Training in sales management is something that, unfortunately, many organizations overlook. Sales leadership is so often misunderstood. What happens is the best salesperson will get a promotion to the sales manager. The problem with this common situation is that an individual contributor, and leading and coaching others to perform at high levels requires two very different skill sets. Sales managers need a structured approach to motivating, recruiting, coaching, and managing talent to achieve pre-determined results in a predictable way.
Developing true sales leadership is the key to creating excellence in a sales organization. Why? Because so often a sales leader is put into that role after success in the selling role themselves. Though this may be an advantage, the disadvantage is often leadership and development of people are truly different characteristics from the traditional salesperson’s role.
How are they learning the new role and how to create success? Until now, there really hasn’t been a place to continually learn, grow and share experiences and challenges as a leader.
Coaching is a pivotal and important part of any executive and certainly the most respected today. As Tiger Woods had 5 coaches throughout his career, a sales leader also would flourish with an expert in the sales and leadership area.
The Sales Leaders Alliance is taking executive coaching to the next level. In addition to one-on-one executive sales coaching by providing peer advisory in addition to executive coaching.
Creating accountability by executive leadership for your sales leader is as important as it is for each of the salespeople. Being held accountable is the most important aspect of reaching one’s goals. The Sales Leadership Alliance will allow each member to be held accountable by their peer members for what they commit to doing and solving a particular issue and will be responsible to report the result to all of them.
The importance of having a board of peers in sales leadership will help in solving common and not so common issues. Issues and challenges are designated to help each other work together with other members of vast experience to find a solution to their particular issue. To have the ability to leverage the wisdom of their peers as well as share their own.
There are 3 priorities in my opinion that should always take the bulk of your sales manager’s time. Some are obvious and some are not.
Priority 1. Sales Hiring
Priority one is sales hiring. Yes, hiring. I am tired of hearing executives say to me, “well of course we have the regular 80/20 rule; 20 percent are really good and making their numbers consistently and the other 80 percent are inconsistent, one month up and one down.” Why is this ok? Why is this an accepted practice?
The most common reason for this is a simple one. We have 6 territories to fill and we have salespeople in each of the territories so we have no hiring need. What? Here is the question. If your sales manager or any of your salespeople told you they have a good amount of accounts right now, they are pretty happy with them and if they lose one, then they will look for another to replace it, what would you do? Most executives say to me, “Are you kidding? I would fire them.” Well, that’s what you’re doing when you allow your sales force to stay stagnant with non-performers and look for replacements when someone leaves.
A big dilemma faced by most executives is what is my sales manager doing and more importantly what should they be doing? It is a mystery but it shouldn’t be.
Looking for sales superstars is something that is ongoing and constant. If you found someone better than your best person tomorrow wouldn’t you find a place for them in your organization? Of course, you would so why are you not constantly looking for that? Your sales manager should spend no less than 30 percent of their time on all that is hiring; looking, phone interviewing, doing assessments, in-person interviewing, etc.
Priority 2. Executive Coaching
Priority two is coaching. Who do we coach on our team to get the most from them? Where do sales managers spend their time, with A B or C players? Most would tell you with the A players to help close deals, then they would tell you with the Cs since they need the most work. I would tell you the B players will give you the biggest bang for your buck. Though this is priority two, this should take up about 40% of your sales manager’s time.
Let’s first Identify what each of the players is. A-players are typically about 20% of your sales force. They are consistently hitting their numbers, driven to continue on that path, and don’t allow excuses to get in their way. B players are good strong salespeople, have good attitudes but really need some help to reach the next level and are open to it. Probably about 40% of your group.
The C players are excuse-makers, blame others for their failures, and are inconsistent in their sales numbers. They make up about 20% of your sales force. From my own observation only, I often notice these are the reps that have been around for a long time and either has fallen in success and been ok with that or have always been average at best but have been in the organization for a long time so they have simply moved along. These are typically about 20% as well.
Spend time with B players. They want to learn and will take their best to the coaching. Your ‘most improved’ nominees are sitting here.
Priority 3. Leadership Development
Priority three is leadership development through accountability. Keeping your salespeople accountable is very important for several reasons. First of all, if they can track what they are doing activity-wise, they can themselves track what is working what isn’t. In sales, you are in some respects, in your own business.
Salespeople can create the amount of money they want to make and help them by identifying what that looks like and help them analyze successes and changes they should make for the most success in the sales manager’s job. Additionally, we need to know for ourselves what it truly takes to make a success in a particular area of the business to create forecasts and projections. This should be about 10-20 % of their time.