High Performance Sales Driven By High Performance Sales Manager

Much is written about getting sales people to perform at the highest levels. There are countless sales training programs, books, blogs and webinars that focus on sales people as individual contributors.

All of this is powerful and critical for sales people, but the most important element in driving high sales performance in the organization is the sales manager. Sales manager’s have to provide the leadership, coaching and development to help sales people understand high performance and what they need to do to achieve the highest levels of performance.

Too many managers are poorly equipped to provide this leadership. They were outstanding sales people, now promoted into management. They don’t change their behavior but try to manage by being “super sales contributors.” This won’t work-the numbers overwhelm the sales manager-they fail. The team is demotivated-they fail.

There has to be a different way, something that leverages the experience of the manager, enabling them to grow the capabilities and performance of their sales teams.

Congratulations, You’re A New Manager!

When I moved into my first sales management job, I had the good fortune of working for a company that invested in training and developing sales managers. Unfortunately, in today’s environment, it seems like it’s more “Tag You’re It.” People are appointed to be sales managers, but have little or no training or coaching on how to be a high performing sales manager.

It’s not wonder most new sales managers fall back into their comfort zones, being great sales people. But now, they see they have to do it across a larger territory and with their people.

It’s impossible to do this, the numbers are simply against the sales manager. Think of this example, as a top performing sales person, you consistently hit your annual $5M quota, sometimes you over achieved it. But you were constantly busy, never having any surplus time to sit back or hit the golf course. The job took 50, 60 or more hours a week, but you did it and excelled.

Now, poof, you’re a sales manager. You’re managing 10 people, each with $5M quotas. Your immediate reaction is to do what you did well in the past – doing deals. Now you have to do it for $50M, not just $5M. Sure you have sales people that can “help you out,” but after all, your past success was based on your personal abilities, and you were the best sales person. So the tendency is to get the sales people to do the trivial task and you as “super sales manager” sweep in to do the major tasks for all the deals.

Funny, the number of hours a day, days per week hasn’t changed. In your old role, every waking hour was spent doing your $5M of deals, now you have the challenge of squeezing 10 times that amount into the same time (OK, sleep is overrated, you try to work 7×24). Soon you find yourself drowning, you have more work – and your team is delegating more upward. There are not enough hours in the day. You start crashing and failing.

The numbers simply go against the manager, you can’t continue doing the same things you did before (even with the support of your team). There are not enough hours in the day to achieve the $50M.

The next thing happens is you “lose” your team. They see you coming in and pushing them to the side. After all you know how to do it better than them, all they need to do is get out of the way – or maybe do those trivial tasks, leaving the critical calls to you. The team realizes you don’t value them, that you in fact are competing with them. They see no reason to drive their performance in the territory. They start delegating everything up to you. Their morale suffers, they don’t respect you – after all you aren’t helping them develop and you push them to the side.

Pretty soon you are all alone. You are in a situation that you cannot survive, you fail, your team fails, your management is pleased to try to find someone who can come in to “fix the mess.”

What’s A New Manager To Do?

The job of a sales manager is different from being an individual contributor. While your experience as an outstanding sales person can help you, it’s important to recognize it’s different.

The key thing a new sales manager needs to understand is their job is getting things done through their people! The sales manager will only be as effective as the combined efforts of their team. Getting the team to perform at the highest levels is the mark of great sales managers. This means shifting your behavior. Moving from being the individual contributor who “did the deals, ” to the manager that coaches, questions and probes their people, helping them be more effective in “doing the deals.” Great managers revel in their people’s success. They want to see each person perform at the highest levels. They focus on coaching and developing – at every opportunity.

Great management requires further shifts in behavior. It means managing the process, not the transactions. As sales people we focused on each transaction or deal. The sales manager can’t afford to manage each transaction – here, again, the numbers go against you. Take this example, each of your 10 sales people have 10 active deals they are working on (most I know have far more than this). Each week you spend 30 minutes reviewing each deal, micromanaging the strategy with your sales people. Reviewing 100 deals a week (do the math), means you are spending just 50 hours a week in reviewing and micromanaging deals. When do you have time to make customer calls, do forecasts, do any of the other 100′s of things expected of management.

Sales Managers can’t possibly be involved in the transactions. The ony way to manage performance is to make certain you have a strong sales process in place and that your sales people are executing the process as effectively and efficiently as possible. Now your job becomes more manageable. If you review 2-3 deals per sales person, and you see they are “in control” of the process, then you can expect the others will probably be in control as well.

There are many other things involved in being a great manager. However, the foundation is based on these two elements: 1. the job of the sales manager is to get things done through their people, and 2. great sales managers manage the process not the transactions.

Dave Brock is President and CEO of Partners In EXCELLENCE,

Posted in Uncategorized | Comments Off

Are You Ready to Be a Sales Manager?

So you want to be a sales manager? It’s a rewarding and tough job that requires the skills of a good parent, the vision of a CEO and insights of a psychologist. This unusual combination of skills is the reason many companies struggle to find the right person to lead their sales organization. Ask and answer the following questions to see if you have what it takes for success in leading a high performance sales team.

Are you more motivated by the thrill of the hunt or the thrill of development? Great sales manager’s get their juices flowing when they hear about the success of a salesperson on their team closing a big deal versus their own success in closing the deal. The successful sales manager likes handing out pats on the back instead of seeking applause for their efforts. Like a proud parent, the proud sales manager brags from the sidelines, ‘that’s my boy/girl!’

Can you wear two hats at one time? A sales manager must be sensitive to the challenges faced by field reps and present those issues to corporate personnel. At the same time, a sales manager must understand the big picture and profitability which means saying no to some of the sales team’s demands. (No, we cannot carry one more item in the warehouse.) It’s called managing up and managing down. The key is not wearing any one hat too long because it results in bad hair and bad decisions.

Can you sell or can you teach someone to sell? Once you earn the title of sales manager, it doesn’t matter how well you prospect and close. The only thing that matters is how well you transfer those skills to the sales team. You might be able to close enough deals the first year as a sales manager to hit the company quota. It’s a guarantee you can’t hit that quota year after year just on your own abilities and time. The best sales managers develop salespeople who are better than them at closing the business. It’s called talent transfer and transformation.

Can you see into the future or are you stuck in the past? The difference between a sales manager and a sales leader is that a manager is stuck in the muck and mire of day to day operations. They can only see what is happening ten feet in front of them. The excellent sales leader lifts their head, identifies future opportunities and executes strategy to capture those opportunities. They know how to work on the important, not just the urgent.

Are you a fun lover or a fun hater?You can be very serious about business and also be very serious about the business of fun. Sales representatives, by nature, enjoy humor and fun. A great sales manager has the ability to diffuse tense situations by pointing up the humor even in tough situations. The effective sales manager knows they have two quotas’ to hit each year: the fun quota and the sales quota.

Are you willing to be lonely a few days a year? Yes, it’s true. Being a sales leader brings new meaning to the words, ‘lonely at the top.’ When it’s time to execute change because of consumer demands, profitability or competition, you may find yourself leading the charge—alone. Raising the bar on performance seldom brings an immediate ‘atta boy’ from the sales team until they see how the changes positively affect their compensation and longevity of the company. Good sales managers are okay going it alone when the challenge calls for such behavior.

How are you at trying on shoes? Great sales managers are emotionally intelligent and take the time to know each person on their team and find out what personally motivates them. The effective sales manager may wear loafers, Crocs and spike heels all in one day because they know each salesperson is on their team is unique and can’t be mass managed.

Will you leave the office? There is only one person signing everyone’s check and they are called a customer. You can hold all the brainstorming meetings that you want in the corporate office; however, it is the customer who really knows what’s important. Get out of the corporate white house and meet with key customers to see and hear their stories. There is always something lost if you are just getting information from the sales team and surveys.

These are just a few of the qualities that make up a successful sales manager. How did you do on the questionnaire? Are you ready for the job?

Colleen Stanley is the founder and president of SalesLeadership, Inc., a sales development firm. She is a monthly columnist for national Business Journals, author of ‘Growing Great Sales Teams’ and co-author of ‘Motivational Selling.’ Prior to starting SalesLeadership, Colleen was vice president of sales and marketing for Varsity Spirit Corporation. During her 10 years at Varsity, sales increased from 8M to 90M.

She is the creator of the EI Selling, a unique and powerful sales program that integrates emotional intelligence skills with consultative sales skills. Training and consulting services offered are:

• Benchmarking, Selection and Hiring of Top Sales Talent
• Consultative Sales Training
• Leadership Training for Sales Managers
• Major Account Sales
• Prospecting and Referral Training
• Sales Compensation
• Territory Management
• Customer Relationship Management

Posted in Uncategorized | Comments Off