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Preparing Sales Managers for the Toughest Job in Your Company

2 Dec, 2013 By: Jay Mahaney

If we look at the legacy path to sales management in our industry, and pretty much all industries for that matter, I think we can all agree the majority of our new sales managers come from our pool of top producing sales professionals.  This is the group that is in the elite 20% of our sales force and account for 80% of our sales revenue.  The same 20% that don’t log much of anything in the CRM, and avoid it with impunity since you don’t want to upset them. This group simply outsells the rules and regulations of the sales process and are recognized and rewarded for an outstanding sales/quota performance. They are the chosen ones, by ability, longevity, default or all three; they are set up for success with 150% MIF to quota ratios, legacy accounts and leads. 

Some are just flat out naturals; you know the type: Over achievers, aggressive winners that hate to lose, always willing to go the extra step, the ones that beat out the competition on a cost deal at 6:30 on a Friday evening just to win. They are driven by money and recognition and we love them!

OK now that we have identified our sales management candidates I have a few simple questions:

  • How do the skillset of a manager differ from the skillset of a high performing sales professional?
  • What training will they require to make the transition from top producer to top manager?
  • Are they sales process driven individuals?
  • They are capable of sales heroics but will they transition to conducting sales coaching and individual employee development plans?  Information coordination and distribution?
  • Can they execute and monitor sales territory coverage models, account planning sessions, phase 1, 2 and 3 pipeline development and inspection?
  •  Will they utilize the forecasting and sales management capabilities and data collection aspects of the CRM?
  • Can they manage their team with their current skillsets to achieve long term sustainable sales revenue and profit growth?
  • Will they be more “Control, Command and Directive” or “Consultative, Empowering and Coaching” type managers?
  • Is there a focused, structured, sustainable, repeatable sales process model in place for them to follow and execute? 

So here is the really important question. Who is consulting, developing and coaching the sales management team? The sales leaders that are cumulatively responsible for your entire sales budget!

We have spent countless hours and enormous amounts of money to train our sales professionals, but what about the most important people in the entire sales chain: The sales mangers?  Have we set them up for success or failure?

Is it going to be the same old scenario where the manager focuses on and rides with the top reps, helping close their business or in most cases simply goes along for the ride? They close six or seven deals a month for the newbie’s and continue the endless, time consuming, frustrating, very expense excessive sales turnover cycle?  Will they continue to do the same things over and over again and expect different results? Why? Because that’s the way they were managed and that’s the only way they know!

 In my humble opinion, through firsthand experience in the position and eventually managing managers in the position, I think it’s arguably the hardest job in the company. Especially the entry level managers that are managing for the first time, managing new sales reps that are new to the company, new in the sales profession, new to the industry and are in the commercial or “down the street” market.  It’s an overwhelming task to hire, train, motivate and develop these sales professionals while trying to attain positive business results, AKA hitting the number!  Have I mentioned the other 20 or so non sales related issues they handle daily?  Am I painting an unrealistic picture?  I don’t think I am.   

A well organized, measurable, repeatable, accountable, structured, senior management supported sales process with a sustained sales management coaching, development and training initiative is the most overlooked effective and strategic investment any sales organization can make.  The return on investment is probably the best area of opportunity within the company and is generally recognized within the second or third quarter after implementation.  However, the big payoff is the year over year over year growth pattern you will experience as a direct result of developing your sales managers into the best in the industry and the future leaders in your organization.  

Where to start?

  • Assess current state, identify areas of opportunity, qualify your own organization much like you would qualifying a prospect, find the pain inside your sales organization
  • Review your findings and quantify what the lack action and change is costing you
  • Is the current state of your sales process and development of your managers blocking you from achieving your business goals and objectives?
  • Develop a strategy and a  plan of action that will improve your overall productivity
  • Is your plan comprehensive, realistic, sustainable, measurable, repeatable
  • Is there accountability for the top down
  • Do the changes in your sales process empower your sales management team to own their business unit
  • Do you need to reinvent the wheel and take focus off of your core competencies or  should you collaborate with outside consulting professionals that are subject matter experts in these critical areas and customize and implement a comprehensive plan of action and success?

I have tried to give you some good ideas, areas to look at, things to think about and evaluate within your organizations. I know I have painted with a very broad brush and I am sure most of you are well past some of the pictures I have painted here but if you stop for a minute and really look, I think you will identify areas of opportunity that can and will pay huge dividends for your organizations. Good selling!

Jay Mahaney is an industry veteran with 32 years of sales and sales management experience in the office solutions industry, and who writes for Strategy Development, Inc., a leading office industry consulting and training firm.  You can contact Jay at 609.792.0558.  For information on Strategy Development, Inc. visit   http://www.strategydevelopment.com

About the Author: Jay Mahaney

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