers should ignore poor or delinquent performance. But sales visibility without the time, resources, training, and coaching required to foster improvement is little more than a “gotcha!” system.
At the same time, you’ll want to build in sales visibility processes that minimize the time commitment needed from your sales team. The more onerous the process, the more likely salespeople will resist or ignore it, and the less likely you’ll get the information you need. The less information you get, the less likely you are to see the full benefits of increased visibility. Plus, the more time your sales team spends creating reports on their sales pipeline, the less time they’ll spend actually selling!
Striking a balance is important, but in theory, everyone wants the same outcome: better sales numbers. Managers want to help their sales team sell more, and need insight into the sales process to do so. Their sales team wants to sell more, but needs the time to cultivate and qualify leads and win sales. The trick is to make the benefits of sales visibility clear to your sales team, and then show them those benefits. If their numbers go up and they aren’t being micromanaged or ambushed, you’ll get the buy-in you need to keep improving.
CRM offers many tools that can reduce or even eliminate a lot of the time sinks associated with sales visibility processes. In Part III, we’ll look at the role CRM plays in boosting your sales visibility as efficiently as possible.
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