10 Things Every Sales Leader Needs To Focus On In 2020

As we head into a new fiscal year, revenue leaders often focus on the big picture–revenue targets, hiring plans, and overall company goals. To meet those targets, sales and contact center leaders need to look at everything from their technology stack to current customer experience benchmarks.

For teams that want to go head-to-head with the competition and grow in the market, there are 10 priorities for sales leadership to focus on for 2020:

A Strong Coaching Culture and Program

A good coaching program is no longer optional for sales and contact center leaders. Customer-facing teams need help developing their skills, knowledge, and strategies to help them close more deals and provide great customer service.

It’s no surprise, then, that high-impact sales organizations (companies where more than 75% of reps achieve their quotas,) spend a significant amount of time on coaching, as reported by the Sales Readiness Group.

Bar graph showing that sales managers spend 20% of their time coaching and 65% of that time is on high-impact performers

(Image source)

However, to achieve success with sales coaching, you need to develop:

Without both, reps might consider your attempts to improve their skills as hurtful, rather than helpful.

A Solid Tech Stack

There are thousands of tools on the market for sales teams and contact centers. It’s important to ensure every tool in your stack is helping your team achieve their goals rather than hinder growth.

Good technology stacks include the right tools to help reps connect and engage with leads and ultimately close deals. Software packages should help sales and contact center teams streamline their most time-consuming tasks while elevating their ability to execute conversations that pull prospects through the funnel.

Sales managers and enablement teams need to equip the team with the right tools to succeed. At a minimum, your tech stack should include:

  • Sales acceleration tools that help you move prospects through the sales cycle efficiently. This could be a simple CRM system but you may also want to invest in a more advanced solution like predictive analytics or sales engagement software.

  • A predictive dialer that can scale dialing and reduce the time reps spend listening to dial tones or voicemails.

  • A conversation intelligence tool to help gain insights from reps’ conversations, and provide data to improve their phone skills.

  • A collaboration suite that would allow all reps to work together. Again, a CRM could provide such an option but you should also consider having tools to collaborate on important documents, data asset management solutions and more.

Improving Prospecting & Early Pipeline Quality

According to Gartner, this is one of three key areas for senior revenue executives to focus on for 2020. Sales managers should be too. Evaluating and tweaking top-of-funnel activity offers big impact on the business.

Managers should be diving into conversion rates, lead quality and quantity, and their teams’ conversations to identify gaps in the sales process. You’ll need to work closely with the marketing team to identify reasons why leads aren’t converting into sales accepted leads.

Conversation intelligence technology can help managers and executives identify skill gaps in the business development team and hear exactly what’s happening in these early calls. This is a key process for optimizing the funnel and streamlining qualification parameters.

Emotional Intelligence Training and Support

Talking about mental health in the workplace is no longer taboo. It’s important that revenue leaders understand how to support their team no matter the challenge in their professional and personal lives.

Selling and hitting the phones day-in and day-out can be stressful. Reps have to deal with a lot of rejection on a daily basis. There are the days when they might not see any significant results from their actions. Not to mention that mounting deadlines to meet quota and KPIs can put pressure on anyone.

Your team needs to know they can turn to you for support. To handle those situations well, you should have strong emotional intelligence training. This may also require organizations as a whole to have policies and procedures in place surrounding mental, emotional, and physical wellness. Work with your human resources team to ensure you have the right things in place to support your reps.

A Personal Content Strategy

Personal branding has been a hot topic for a few years now. While it’s not a priority for many, it offers many benefits in the marketplace and in your organization. Having a thought out personal content strategy help establish your expertise in your given industry while increasing visibility of the brand which helps marketing, shows potential talent how you lead and allows you to connect with prospects.

Developing a personal content strategy will also inspire your reps to do so themselves. This will increase their social selling IQ and position your team as thought leaders.

Your strategy doesn’t need to be complex and you don’t have to start a personal blog (unless you want to, of course). It can be as simple as posting and commenting on LinkedIn daily to build your authority.

Account Expansion & Renewals

A recent survey from RAIN Group Center for Sales Research revealed that 62% of sales and enablement leaders want to focus on repeat business in 2020. Even if you’re not directly overseeing customer success and retention, it’s critical for sales leaders to stay up-to-date on upsell opportunities and renewals.

Exceptional account management requires a strong relationship between sales and customer success. Strategic account growth has a potentially massive impact on revenue, so careful planning and execution are important. Sellers should ensure account managers are aware of any early expansion opportunities and offer to join calls where their expertise can help progress deals.

Both sales and customer success teams should also have an eye on decision-makers and champions who move companies. Steve Richard refers to these as OCNCs-old client, new company. These are often a goldmine for new opportunities and referrals.

Library of Inspiration for You & Your Reps

Your job also involves generating new ideas, and lots of them, at that.

They have to come from somewhere, though. You need to constantly expand your knowledge, challenge your beliefs, and learn from others too.

There is a simple way to do it, though. Build a library of inspiration. It doesn’t have to be anything major. Subscribe to the most relevant sales blogs and top sites in your industry. Scout Amazon’s sales books section for new arrivals and read one new book a month. Stay on top of what kind of content marketing is putting out as well as your competitor.

Make sure your reps are doing the same. Share out relevant content you find via Slack or email. Create an open dialogue for what’s happening in the marketplace and how it relates to your sales strategy. Salespeople can reference relevant stories in their outreach to prospects, which will continue to build trust and their reputation as an advisor.

Defined Hiring Process & Attrition Prevention

Recruiting the right sales talent is a challenge for any leader. It can be even harder to keep them in seat long enough to reach full productivity.

Leaders need to have a clearly defined hiring process that helps identify candidates who are coachable, can and want to learn new skills, and are highly motivated to succeed. This may mean taking a chance on non-traditional candidates who are seeking to make a career change.

Sales organizations also need a plan for rep attrition. The average tenure for a salesperson is 18 months. With ramp times hovering between 4-6 months, that’s only a year of full productivity before they’re on to the next company.

You’ll want to plan for the inevitable turnover–can you preserve what the top performers are doing well such as specific calls or email cadences? You should also be doing exit interviews, even if it’s already covered by human resources. Identifying anything you can fix from the floor environment to your management style will help you make changes to prevent more turnover.

It’s also important to know why people stay. Survey your team to see what they love about the company. Find out what their ultimate career goals are and help them get there through coaching and mentorship. They may not stick around forever, but creating an environment where they can grow is hugely beneficial for future employee referrals.

A Great Training & Onboarding Program

The reports referenced earlier highlighted that sales teams, now more than ever, need to communicate value. This starts on day one for new hires. Your onboarding and training programs have to be on point, otherwise, you are setting new reps up to falter and even fail.

Calculate and measure ramp time and the average time to first deal. Many organizations don’t know these numbers off-hand and it’s hard to improve what you don’t know. Have a clear outline of milestones and what you expect each rep to know and be able to execute at those stages.

2020 is also time to shake up traditional training–especially ride alongs. They’re great for a quick glance into the day-to-day, but if you want reps to learn the real best practices, you need to bust out the call recordings from your all-time top performers. Start coaching early and often by recording role-plays and having the start class provide feedback to each other.

Well-planned training and onboarding will also help reduce attrition, especially in those critical first 90 days where turnover is the highest.

Creating or Maintaining Good Culture

The right environment will help your reps thrive. Make sure your culture is healthy and motivating.

Competition between reps should be friendly and fun. If things are too cutthroat on the floor, it can lead to dial dread and worse problems. Change up your contests to include quantity and quality so more of your team feels they have a chance to win.

The best sales cultures are inclusive to everyone on the team. If you’ve typically defaulted to happy hours, try other team outings like roller skating or axe throwing. It’s also important to take a look at the diversity amongst the team. How can you better support groups like women, LGBTQ+, parents and others?

Facilitating good culture is incredibly important as the national unemployment rate remains low. Poor culture can scare off great candidates which has long term implications across the business.

Work-Life Integration

Everyone talks about work-life balance, but few have perfected the work-life integration. Modern leadership means being on nearly 24/7, so you have to carve out time for yourself.

Your schedule will get filled to the brim and more. Without a solid system for organizing and prioritizing appointments, you’ll eventually run into chaos, missing out on what’s important and neglecting your team and home life.

Protect your time and treat your calendar as king. If you need to be home by 5 to eat dinner with your family, communicate it to your team. If you’re feeling overwhelmed but can’t reduce your workload, try meditation and other methods of self-care.

Most importantly, don’t burn yourself out. There has been a rise of burn out among the sales influencer community recently. Don’t be afraid to speak to your boss if you’re in a bad place and need a break.

All-in-all, top leaders have a lot to accomplish in 2020. The industry continues to evolve and change, and we have to change with it. By looking at these top 10 priorities, you’re well on your way to smashing your targets and building or maintaining a reputation as a best-in-class sales organization.