What Is A Quality Sales Organization?

21 May

When networking with other sales reps early in my career I began to see correlations between the various sales organizations and the type of sales people they attracted & retained.  It was very interesting to hear people describe their sales cultures, compensation plans, management’s leadership style and the employer’s focus on client satisfaction.  Over time I was promoted several levels, each new role required a relocation to another part of the country.  Through networking I continued to accumulate a diverse collection of perspectives from sales managers from a variety of industries.

My career journey led me to NYC leading a National Account group.  This was more of a business development role leading a team of 8 people and managing the relationships with a dozen accounts that generated $1.3 Billion in annual sales.  This was the capper to my experience as business development forces you to consider client satisfaction, a strong interaction with operations, client profitability and new sales.  I won’t bore you with the details but we did create a very interesting client service agreement.  Each quarter we contracted four goals with our clients.   Two goals came from the client and usually included one customer service goal and one goal that would help our contact attain their major job objectives.  We also then had one goal that the Account Director was able to set that would help them achieve greater account profitability and one sales goal (like an introduction to a sister division) that would be validated only after the two client goals were met.  This was a great tool that minimize attrition and creating a very positive climate for cross selling & account expansion.  After two years this portfolio grew to $3 Billion annually and we did not lose any clients.

My final career destination was to build a new sales organization within an existing Fortune 500 company.  I poured everything I learned into the culture of that sales organization and it paid off royally.  In four short years we moved from non-existant to an organization acquiring over 5,000 new clients annually, producing an incremental $180MM in sales with each new annual batch of clients.  The NPV of these clients was nearly double that of any other client portfolio.

So here is what I learned about sales cultures and what makes a “Quality Sales Culture”. 

There are three parties (constituencies) that are affected by the culture you build.

  1. Clients – Your focus on making reasonable commitments and then driving over-delivery will payoff in a huge way.  The Net Present Value of your client base is driven by retention rates and gross profitability.  You can easily model the value of high customer satisfaction by raising your client retention rate by 5% and improving gross margins by 1%.  This is the value of ensuring that your culture demands a high customer satisfaction rate.  I dumbed down these numbers.  You can acheive much better benchmarks if drive customer satisfaction into your sales culture.  It will not only make them believers but their closing ratio’s will be dramatically better.
  2. Shareholders – This is the easiest constituency to satisfy or dissatisfy.  If your Business Development Efforts focus on customer service delivery within a cross selling framework, and your sales efforts are highly disciplined around skill, will, execution and leaderhip it is nearly impossible to disappoint investors in your company.  I do believe that investors have now learned that mid term results trump short term returns.
  3. Employees – Why bother?  Because clients and shareholders will never get the best possible outcomes if your employees are distracted.  Sales people and account managers should get all the direction & support they need to create healthy, profitable client relationships.  People who are distracted by poor leadership, non-existent training or poor customer service attitudes will never be able to deliver to their potential.

So what’s the conclusion?  Senior Leaders must balance their focus.  I know that in this economy the shareholder will get more attention than employees but in the end that’s a bad tasting medicine that we know is good for us.  But you still need to balance your focus reasonably.  Focus 80% on shareholders, 10% on clients and 10% on employees is a losing tactic.  When the economy begins to improve you will have a lot of issues to fix and you may miss out in that growth.

Assuming you have some employee goodwill on your asset sheet, in today’s economy I would recommend a focus of 45% on shareholders, 35% clients and 20% employees.  I think you can get through the next 18 months providing you keep the communication level high so employees know they’re valued but investments in them are on the back burner for the short term.

In the longer term my focus would be 40% shareholder, 30% clients and 30% employees.

If you are interested in more discussion on this topic please leave a comment with the specifics of your interest.

Sales Cultures, Is Yours Heart Healthy?

7 May

I know you’ve heard someone say, “We have a high performance culture here at Amalgamated.  We have high expectations of all our people!”  So, if you’ve been a member of a larger national sales organization how often did the term “high performance culture” turn out to have any benefit for you as a person in the trenches?  Did the leadership team have high expectations of themselves on creating a sales culture that was not only good for shareholders, but also good for clients and employees?

Sorry for a little culture slamming, and I won’t mention any companies, but here’s the facts m’am.

“We have a high performance culture” usually means we are going to expect a lot from you.  Okay, fine.  But what can I expect from you in return?  Can I expect a vibrant lead generation program?  Can I expect to have a manager in my corner who will routinely carve time out of their schedule to help me succeed?  Instead of telling me that I’m not doing enough can you tell me how to do more?  Can I expect to have up-to-date sales collateral so my presentations help prospects visualize the benefits of our programs?  When I bust my hump to over deliver can I enjoy even better rewards next year or will I bask in the sunlight with dramatically increased goals coupled with dramatically lower commissions?  In other words, will you invest as much in me as I am being asked to invest in you?

First I would like to propose a definition of what an organizational culture is;  The quality that arises in a person by virtue of belonging to a group.  That person’s behavior begins to reflect what they have learned through training and observing others in that group.  With time, the members form agreement with what the group prizes as excellence.  So with my definition of culture let me disclose something else.  I am a huge believer in building a culture that benefits clients, stakeholders and employees equally.  I believe strongly that satisfied employees will deliver a superior service, which customers will be willing to pay for…and stakeholders like that outcome.

So where do you begin to build a sales culture that will help develop a sustainable world class sales organization?  Essentially there are four drivers;

  • Sales Effectiveness – A bundle of skills that arm each sales person & account manager with the tools they need to effectively help prospects navigate through a buying process and end up with needs that are satisfied.  This isn’t just about holding people accountable to having & using these skills.  It’s really about hiring people with high potential and then provided them with the training they need.  This is much more than simply enrolling people in training.  This is field managers who are experts in all the skill areas, and providing them the training they need to be excellent coaches in the field.
  • Reward & Recognition – There is a lot more to reward & recognition than a compensation plan & an annual outing.  The compensation plan should produce a target income at sales goal attainment.  Your peak performers should earn two or three times what your average performers earn.  Why?  Because sales people are great understudies and peak performers are the people you want them to imitate.  Management reports should be shared throughout the organization and include not just the top performers but also the strugglers.  The only people that should not make the standing report should be untenured sales people.  Additionally there are all kinds of recognition vehicles formed around peer recognition, Sr. Management recognition and yes, family and friend recognition.  For those recognized this affirms their contributions.  For those that did not make the grade it affirms what the organization values.
  • Execution – Do all members of the team understand the sales strategy?  Good communication is the key and good communication is not solely reliant upon the message…good communication is driven by understanding.  Can people recite a summary of what the strategy is?  Do they understand the role they play in the execution of that strategy?  Has there been a set of metrics devised that will benchmark how well the organization is performing and how well each team member is doing?
  • Field Leadership – The Rosetta Stone of the quality of yoursales culture is the company’s investment in first level field sales managers.  If you’re expecting for your army of revenue generators to win battles you’re going to have to invest in field support.  Do your field generals understand their priorities?  How should they be investing their time & energy?  Is it 50% making sales calls, 30% admin., 15% forecasting and 15% coaching & developing people?  If this is the reality of how people are spending their time your organization may never get any better than it is today.  I have one question for CEOs and top Sales Officers.  How many leadership training courses have you delivered to your field generals in the last 5 years?  Don’t hold them accountable for moving from a peak performing sales person to an excellent management leader.  That’s your job.

Is a heart healthy culture worth the investment?  Only if you want the best sales people in your industry to aspire to work for your company. 

The sales culture that develops in your organization cannot be controlled, but you can influence it dramatically.  Your culture will be known for a theme, for it’s character, for it’s composure, for it’s courage and yes…for it’s care for people.  You must deliver results, but how you go about delivering those results will define your culture.

“How’s It Going?”

29 Apr

Okay, so the big-big boss is in town and asks how it’s going.  I know it’s tempting to tell her how well your son is doing on the little league team…but fight off that temptation.  I’m only saying that your boss may be a nice woman, but let’s put business first and then brag about the home run later.

A good top sales boss wants to know five things;

  1. Results – past quarter, last month?
  2. Status – how do the future results look?
  3. Focus – what are you concentrating on?
  4. Needs – how can I help you succeed?
  5. Other than 1-4, how’s it going?

So when you’re asked the question, have the answer ready.  Wait a minute.  When will I be asked the question?  How will I know when to have the answer prepared?

Well, let me go through the answer to the original question then you can decide.  Is this a question I should wait for the big boss to ask, or is this a question I should ask myself everyday?

CBR003315

Think of yourself as a manufacturing plant.  Raw material goes in the front door, workers convert the raw materials into components, assemble the components and poof, finished products roll out the back door.  Every plant has a general manager whose job it is to continuously make sure that raw materials arrive on time, that the plant is operating at capacity, and that the quality and quantity of the products rolling out the back door meet expectation.  In our profession the raw materials are prospects, the components are presentations & proposals, and the end products are contracts or sales.  Guess who the general manager is?

So whether you’re answering the question for yourself or the big boss doesn’t really matter, the answer should be the same.

Results – How many sales did you close last quarter?  Were they the right size?  Are you happy with those results?  Was last month better?

Status – This is really a question of sales pipeline.  Is your “real” pipeline bursting at the seams or is it chock full of “pipe dreams”?  How many prospects do you really have and where in the sales cycle do they reside?  How many are closeable in the next 30 days?  I hope your pipeline is healthy because this is going to become your commission check over the next several months.  If you have to admit to yourself that your pipeline is really shaky, then what are you going to do about it?

Focus – This is the “what are you going to do about it”.  You are the general manager of your sales territory.  If there’s a pending problem then your job it to fix it before it gets worse.  If your pipeline of prospects looks good on paper but you know that most of those prospects are on life support then it’s up to you to flush out the real prospects, and put the others on hold.  If your real pipeline is anemic you’re going to have to rightsize your hot prospect list and develop an action plan to bring it back into a healthy state.  If you’re not sure what that action plan should be then you’ll have to muster up the courage to ask for help. 

Needs – Okay your results have been acceptable but not to your expectation, you’ve gone through your pipeline and admitted that of those 50 prospects only 15 are healthy.  You’ve decided that you’re going to commit yourself to adding another 10prospects this month, while moving the 15 forward at least one step in the sales cycle.  Fantastic!  But now is not the time to be a hero.  Ask for help.  What is the one tool that would help ensure the success of your action plan?  Is it an improved presentation?  Is it better sales collatera material?  Lead generation?  The bigger question is, when I ask for help will I be considered a complainer?  I will tell you in no uncertain terms (as an experienced big-big), that if you have given me short concise answers to results, status and focus…I’m am going to listen very closely to what you need.  And when I get back to my office I’m going to make sure you get it.

So as a former big-big here is what I always was hoping for.  I arrive in town, sit down with the regional sales director, go over results.  Tonight we’re having a team dinner.  Since I haven’t met you before I sit down next to you at the table.  After letting everyone settle in the RSD gives me the big intro, then I give everyone my business overview and reaffirm the top 3 iniatives.  I answer a few questions then it’s time to place our orders.  While we’re waiting for our salads I introduce myself to you and ask how’s it going?  What are you going to say?  Here’s the worlds most perfect answer (please edit according to your territory).

“Thanks for asking Greg.  Last quarter was okay, last month was even better (you may want to add in a FEW numbers).  But I scrubbed my pipeline and I need to add no less than 10 more good prospects if I’m going to reach my goals…I’m willing to do all the hard work to get these prospects into my pipeline but I need a little help from you…”  WOW!  Someone this organized and such a good manager of their territory is going to remain on my radar screen for a long time.  And if someone like this tells me our lead generation program isn’t working, I’m going back to HQ and make sure it get’s fixed.

Now that we know each other…tell me about your family.

The Best Cold Call Script…Honest!

25 Apr

Before writing this script to suit your business please consider this;

 

No one likes making cold telephone calls (or in person) because a similar number of us don’t like receiving them either.  Why?  Because there are several perceived risks;

 

  1. You are going to waste my time.
  2. If I agree to see you, you’re going to leave a great big feature dump on my shiny desk.
  3. You are going to ask for information that you haven’t earned the right to know.

 

So, what are the objectives of the cold call?

 

  1. Minimize the risk in speaking with you (that’s why you only ask for 2 minutes)
  2. Minimize the risk in setting up an appointment (only speak about benefits, never features, advantages or any other indication of a pitch)
  3. Don’t ask questions.  If they agree to the appointment you may be able to get away with one or two questions but use care!  You just distinguished yourself from everyone else who will call.  Why take a chance on ruining that first impression.
  4. The ONLY other objective of the cold call is to set an appointment.

 

Telephone Script – I would recommend not tampering with everything in bold type.

 

Hello Mr. Smith, this is Greg Deming with Sales Performance Advisors.  I’d like to take two minutes to tell you why I called then you can decide if we should talk more…are you okay with that?

 

Most of the sales leaders I speak with today tell me they are concerned with the same issues that I faced when I ran large national sales organizations:

 

  1. They know that individual sales effectiveness varies dramatically, with only 59% of reps meeting or exceeding expectations.
  2. Almost 40% of top sales officers say that coaching in the field needs improvement in terms of frequency and quality.
  3. Finally, less than 50% of sales management executives felt their organization was able to consistently hire reps who were capable of succeeding.

 

Does this sound familiar?

 

Companies that I have worked with tell me they are confident that struggling contributors are easily identified and that field managers understand how to develop people to the next level of productivity.  Field managers tell me they are better equipped to hire the right people to begin with, and also better able to help people succeed.  They feel they are a part of a high performance organization.  Most importantly an effective solution turns field managers into leaders & world class trainers.

 

Are you interested in meeting?  It won’t cost you anything to discuss this further, and who knows?  It may be costing you not to.

 

The key for you to follow is keep it short, honor the prospects concerns, summarize the needs you are best able to address and also summarize the benefits that your customers (clients) enjoy.

Managing Sales Reps with “Attitude Problems”

21 Apr

Sometimes they simply have an opposing point of view.  Sometimes they are disrespectful of other team members.  Other times they simply refuse to do tasks commonly associated with what it takes to optimize sales results.  What’s their problem?  What’s your problem with them?

As a field sales manager you are accountable for delivering the optimal results possible with the assets assigned to you.  You are going to have a set number of sales resources.  Forget about the discomfort that you may feel from a rep with an attitude.  Stay focused on your job…optimal results!  First things first.  Are they making the goals? 

If not then you must take direct action by coaching and counseling.  You have to look at the territory as a resource and if the sales rep is not delivering that you’re not operating at full capacity.  You can afford an under-performing territory if you’re confident the numbers will improve.  You cannot afford to support an under-performing rep forever.  The next step is the most difficult one a sales manager has to perform…an autopsy of the sales pipeline.  Put on your stethoscope and begin to assess where in the sales cycle the problem resides.  Once you see where prospects, or lack of prospects, are clogging the pipeline you can next figure out what sales skills are lacking.  Most likely culprits?  Prospecting, presenting, probing or proposing are the most common ailments.  In this case the poor attitude is a symptom of a SKILL problem.  This is the most commonly overlooked solution because when we see a attitude problem we automatically begin inspecting the symptom instead of the illness.

If the rep consistently meets the goals but gives you or your team attitude problems then the plan of action is much more complex, but if left unaddressed it’s going to get worse.  High sales will is driven first by high sales skill.  But some people regress.  So I would recommend that you divorce yourself from the notion of “motivation”.  Motivation is what happens when there is a belief, held in expectation that something personally important will happend when a task is performed.  You need to go a little deeper.  Will is defined as the combination of desire, incentive, security and confidence.  When someone that used to have high sales will regresses, then one of those four drivers has reversed.  You need to figure out which driver has reversed then address the problem:

Desire – this is the closest to motivation.  It’s possible for people to lose the desire to perform tasks.  They simply feel that they have outgrown the need to perform the task, or that the they have already captured what was important to them and are now unwilling to perform certain tasks.  The most common example is prospecting.  Say the rep has a goal to make $100k per year.  Once they get to that level they stop performing a task they hate, like making old fashioned calls to set appointments. 

Incentive – there is a very strong link to incentive and desire, though incentive is a little more subtle.  Incentive can be a self imposed limit, such as a low income goal.  Incentive, as a driver of will, can regress quickly.  You see this all the time.  Outbound telephone calls disappear when the pipeline is full.  Then when the pipeline of prospects thins out people forget what got them there.  It becomes your job to remind them that the task of outbound calls is how they filled up their pipeline.  In other words, make sure they see the linkage between the task and their success.

Security – This is a tricky driver of sales will.  If you grew up in sales like I did then you know that security is fleeting.  You can feel a loss of security because of your own perceptions, or because of things going on around you that are outside of your control.  The most obvious are mergers or downsizings.  The less obvious are management changes or a change in the sales process.

Confidence – A change in confidence can come from within or from the outside world.  You can imagine what more senior sales reps felt when their company went from emailed weekly sales reports to an online CRM.  Confident people will speak out and ask for help.  Those that lose confidence will be afraid to ask for help, they don’t want to be discovered.  People are subject to a regression in confidence more today than ever before because the span of control for sales managers continue to get wider and wider.  The less communication there is, the more likely that a reps perceptions will cause damage to their confidence.

So, in the end, I hope that your view of attitude problems has been altered.  Your job as sales manager is to dig a little deeper and find out how you can help.  However, if the rep is the “bad apple” sooner or later they will ruin the rest of the team.  You may have to take action quickly.  Your team depends upon you to show composure and care for people.  Be the best coach and leader that your team ever had.  You’ll enjoy your job and over time you’ll create a team of winning professionals.

Hiring The Right Chief Sales Officer – C.S.O.

10 Apr

Have an opening for your head of sales?  This role is tricky!  Why?  Because very few functional heads need analytical thinking skills balanced with lateral thinking skills.  Because very few leadership positions will have such a rapid, and long lasting impact on your company’s revenue.  Because your company’s credibility with your existing customer base will be dramatically affected, based on the impact that this person has with your account managers.  Because your peak performers will judge the culture of your company based on their impression of your hiring decision.  Because your struggling reps will either improve or hide out, based upon their perception of this person’s leadership style.  Because the other members of your senior leadership team will either focus on their own functional role or pay too much attention to sales effectiveness based on this person’s credibility.  If you’re still with me read on because I’m going to share some competency information with you and suggest some guidelines for your consideration.

But first let’s agree that this year and 2010 are going to be a challenge.  What is obvious is the changes in the economy.  What is less obvious is the changes that will take place with buyer preferences, attitudes and buying processes.  Your sales organization will have to adapt to these changes rapidly.  Here are a few of the changes that will need to be addressed:

  • Lead generation programs will have to be addressed
  • Sales rep access to information and collateral will need to improve
  • Sales and Marketing will have to better aligned, this must be non-negotiable
  • Sales processes must be revised
  • Sales team communication must be improved
  • Buying process analysis must be rapid yet thorough
  • Field sales structures must be revisited
  • Channel strategies reviewed
  • Sales tools must be reviewed, reworked and sales reps retrained
  • Sales compensation plans will need to be revised

Okay, I admit you’re not going to get to all of these…but if you do none of them you may be up the creek.  So which ones are critically important?  Your new CSO will need to rapidly assess the organization and differentiate between important and critical.  How can you ensure that your candidate will be effective in moving the organization in the right direction?  Getting nervous?  Good, that’s what I wanted.  But let’s simplify the process.  I propose a list of 8 competencies where you can focus your selection process.  Four are technical skills and four are leadership skills.

The core theme of the sales leader role is to create an environment where the needs of customers and clients permeate all endeavors.  The head of sales understands how the effectiveness of their organization drives shareholder, employee and client satisfaction.  They are able to spontaneously and fluently communicate strategies, while continuously using gap analysis to change course.  They apply limited resources where those investments will yield the greatest return for all constituencies. 

Technical Competencies

  • Analytical Thinking – This skill is not solely used to decipher the sales pipeline.  Analytical thinking is also used to understand a situation by breaking it down into smaller pieces, or tracing the implications of a situation in a step by step way.  When the CRM pipeline is ineffective in producing reliable forecasts this person must be able to find the root cause and move to fix it.  Just yelling louder will not help.  They must be able to break down a complex task into manageable parts in a systematic way.
  • Lateral Thinking – Frequently there are more than one cause of a problem and more than one solution to that problem.  Lateral thinking allows a person to juggle more than one root cause and several potential solutions and come up with a strategy that will employ more than one tactical plan.  If the lead generation program is not working there are probably several issues that need to be addressed.  Lateral thinking skills will help you avoid investing all your resources in a one path solution.
  • Ensuring Implementation – Admit it…things don’t always go right.  Someone needs to monitor to ensure that strategies get implemented, that the work is actually getting done and done well.  They need to act decisively to fix problems when they occur.  One of the most overlooked practices is to communicate well with all relevant parties to ensure they understand their role in implementation.
  • Collaboration with Others – If your sales head is truly a CSO then chances are they will serve on your senior management committee.  They will need to work with others in shaping their plans and understand how their decisions will impact other functions.  They need to communicate directly, interact effectively, honestly and persuasively.

Leadership Competencies

  • Using Business Expertise – Not all aspects of managing sales output and velocity are tactical or short term.  The possession and use of professional expertise is critically important for anticipating what the sales results will look like in the future.  The incumbent will be most valuable if they can understand the economic and market conditions as a basis for action in a variety of organizational contexts.  This is where the arguments arise about the importance of company tenure, industry knowledge vs. functional knowledge.  In some cases breadth of knowledge is more important than depth of knowledge.
  • Identifying with the Needs of Customers – There are several sources for customer need information.  Market research, upward feedback from the field and direct interaction are all critically important.  The organization cannot rely on one source for customer intelligence.  The CSO must continuously analyze situations from the customers perspective.  Without this talent the organizational view will become myopic.
  • Coaching & Developing Others – The only way for the top sales officer to effectively lead to organization is for them to continuously gain credibility with their direct reports.  Having ultimate authority will have a short shelf life.  The leader should be adept at recognizing each team members unique strengths and development needs, address and resolve performance issuess directly and rapidly and help identify alternatives to overcome obstacles. 
  • Leadership Credibility – The entire organization is customers of the CSO’s leadership.  Customers have been known to revolt.  The CSO must have a conscious knowledge of the skill and will of their direct reports, and have a purposeful use of various leadership styles they are willing to employ in order to get things done without harm to the company and organizational culture.  This is a difficult and hard to find skill set.  Knowing when to use directing, guiding, supporting or delegating leadership styles is as much an art as a science. 

First, my apologies for the length of this article.  Second this competency model is designed for most business to business sales organizations.  Your company/industry may need a slightly different set of competencies.  But do yourself a favor, for each competency you add, please take one of these off.  Trying to recruit around a competency model with more than 8 desired skills makes the process nearly impossible.

For larger companies – Hiring a top sales officer is a challenge that will have a dramatic impact on the health of your company for years, maybe even decades.  If this article has built up your confidence then I have done my job.  If it has lowered your confidence then don’t get discouraged, there is plenty of help available.  There are plenty of consultants and coaches that can help you through this process.  Once you open that door however you need to ferret through a lot of helpers to find someone who will be of help.  I would highly suggest finding someone who has actually had CSO experience. 

For medium sized companies – You may not be able to find or afford someone with a complete skill set.  Your current stable of talent may be strong but do you have the time for on the job learning?  If you cannot attract or afford a true CSO then I would suggest promoting from within and contracting with a past CSO war horse to help coach your candidate.  This approach should help your high potential candidate accelerate their learning dramtically.

For smaller companies – You will probably not need a true CSO.  I would recommend finding a great sales manager and have them report to the CEO or COO.  But don’t delegate leadership completely to the sales manager.  If you do not have adequate time to manage them perhaps you can find a coach to help them.  If your company is not large enough to warrant a sales manager I would recommend finding a sales management coach to help you run the sales group yourself.  Frequently the skills that made you successful as an entrepreneur will not be the best skills to employ running a group of sales people.

If you made it all the way through this article then you’ll probably make a great hire.  Precisely defining what you are looking for is half the battle in making the right selection.

Hiring The Right Sales Manager

3 Apr

The core theme of a sales manager’s role is to drive the team to sell.  Though they may be the best sales person on the team, if they spend 100% of their time helping close business then sales results will plateau when their selling capacity is reached, and you will find that other team members have not developed.  This “halter” is a problem that many companies face as they try to migrate to the next level of growth.  As usual the best approach to solving a problem is to anticipate it, and solve it before it emerges.  So this article will focus on finding a sales manager who can grow beyond your needs today.

Driving the team to sell is a three legged stool.  Being effective at all three is important and requires a different set of competencies.  You may not get all the competencies you’re hoping for, but you must have confidence that given support, the candidate you select has the will to learn the skills.  The components are :

1.  Selling to large Accounts – When larger prospects are identified it is crucial that the sales manager become actively involved in selling process.  Whether or not they take the lead role depends upon the skill and will of the sales representative.  Regardless, the sales manager must feel accountable for ensuring that this enterprise opportunity succesfully navigates through their buying process.  The manager must, at all costs, ensure that there is a complete understanding and consideration of customer requirements before making decisions and taking action.

  • Identifying the Needs of Prospects – The sales representative must gather timely, direct information about customer requirements.  If the sales person identifies the opportunity early enough in their buying process they can influence and shape those requirements.  If they enter the sales cycle later in the prospect’s buying process they will be forced to conform to whatever requirements are already defined.
  • Entrepreneurial Drive – Tenacity is the most important ingredient in any complex sale.  If the sales rep’s will begins to fade over time, the manager must insert themselves into the process.  To be of high value to the sales representatives your manger should demonstrate that they compete against a self defined standard of excellence.  They tirelessly purse a goal until it is successfully attained.
  • Meeting & Exceeding Customer Expectations – Retaining clients is equally important as acquiring clients.  The first step in client retention is to make realistic short & long term commitments, maintain contact and then to exceed expectations by ensuring delivery of promised service.  Your sales manager must understand that brand equity is built one transaction at a time.

2.  Managing the Team – No matter the tenure of your sales representatives, their skill and will to do sales tasks will change over time.  Your manager must create an atmosphere in which sales people are completely comfortable asking for help.  At the same time they must be able to rapidly determine developmental gaps that are becoming unrecognized sales obstacles.

  • Coaching & Developing Others – It is unfortunately true that 45% of managers hire sales reps that are not likely to succeed.  This problem is exacerbated by the fact that 56% of managers do not conduct routine win/loss reviews and 36% of managers do not effectively identify which sales reps need coaching.*  If you are not equipped to help the manager succeed then get them the help they need.
  • Creating & Maintaining Effective Work Teams – The manager must create an atmoshphere where individuals can work together as a team in pursuit of a common mission.  The behaviors you’re looking for are; encouraging multiple points of views, harnessing the necessary resources to help team members succeed, establishing a positive climate (see article on “Why Leaders Get Followers”) and nuturing a commitment to the mission.
  • Directing the Team – Your manager must ensure that the team completes tasks and delivers targets.  There are times when coaching & good relationships are not enough.  The manager must be more direct and take action if necessary, without inflicting damage to the team environment.  Behaviors to look for are; aligning people behind a strategy even when decisions are unpopular, using authority productively to achieve results and setting expectations clearly while communicating the boundaries that exist.  In short, the manager must be adept at managing performance.

3.  Managing the Territory – whether the assigned territory is national or market specific, you will depend upon the sales manager to optimize results.  In order to effectively manage the situation the manager must be motivated to reduce uncertainty and stay focused on those intiatives that will yield the greatest return.

  • Concern for Order – Reducing uncertainty requires an insistence on timely, accurate information.    You would see this drive expressed in such ways as; monitoring & checking information (CRM), insisting on clarity of commitments (conducting win/loss reviews), setting up and maintaining systems of information.
  • Analytical Thinking – This may be an optional skill for your consideration.  If the sales manager will be your “Top Sales Officer” (CSO) then I would strongly recommend you look for this competency.  If the sales manager will report to an RVP, who reports to your CSO then this is a nice-to-have skill.  I freely admit that it is difficult to find analytical thinking skills in a pool of sales management candidates.  You are more likely to see good lateral thinking skills.  But in this rapidly changing economy, where buyer preferences are changing at incredible velocities then this analytical thinking skill is very important!

The sales manager role requires broad and deep knowledge of selling, account relationship management and leadership.  One would expect that the candidate would have accumulated the knowledge they need for selling & account relationship management.  The company has a responsibility to provide the new manager with orientation & training around leadership.  Unfortunately most companies do not provide a shred of training on sales leadership.

 

 

* Statistics from CSO Insights “Sales Performance Optimization” 2009 Survey Results and Analytics