Sales Management: Setting up Task Force Teams to Get Team Buy-In for Great Results

task force teams

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.

Increase Productivity

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.”[1] Similarly, another paper found that “empowered employees largely improve performance by finding innovative ways of correcting errors in service delivery and redesigning work processes.”[2] 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.

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[1] 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>

[2] 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>

Telemarketing – Build the Infrastructure First!

Why is the Telemarketing Infrastructure So Important?

I have written a few blogs on the topic of the lead qualification process, however, I continue to find prospects without a clue as to the meaning of a lead qualification process or how to start begin the process.

Here are a few “Best Practice” tips that I share with all of our clients.  Numbers matter and to ensure that your company’s telemarketing is a success, the infrastructure needs to be in place to track the call activity and the progress of each lead.  Without this information, you won’t have the data to track the success of the Telemarketing team.  A successful Telemarketing organization is focused on generating qualified leads that build the sales funnel.  Without a pre-defined process, your team may not be successful.

Best Practices

Start by Mapping Your Lead Process into your CRM Your lead qualification process includes the questions that will help sales to move the sales process forward.  Most companies understand the basic qualifiers, such as:

  • Need– Prospect has a need for your solution or service
  • Authority– You uncover the person or people who can make a purchase decision
  • Budget– Prospect has assigned a budget for the solution or can set aside funds for
    the right solution or service
  • Timeframe– The prospect can make a purchase decision within a reasonable timeframe, for example, in under 6 months

These are generic qualifiers and from my perspective don’t really add value to the quality of the lead.  A lead that is highly qualified will have additional qualifiers that support your business.  These are the questions that provide intelligence that helps marketing build better campaigns and give sales a great overview of the prospect so that they are better prepared for their first prospect call.

Build a list of qualifying questions that are specific to your business and map these intoyour CRM.  Ensure that your Telemarketing team understands the value of this information and make sure that they ask these important questions.

Implement a Lead Approval Workflow

All leads aren’t created equal.  Some leads will need further development or may need to go into a nurture program.  Therefore, it is important to have a process where every lead can be reviewed and assessed before they become sales opportunities.

Build a lead approval workflow that enables your Telemarketing Manager to review the leads and pass on to Sales for final approval.   In addition, the approval process should give Sales an opportunity to validate the lead and approve or reject the lead, before it moves to the sales funnel.

Create a field that captures the “rejection” reasons, so that your Telemarketing team can understand why their leads are being rejected.  You can use this information to train your team and help them to improve their qualification skills.

Create Dashboards to Manage by the Metrics

Build dashboards to monitor the Key Performance Indicators  or Metrics that are important to your business.  These dashboards should include call activity and other sales related activity levels, campaign results and pipeline growth.  Dashboards will enable you to keep a pulse on your business.

Build the Infrastructure

Implementing these basic “best practices” will save your company a lot of grief.  You will capture intelligence that can help your marketing department improve its campaigns.  Sales will love your Telemarketers, because they will receive excellent leads from the team.  The review and approval process will ensure the quality of each lead passed to sales.