Overview: Learn an effective method for managing your sales team through the development and implementation of task force teams.
Managing people has been, and always will be, a widely discussed topic. Managing Sales Teams is no exception. Should management be a top-down approach, where the manager implements their Best Practices no matter what? Or should management take a bottom-up approach, where employees participate in the decision-making process and are allowed to influence goal-setting and change workflows to the best of their knowledge? What is the best way to improve performance and productivity?
Setting Up Task Force Teams for Sales
Over the past 15 years, I have been asked to turn-around over 50 Inside Sales and Teleprospecting organizations. The method that I used to win over the hearts and minds of each team was Task Force Teams.
After the first week or so in the role, I created task force teams regarding specific issues and concerns that I uncovered during interviews with each team member. I created task force teams on topics such as Key Performance Indicators (the metrics used to manage the team), Commission Rates, Quotas, CRM, Contracts, and other issues deemed important. I asked that team members join one or more of the task forces to resolve the outstanding issues. I also informed them that some of the issues, like commissions and quotas, will need Executive-level sign off and that some issues may not be resolved exactly as we would like. My teams knew that once our recommendations were approved, we would be held accountable for achieving our numbers for the plans we outlined.
I limited participation to 5-7 team members for each of the task force teams. I managed the task forces as follows:
- I started with a brainstorm session or two which helped us get all ideas on the board for later review
- The ideas review is the next step. During this phase, the task force reviews and eliminates any ideas that are not viable or are less likely to be approved by Senior Management
- Task force recommendations are captured in a power-point deck and reviewed by the team prior to the presentation to the manager
- Each Task Force Leader presents the approved recommendations to the entire team. It is understood that the approved task force recommendations are to be adhered to by the entire team. In most cases, there have been a 95% or more agreement rate about the recommendations as outlined by the various task force teams
Task Force Teams – Case Study
One of the organizations that I turned-around was the Inside Sales team for a company that had lost half of its clients and had not seen any new customer sales since the recession. The Inside Sales team had not hit their revenue targets in many years.
During the assessment of the organization, I found that the sales team had no metrics that they were measured against and held to. For example, Sales Reps didn’t have quotas. The sales funnel was full of opportunities; however, 80% of these were no longer feasible because there was no sales methodology in place to effectively manage deals through the sales funnel. To complex the issues, team members made fewer than 10 dials per day each. I knew we had to get that number up because this was a phone job and the only opportunity to get more prospects was by calling them. I realized that my Sales Management experience was needed to get this team to achieve their goals and increase revenue.
Working with the task force teams, we decided on a sales methodology and a set of metrics that the team agreed would help them achieve their newly assigned quotas. Everyone agreed to the minimum metrics and worked towards them as a team. At the end of the first year, revenue had increased by 57% and revenue from new prospects had increased by 80%.
However, I don’t always agree with task force recommendations. If their recommendations are way off the mark (from my experience), I work with the team to get their ideas to align with what I know will work. No matter what, the caveat is that if we don’t see improvement within 90-days, we will need to regroup and come up with a better process or set of metrics. This becomes a continuous improvement process in which experimentation is essential. Similarly, Sales Management is not a stagnant process. As the manager of a team you need to be flexible and listen to the suggestions of your employees. Sales Management is about working with your employees and it’s really good when task force members can work together to analyze how their recommendations are working or not. I recommend that these teams review their recommendations and results at the end of each quarter.
Many studies have been undertaken on the subject of Sales Management and employee involvement in the decision making process. Most research agrees that participation has positive effects on performance and thus productivity. For example, C. A. L. Pearson conducted an experiment involving two groups of workers: a group where employees were included in goal setting and a control group that executed traditional work procedures. The results indicated not only that those “who were engaged in participative goal setting reported […] greater job satisfaction”, but that “goal setting and performance were positively related.” Similarly, another paper found that “empowered employees largely improve performance by finding innovative ways of correcting errors in service delivery and redesigning work processes.” These findings are in line with my own experience, and show that if you get the buy-ins from your employees, you will see an increase in performance, productivity, and eventually revenues.
Rather than telling the team what to do, I give my teams the ability to determine their destiny. When teams are given the opportunity to provide their input on specific aspects of the job, the manager has their “buy-in,” and team members are more likely to work toward the “team” assigned goals. Why wouldn’t they? It’s their plans and their ideas and therefore their responsibility to make them work. This process has worked for me and has helped my teams greatly improve their performance.
More on Sales Management:
More Sales Management Insights:
- Sales Management: Sales Performance Incentive Funds (SPIFs) That Work
- Sales Management: How to Refocus Complainers to be Positive
- Sales Management: Bad Management – Performance Improvement Plans
 C. L. A. Pearson, “Participative Goal Setting as a Strategy for Improving Performance and Job Satisfaction” (1987), Human Relations Journal, Volume 40 (8), pp 473-488 <http://hum.sagepub.com/content/40/8/473.abstract>
 S. Fernandez and T. Moldogaziev, “Using Employee Empowerment to Encourage Innovative Behavior in the Public Sector” (2013), Journal of Administration Research and Theory, Volume 23 (1), pp 155-187 <http://jpart.oxfordjournals.org/content/23/1/155.abstract>