Sales Managers Quick Check Inventory, Part 3

Posted: September 21, 2010 in Making Customers
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In the first article, I took a look at the first three management problems or issues; Not Enough Field Time, Taking the Lazy Way Out and Too Much Telling, Not Enough Asking. While I have identified 10 areas in which sales managers struggle, fortunately, nobody has all 10 or else they would have been fired, quit or gone into taxidermy long ago. But from time to time, most of us struggle with one or more of these. And they hamper our effectiveness. While we can=t be perfect, we can avoid the little missteps that cause a lack of respect and an erosion of our leadership capability.

The second article examined the idea that we need to treat everyone the same. Yes, there are legal issue regarding equal consideration in hiring, pay, days of, medical benefits and the like. But while treating everyone the same sounds like a good, fair and equitable strategy, people are different, have different needs and wants, and should all be treated as individuals. I also took a look at wasting an inordinate amount of time with those who have potential but can=t leverage that potential into performance. That is doing the rest of your staff a disservice. Sometimes the squeaky wheel doesn’t get the grease, it gets replaced. And it should.

So let’s take a look at a major frustration.

Assuming Everyone Knows and Understands. Ever have one of those meetings where everything seemed to go so well, but the only days later everybody is back doing things the same old way? Unfortunately, just because you talk about it doesn’t mean they get it. And just because you repeat it doesn’t mean they get it. And just because you demand it doesn’t mean they get it. Just because you are doing all of these doesn’t mean your sales staff is focused on it, is willing to change, or is persuaded in the least that you mean it. Just because you sent a reinforcing email or memo, or have it in the procedures manual doesn’t mean it will ever happen.

At your next sales meeting, distribute 3×5 cards and ask everyone to list the three most important aspects of their job description. What do they believe you think are the three most important things they need to do to be effective with their job? If I=m doing these three things, I=m good. Anonymous. When the meeting is over, sitting down in a quiet place and read the cards. What you’ll probably discover is that there are significant areas where you and the sales staff are not aligned. Areas that they think are important that you do not.

So what happened? Why isn’t everybody on the same page?

Organizational psychologists tell us that if it=s not managed and watched, the odds are a lot lower that anything will change. You can talk about whatever you want, but if it=s not being measured and evaluated in some way there is very little chance for change. As managers, this is where it gets tricky. Many of the behaviors and outcomes we want to see in our sales staffs aren’t necessarily the kinds of things we can stick on a spreadsheet someplace.

So how do we do it? How do we affect the kind of change we want to see? Some of it is organizational. Are the salespeople focused on the issues and concerns where you want them to be focused? This is usually a compensation issue. What adjustments do you need to make in their compensation structure to get them aligned with your overall corporate goals and objectives? Are referrals and repeat sales important? What is your commission structure for a referral or repeat sale? Is it timing? Should the commission structure be adjusted to pay a higher rate for those who are more efficient with delivering the closings, products or services? You may have a tiered commission structure, but those are often punitive, designed to weed out the poor performers.

Give some thought to making adjustments to reward the behavior you want to see. It may raise the entire level of performance for everyone as the focus changes from the minimum to rewarding harder work and higher achievement.

One of the other issues with a lack of behavior change is the fact that you’ve done this before. How many meetings have you introduced the latest, greatest, end all, be all, program or article?  How many times have you introduced some new gee-whiz idea that received no subsequent attention, no follow-up or no follow-through? And if it did, did you drop it at the first sign of resistance because you didn’t have the energy, will or desire to fight it?

Good sales management is hard work. While it can be frustrating at times, the rewards are great for those who stay with it, keep the message simple and repeat that simple message often to build trust and respect with their staffs.

By Kirk Chittick

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