An Article by
A Business Trainer from Woking, United Kingdom
Advantages And Challenges Of ExportingBy Tekle S.
7%-38%-55% Communications MythBy Robert P.
Top 10 Big Mistakes Of Big BusinessBy Francis T.
Climate Change Is Real! Act Now!By Kathrin G.
Improving The Quality Of Decision MakingBy Niladri R.
Advantages And Challenges Of ExportingBy Tekle S.
Top 10 Big Mistakes Of Big BusinessBy Francis T.
Best Practice Benchmarking - The Path To ExcellenceBy Robert C C.
What Is A Healthy Company?By Raymond H.
Challenges And Opportunities In The New EconomyBy Alkistis A.
Be A Successful Sales Manager Not A Super Seller!
How many sales teams suffer because their sales manager is not doing their job at the right "level"? Sales figures suffer, sales people suffer and the sales managers feel pressured and possibly even stressed.
I want to look at some of the reasons why this occurs and offer some initial ideas for how sales managers can carry out their roles more confidently and effectively - for everyone’s benefit!
Why does this seem to happen so often? It does seem that the transition to sales management is one which can often prove a struggle! There is a long list of reasons, few of which are the fault of the person doing the sales manager’s role.
The organisation is probably a significant contributor to the problems facing the sales manager! A lack of clear succession planning is part of the equation. Maybe there is a limited understanding of what the role really involves, or should involve! The chances are that the senior management may share many of the misconceptions of the sales function and how it operates in a successful environment.
Where sales is concerned, there is usually too much short-term thinking and a focus on results. I agree that the sales manager is there to achieve the targets and to work within a budget. However, to paraphrase the great Peter Drucker, "sales results are not an objective in their own right, they are an outcome of achieving the other objectives." Another tripping point can be an expectation that the new sales manager should be acting like a predecessor - provided they were successful and, typically, outgoing and told a convincing tale about how things would turn out!
In common with many other managers, the sales managers have probably been promoted into their role with little real preparation, guidance or training. This will be compounded if they were given the opportunity because they were one of the best in the sales team. (Rather than choosing the person with the right qualities to do the job.) Sales does have an additional time pressure, in that results need to keep being obtained from the outset. There is little time for a learning curve!
Without the development support the newly appointed manager has a limited range of choices. A typical response is to think about role models we have known and adopt and adapt what we liked or respected about them. This is often done unconsciously as well as consciously. Entering a new role with more responsibility carries different pressures. These will cause most people to feel some degree of under-confidence. To overcome this, it is natural to do some things which will help to reinforce confidence. For many, this will mean finding opportunities to prove they are worthy of the new role. Where are these? Dealing with customers, chasing the large order and proving to the sales team why the manager should have been given the job!
This latter approach may help the manager feel more confident, or give then the buzz they had when they were a seller. It will probably also start to diminish any respect they may have from the team, especially if some of these orders are taken from their customers. It hardly does their confidence any good as they will feel undermined!
The root of the problem is frequently something as fundamental as the actual job description. How well does it set out the range of responsibilities and tasks? Does it define the competencies required to do the job well? The key outcome for a sales manager is to achieve the required sales targets and margins. This should be done by using the resources effectively, especially the sales team! Taking a few orders might help in the short-term and reinforce the ego of the sales manager, it will not provide an ongoing solution for under-performance with team members.
What can be done to improve this and make sales managers operate more effectively? Begin at the beginning with a clearly defined job description as mentioned above! This can be a great help with recruitment or promotion and might reduce the classic tendency of promoting the top seller. (A frequent recipe for disaster as they may not succeed in the role and end up leaving, or being asked to leave. On the way to this, they may have upset a number of the sales team who do worse and might leave!) This job description needs to emphasise that the role involves a variety of activities which are not connected with their own face to face selling. When it is clear what the competencies are and the sales manager can assess themselves against these, some form of development plan can be identified to close any gaps.
The sales manager needs to understand the overall strategy and know how to plan ? especially in developing a sales plan. They have to be able to analyse the current situation, market and competition as a starting point. As part of their plan they need to evaluate the capabilities of the sales team and decide whether they have the appropriate structure to deliver against the strategy and plan.
If there is no clearly defined sales process, it will help if they can identify one and break it down to the main steps. From this, they can identify the critical areas to monitor and control. Knowing these points can give the early warning signals if their might be problems in achieving the results later and can also help with more accurate forecasting. There are plenty of software systems to help with this aspect, from the top end such as Oracle and Seibel through SalesTrak to ACT or Golmine.
From this, you can see that a key part of the role is desk-bound, making time to think, assess and make decisions. This is only part of the whole! While the desk time can help in identifying areas to set targets and goals, it is not the best place to evaluate the skills and potential of the sales team. The job description should establish some key performance indicators about time spent with the sales team on field visits.
Days spent with the sales team will usually have multiple aims. The primary one is to support and develop the sales person. Observing them with the prospects or customers, reviewing how the call went and then coaching them to improve. A key part of this is to provide useful feedback and support. (Not just blaming or criticising or saying how you, the manager, would have done it!) There is also an element of communication and relationship building to keep the seller informed of things within the organisation and also getting to know more about them. None of these is really achievable working from a desk and trying to manage by telephone and email! A minor part of the day is to also meet with customers and find out what they are thinking about the organisation and its service.
If the organisation has a key (or major) account strategy, there might be valid reasons for the sales manager to have direct contact with some of the personnel in the accounts. This should be at the direction of the account manager or sales person as they are in charge of the account. The sales manager is there to support them not to take over!
There will be some other time with the sales team, whether one to one or at sales meetings. The sales manager can use these to review performance, communicate, deal with problems and agree the way forward. The balance of the sales manager’s time might be spent between doing their own administration activities and also interacting with other functions in the organisation.
Across all of these there is no emphasis on being the super seller!! The role is to be the sale manager. This means getting the results through the resources available - and the main resource is the sales people, whether in the field or on the phone. The sales manager needs to develop their management skills in analysis, planning, monitoring and then grow their leadership skills alongside these to develop and support their people. Learn to get motivation through seeing the team achieve rather than getting that deal! The job can become more enjoyable, the sales people are more successful and positive, and results improve. Do this and everyone is happier from the top down and through the sales team!
Got an opinion? Want to thank Graham?
23 more Articles by Graham
9 min. How to improve the accuracy of your sales forecasts
15 min. The simple answer to the above is, "both"! It depends on a number of things. Perhaps the first thing to explore is your reaction to seeing those three ...
9 min. It is not about having some new magic method for selling, it is about applying the things you have perhaps forgotten.
6 min. It is estimated that about 60% of GBP 23bn in lost productivity in the UK is from presenteeism!
10 min. A challenge for most managers is to initiate or implement change programmes - and lead people through them, whether in the way they work or what they do. In this, lies one of your major challenges...
6 min. Decent management communication and support, plus personal development for the people can combine to help prevent a lot of the issues which lead to pressure ...
9 min. Enhance your negotiation skills to keep afloat in tough times
8 min. The benefits of having a defined sales process
8 min. Are you hitting or beating your sales target or quota? If not, are you blaming the market, the customers or your competition? If you are making your target ...
7 min. Most organisations and many managers within them are probably aware of the costs and consequences of stress and stress related problems. They may have ...
10 min. Two key dimensions to successful, and effective, change initiatives
7 min. When you are a leader in a business you face a number of challenges at different levels. Ask yourself how much focus you put on to these...
10 min. Not only are there a lot of potential risks arising from the spread of stress within an organisation, it costs a great deal of money!
4 min. Some differences and grey areas where Coaching or Mentoring overlap
8 min. Who tells the boss that they can improve their management or leadership? How do they look at themselves objectively and identify what areas they can improve and the benefits of doing so?
7 min. If you are involved with sales, how do you feel when you hear phrases such as, "Can you do anything about your price" or, "You'll have to do better than ...
6 min. Stress and mental health are not issues which managers should ignore. They cost the organisation money, both directly and indirectly.
POP6 min. How do you prefer to "control and influence" others?
17 min. Have you had this feeling before? Rest assured you are not alone. You might be one of the many who would rate your fear of public speaking alongside or ...
9 min. How many times have you said something and realised that the person, or people, on the receiving end have not fully understood what you meant or headed ...
7 min. Too many organisations are "over-managed and under-led" to quote Warren Bennis. There is a difference between leadership and management.
8 min. When a company's culture is not right with what is needed for strategic success, the culture has to be changed as rapidly as can be managed!