Sales Management…Salesperson Maintenance

Posted: June 2, 2010 in Making Customers
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If you’ve been in sales management for very long at all, you’ve either heard or asked yourself the question, “Why does it seem salespeople require so much maintenance?”

Being in sales management for 25 years, my experience has been that we are asking the wrong question. What is there in our lives that we value that doesn’t require some sort of maintenance? We’ve all heard of and participate in some sort of Spring Cleaning that we do around the house. Cars come with a complete service manual that addresses all the tasks we need to perform on a regular basis if we expect it to perform at its best. In fact, if we don’t, some manufacturers tell us that we will void the warranty. Cars also need washing and waxing. Furniture needs dusting and polishing, floors need vacuuming, cleaning and scrubbing, carpets need to be cleaned, baseball gloves need oil, and golf clubs need scrubbing after a day of whacking our way out of the sand. And every now they also need new grips. You get the idea. Maintenance is a part of our lives.

And these aren’t even the most important things we maintain. If you have kids, in addition to the tasks, some joyous, some not, of raising your children, my guess is you try to have a date night with your spouse. Why?  To see how things are going. To check schedules. To make sure that as a spouse and parent you are the most effective you can be. That the two of you are in sync. To help maintain the relationship. We exercise to maintain our bodies. Many of us also have some sort of personal devotion or meditation where we pause and examine ourselves to see if our own lives need some internal maintenance.

The reason we ask the question about our salespeople, I believe, is not the maintenance itself, but the value of the time we spend on maintenance versus the return we get from that salesperson. So the question now becomes who am I maintaining? Let’s get back to the car illustration for a minute. If I have an exotic or classic car, I am happy to maintain it. In fact, I loved to pull the 66 Mustang out of the garage on the weekends just to make sure everything looked good and was running as it should. When I was done tinkering, I’d just stand there for a while and admire it. In fact, if I was honest, I was secretly hoping people would drive by, slow down a bit, give me a thumbs up and share my joy. I have pictures.

I have no such thrill with my daily driver. I want the engine to start when I turn the key and want to get from point A to point B. I dutifully perform the needed maintenance tasks. But the provides no happiness or joy. Only resignation and schedule adjustments as I try and carve out the necessary time to get the work done. When was the last time you were excited about buying a new oil filter? Or getting the transmission flushed?

Isn’t it the same with your salespeople? The high performing Ferrari’s on your staff should not be in the same category as the clunkers who barely carry their own weight. My guess is you are proud of your top performers and are thrilled when you see them in action or read a glowing survey from a satisfied customer. You want to spend time with them. Or at least you should. What do they have and do that’s transferrable to the rest of your salespeople? How can you leverage their skills and abilities? What can you do to make sure they stay at the top of their game? These are the questions good sales managers ask when talking about their top performing salespeople. Weak sales managers are concerned with paperwork, forms and whether or not the top performer made a mistake on line 3 on the sales report. (I’ll discuss the weak sales manager in another article.)

So the answer to salesperson maintenance is who are you maintaining? Maintenance is a part of the job. Evaluate who you are maintaining in relation to their effectiveness, productivity and potential. If they are a star, generously give them your time willingly. If they aren’t yet a star but the potential is there, give them the right development plan, coaching strategy and experience. Give them your time. The rest of your clunkers, not so much.

It’s all about the relationship, which is a better word than maintenance anyway. You’re not a baby sitter. But you should be the leader in training, motivating and developing your sales team to perform at their peak. And that involves spending time with them.

Join The Sales Revolution at www.makingcustomers.com and join with other sales managers and leaders who are interested in getting out from behind their desks and leading their staffs to reach their potential and become all they can be!

By Kirk Chittick

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