Sales Management III – What Works

“A Sales manager’s job is to move sales people to do what works.” This is Part III of the key elements – “Move” (I), “Do” (II), and “What Works” (III)

A very wise sales guru once told me, “If a sales person is unruly, not conforming to policy, etc., but really selling well, keep him (or her) and deal with it.” Whatever this bad apple is doing is working and you want to keep him going. The point: Don’t mess with what’s working well.

Strange at it may sound great sales people (the 10% or less in you sales force) are far more open to suggestions and help than the other 90%. These people are aware times and conditions are ever changing and they know they have to keep improving to compete successfully. That’s why they are all ears when it comes to training, coaching, new ideas and other suggestions.

However, managing great sales people is not why you are reading this. So let’s concentrate on getting the other 90% of your sales team to a point where they can repeatedly do “What Works” well.

What Works

“What Works” means the skills, techniques, strategies, and tactics of actually selling and managing a sales territory or product segment. “What Works” means actually implementing those skills to close business. But “What Works” means more than just closing sales. “What Works” means walking away and avoiding wasted time and resources. It means managing large accounts so they continue to buy more. It means cross selling, up-selling and pursuing referrals. “What Works” means promoting the company’s brand and maintaining the company’s goodwill.

A Selling Process Makes “What”… “Work”

Every sales person and sales manager has a selling process, a system, an approach. The question is how well does it work? Is it efficient? Are sales taking too long to close? Could there be up-sells, cross-sells or add-on’s while the customer is buying? Is it effective? When he’s there, is he selling or is the customer buying? Is he cultivating new prospects and closing them?

Then do the processes of the sales people align with the manager’s. If they don’t, the manager is constantly trying to corral cats. He’s always managing chaos because each sales person is doing what he feels comfortable, which for 90% is probably not working so great.

If your process is not effective and efficient and/or not aligned, you as the manager are constantly listening to all the stories, rationalization and rambling status reports. You probably throw in a few interrogative questions to see if the sales person is on track, but then listen to reasons of why not or, “It’s been tried and probably won’t work.” Finally, they wear you down. You hope for the best and let the sales person go. The sales person leaves relieved because he has survived another review.

Gain Control

A sales process that Works give sales people the map for success; the leverage elements that make sales happen; and the realization of an attempt that won’t close. A sales process gives the manager the visibility to inspect what’s to be accomplished before sales calls; analyze and strategize sales opportunities as quality information is delivered and; have assurance that sales people are doing what you want them to do.

Sales process provides a common language so you can eliminate the fluffy stories and get to the meat of the sales criteria, i.e. are you dealing with the decision makers, when will this deal close, and what problems (red flags) are holding it back from closing immediately? Sales process eliminates all the excuses, rationalizations, and flack. Sales process makes expectations clear so that everyone knows what they have to do, what they have to report, how they will be measured, and what happens if all goes well, and not so well. Sales process is repeatable. Everyone can do it over and over again and it works efficiently. Sales process is predictable. It provides metrics that can accurately predict successes or failures.

Proactive CRMs

Since the “What Works” of selling involves many aspects – closing, upselling, large accounts, etc., the sales process has sub processes -sales strategies, sales calls, getting to the right people, managing relationships, prospecting and territory management. All of these must have language, rules, order, expectations, reports, metrics, etc. CRMs can be very helpful, but must incorporate the selling process and be proactive rather than a story collector. In other words, if your CRM prompts the sales person to do the process and informs the manager ahead of sales calls, quotes, presentations, etc. of what the sales person plans to do, then the CRM can assist in the implementation of the sales process which is what makes the “What”… “Work”.

Knowing You’re on the Right Path

If your sales process is working, your sales people will come to your sales reviews saying,

“Boss, I know what you’re going to ask. So before you say a thing, let me explain the problems and these are the actions I’m doing and going to do and this is when each action will be completed. Now boss, what other suggestions or advice do you have?”

When your team reports to reviews like this, your life will be much easier and successful. Sale process can do this for you. That’s the good news. However, it requires you making it happen and this requires patience, focus, discipline, and stamina – one-piece-at-a-time.

One Piece at a Time

There are a lot of good selling processes (possibly your own) and each has many elements. Everyone on the team needs to know the elements and how to implement them. Therefore, as the manager you must train (teach him and her “What Works”), coach (tell him and her “What” to “Do”), mentor (show him and her how to do “What Works” if he’s struggling), and hold all accountable for the effective selling behaviors. Metrics are the indicators that they are doing “What Works”. Sales people must “Do” what they’ve learned and been told to “Do” and measure up. If not, the manager must determine how to “Move” (See Part I) the sales person to “Do” (See Part II) “What Works”, or recruit a new sales person.

The key to training, coaching, mentoring and holding each accountable is to do a little at a time.

Every element of the sales process, or what you expect your people to do, must be taught, coached, mentored, and reviewed for accountability. Stick to one element at a time with each individual until s/he has got it. Never assume when he nods his head he’s got it. He may understand it, but usually he’s a long way from being able to do it. So always ask him to repeat back to you what you said, or better yet role-play. Get him or her to commit that it will be done. You have to confirm he has it before you can hold him accountable.

Have faith. It is not as daunting as it sounds from the above example. Many already do some elements well. You may just have to make the sales person vividly aware of what s/he is doing correctly per your process, and what needs changing and/or improving. A sales person with potential and desire can learn quickly (See “Move” Part I). Believe it or not, sales people want to please their boss. So as long as you keep asking for what you want (managing your expectations), they will all eventually give it to you – even the renegades.

Putting a selling process that “Works” into place will make your sales skyrocket.

And now I invite you to learn more.

Posted in Uncategorized | Comments Off on Sales Management III – What Works

Can Your Superstar Sales Person Become Your Superstar Sales Manager

Finding the right person to fill the sales management role is a common quandary in wholesale distribution. It can be especially challenging when a decision is based strictly on sales territory performance without regard for the specific skill sets required to lead a sales force.. 2005 has been a good year in wholesale distribution with some industries recording double digit growth rates. With market cooperation like that, most sales people are smiling as they hit or exceed their quotas. Deciding on the right sales person to promote to sales manager can become a difficult and risky decision..

“We need a new sales manager. Let’s promote Tommy, he’s our leading producer in field sales.”

“No! We can’t afford to lose Tommy’s production in the field.”

“That’s not a problem. He can be a working sales manager and still call on his key accounts.”

Most of us should recognize that conversation but not many of us recognize the fallacies that lie within it. In wholesale distribution, it seems that the primary prerequisite for becoming a sales manager is being the top performing sales person. Promoting our top performing sales person to sales manager simply due to results is a big mistake. Personal experience tells me it has less than a forty percent chance for success. Our chance of success is decreased even further if we really believe that our sales manager can manage the sales force and still be solely responsible for a number of high volume accounts.

Different Skill Sets

It is an undisputable fact that different skill sets are required to become a successful sales manager as compared to being a successful sales person. Selling is a profession that requires professionals. Managing a group of professionals with the type of personalities required to succeed in sales is no easy task. Yet, in my humble opinion, it is probably the most important management position you can hold in a company. Sales management holds the key to meeting company objectives. Effective sales management builds the platform for success. Sales people are not the easiest group in the company to manage. If they were they would not be sales people. Selling is not easy. It takes a special talent, self motivation, self discipline, a passion to succeed and the ability to accept rejection. The reality of the situation is simple. The majority of sales people are not managed well. Let’s look at some common sales management mistakes to help us develop the list of hints I promised that will increase your ability to determine which sales person at your company is likely to succeed as sales manager.

Mistake —– Low tolerance for process.

Let’s face it, there probably isn’t a sales person alive that likes paperwork and administrative tasks. However, a Super Star Sales Manager will be process oriented. They understand that success in sales is driven by best practice and best practice is built around process. Sales effectiveness depends on predictable and repeatable best practice. The Super Star Sales Manager will create the kind of culture that negates the inherent aberration by sales people for process, structure, detailed and documented action planning.

HINT #1

If your star sales person embraces structure, pays attention to detail, is always current with required communications, documents his action planning process and doesn’t whine about administrative requirements passed down by corporate, chances are he/she will have a high tolerance for process. This means he/she possesses a basic understanding of structure and accountability. Everything isn’t locked up in their head just because they have been doing it a long time and have had great success.

Mistake —– Weak coaching and mentoring skills

Relationship equity is still a primary ingredient for sales success. However, relationship equity with the customer is quite different than relationship equity with peers, subordinates and executive management. A Super Star Sales Manager will build enough relationship equity with their sales force to be able to provide effective coaching and mentoring in reviewing the sales person’s activities. They understand that you must manage activities and measure results. This coaching and mentoring process includes buddy calls, monthly territory reviews that provide support and resources to leverage individual sales talent. This process includes opportunity recognition and pipeline management. What does the sales person have in the pipeline? Can the sales manager provide proactive support and resources to increase the chance of success?

Hint #2

If your star sales person is reluctant to accept or seek out help, this may be an indication of the Lone Wolf methodology. Maximizing territory performance requires a team effort. Utilization of all resources and support is mandatory to grow market share and maximize profitability. Look for the sales person that is successful but recognizes that they are not alone. Look for the sales person that shares the credit for success, coaches the inside sales staff, recognizes the contributions of customer service personnel and others in the organization. This sales person has also gained the respect of his peers and is often seen giving advice and sharing ideas.

Mistake —- Lack of development programs and leadership skills training

Leadership skills are extremely important to effective sales management. This is especially true when managing a sales force that leans more to the route mentality, is in a comfort zone, becomes complacent or is focusing on demand fulfillment as opposed to demand creation. The ability to recognize the need to adapt your management style not only to the situation but also to the individual is a key to gaining respect and trust from the sales force. This is a learned skill. Failure to seek out leadership skills training can be detrimental to success. A prerequisite to success in sales management is the ability to recognize talent and develop that talent. A Super Star Sales Manager will recognize talent and is willing to help develop that talent to reach its highest potential. They also prune the garden effectively. This means they hire well but fire even better. Failure to formalize a development program for sales management is a big mistake.

Hint #3

If your star sales person is not interested in attending seminars, doesn’t listen to self development tapes and hasn’t read a sales book in the past year, chances are they believe they are as good as they are going to get. Look for the sales person that is willing to be away from his territory, sacrificing commissions to increase his individual knowledge. This is the type of sales person that is a sponge when it comes to continuing education in the fields of sales. This person not only seeks company sponsored training but is willing to invest his own money and time in self improvement activities. They have a philosophy of continuous self improvement striving to be the very best that they can be.

Mistake —- A Member of “The Lucky Territory Club”

Numbers alone don’t always tell the story. We need to analyze each individual success story. Just because a sales territory has performed well doesn’t automatically mean the sales person is a star. A ten percent sales growth sounds great but how good is it if the potential growth for that territory should be in the twenty or thirty per cent range. A ten percent sales growth in that territory sounds great but how good is it if the market in that territory actually grew by thirty percent and the sales person was in a comfort zone walking by opportunities daily.

Hint #4

When evaluating your star sales person for potential promotion, analyze the numbers thoroughly. Is the sales person the real reason for that territory success? Are the numbers as good as they appear when you consider all the factors? Determine how this territory was established. Is this sales person responsible for the long term growth of this territory or did they inherit it. Analyze new account development in this territory. Evaluate this sales persons prospecting skills. How many new accounts have been developed in the territory? What kind of penetration success has been demonstrated with existing accounts?

Hint #5

Look for the sales person that has the ability to think strategically. They are willing to sacrifice personal gain for the benefit of long term company success. (A rare quality). A sales person that may be a maverick and shoot from the hip occasionally but every risk they take is a calculated risk. Their personal objectives for territory performance are in alignment with the company’s strategic objectives in relationship to product development,, segmentation, vendor development and margin initiatives. Look for the sales person that has good communication skills internally, one that has learned to listen exceptionally well, a skill that often eludes some of the best sales personnel.

If you are ready to promote your star sales person to sales manager, pay attention to the hints listed in this article. If your star sales person measures up according to the factors discussed in this article, your chance of success increases dramatically. That means your Super Star Sales Person can become your Super Star Sales Manager. If they don’t measure up according to the hints discussed, look deeper into your sales organization for that sales manager or go outside the organization. There is no such thing as entitlement. Remember, different skill sets are required to be an effective sales manager.

Posted in Uncategorized | Comments Off on Can Your Superstar Sales Person Become Your Superstar Sales Manager