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The 4 new challenges of the sales manager


If the multiplication of digital solutions has transformed the sales organization of B2B companies, a new underlying trend – less visible and more insidious – is redefining the way this organization is managed: the difficulty of attracting and retaining sales reps. There are many reasons for this new development:


- There is a substantial shortage of sales candidates in Europe and in the US. For example, in France, according to various estimates, there are 60 000 to 80 000 sales representatives job opportunities currently unfilled.


- With the recent confinement periods, sudden falls in activity and alternations between office and off-site working periods, many employees – and particularly sales reps – are reconsidering the nature of their professional commitment, the allocation of their time between work and personal life, and their disposition towards their employer. As a result, a large number of companies have seen the turnover of their sales reps reach levels rarely experienced during an economic recovery.


- The proliferation of new offers and multiplication of channels have made the sales management much more challenging. Targets, performance indicators and compensation metrics have become more difficult to define and monitor. The associated loss of transparency and its corollary – the loss of trust - are now among the most important reasons explaining the demotivation of sales reps.


To avoid being dragged into a "low attractiveness-high attrition" vicious circle, socially and financially detrimental, business leaders must reconsider their management methods.


While there are no standard solutions, we have observed that the leaders who do best focus on 4 priorities :


1. Investing in skills development. In the future, B2B companies expect digital interactions to be two to three times more important to their customers than traditional sales interactions. With this profound shift, companies must rethink the skills set their representatives need to acquire in a remote digital reality. Investing time and money in building their skills unequivocally tells sales people that they are important and valued, while preparing them to succeed in increasingly demanding markets.


2. Measuring what’s important. Many companies continue to measure the productivity of their sales force exclusively in terms of revenue and costs. As we have detailed in our recent article "How to boost your business productivity by choosing the right priorities", this indicator has lost its effectiveness. More specifically, it does not make it possible to compare distribution channels with each other, it imperfectly takes into account sales’ cycle duration, and it does not allow a precise benchmarking against industry standards. Only the calculation of a commercial ROI makes it possible to effectively measure the performance of B2B sales teams.


3. Deploying the right tools. In B2B purchasing behavior surveys, three priorities are frequently cited as essential to the completion of a transaction: speed, transparency and expertise. It is therefore essential that the best tools, automation solutions and procedures be made available to sales staff.


4. Communicating extensively. The most successful business leaders focus not only on communicating a clear vision of their goals but also on demonstrating their commitment to their employees. With the deployment of remote work and task automation, it is essential to strengthen team cohesion and employees' sense of commitment. There are multiple ways to ensure a good symbiosis within the teams and each company will be able to choose the one that best suits its professional context.


In this challenging recruiting and retention environment, the traditional methods of adapting compensation levels are clearly insufficient as a response to the sales representative requirements. On the other hand, initiatives that increase employee engagement, develop distinctive skills and position teams on realistic and engaging objectives will have profound and lasting effects.


If you are interested in delving deeper into this topic and learning more about our experiences, please do not hesitate to contact us.


Alexandre Giry-Deloison, founder and CEO of GROW

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