Sales Managers Quick Check Inventory, Part 1

Posted: July 22, 2010 in Making Customers
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Sales Management is like parenting; the bar for entry is low, but to excel and have a lasting, positive impact that will outlive you, it takes a lot of hard work, dedication and some trial and error. It also takes the ability to maintain your vision and poise when you are in the middle of a difficult, tense and stressful situation. Here are the first three things that my own sales people and experience, other sales people and their managers, along with other sales executives tell me that hinder their effectiveness:

Lack of Field Time. It seems as though the number one struggle for most sales managers is getting more field time into their schedule. Lots of things need to be done in the office; reports, meetings, charts and graphs, more meetings, dealing with whatever administrative issue is at hand. Oh, and did I mention meetings? Very little that will have a positive and significant effect on the sales process happens in your office.

How many times have you been in the field and had much more clarity on the dynamics of a situation because you have personally seen it instead of reading or talking about it? Enough said.

Taking the Lazy Way Out. Somebody screws up. Doesn’t follow procedure. What do you do? The temptation that is often surrendered to is to quickly send an email or a memo to everyone who may even be remotely involved, making sure the Top Brass is cc’d, explaining the proper procedure and why it is important to follow protocol. And of course reminding them of the impending doom if these warnings are ignored.

Sound familiar? It’s easy, doesn’t take a lot of time, and we avoid the face to face confrontation with the offender.

But let’s take a look at how this email has affected those who have received it. The negative consequences of this are threefold – the people who aren’t involved and have no knowledge of the incident are now gossiping about who did what. Time is wasted. The people who are following procedures are offended that they get the same negative email about something they don’t do. Loss of productivity and decreased morale. And the guy who did it knows that he has gotten away with it again because the only ‘consequence’ was another dopey email from the impotent sales manager. Nothing permanent. Only vague threats. It’s kind of like the UN dealing with a one of those nickel-and-dime third world dictators; let’s appoint a committee and then send a strongly worded statement condemning the guys behavior before we go to lunch. Big deal.

What should be done? Get in your car, take a plane, take a walk down the hall, whatever, and have a one-on-one, face to face meeting with the offender. If it is important enough for you to deal with it, then deal with it one-on-one with the offender. Leave the rest of the world that had nothing to do with it alone. You have one of two scenarios – a good employee who needs correction and direction or a bad apple that needs to be ‘counseled’ until you have enough paper piled up to get him off the team. But whatever the scenario, you have dealt with the offender privately without disturbing the rest of your team. An approach that is always more productive.

Too Much Telling, Not Enough Asking. You’re the sales manager, they should respect your opinions, ideas and solutions. Right? So why do you get so much static? Or silence? Or maybe the passive/aggressive nodding yes to you at the meeting and then continuing to do the opposite. Why do you have to keep pounding away at the same issues and topics? Why don’t they get it? Why don’t they do it? Maybe it’s because your issues aren’t their issues. Maybe because you violate number 1 above you are out of touch. When you are out in the field are you asking questions? When you are talking to one of your customers, reps or other staff, are you asking questions? Are you taking polls? Do you know what the top three issues, problems and obstacles each of your sales people face?

It’s hard to solve problems if you don’t know what they are. It’s hard to be helpful if your map and directions are out of date. It’s impossible to remove obstacles if you aren’t on the same road. Resist the temptation to automatically assume you have the answer for everything in every person’s life in every situation. Ask questions. Find out. Discover. Listen. Maybe the best thing for you to do in that situation is listen, give an emotional hug and shed a tear.

The next article will discuss issues 4, 5 and 6; Treating Everyone the Same, Wasting Time with Poor Producers and Assuming Everyone Knows and Understands.

By Kirk Chittick

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