Business Fitness: Superstar Sales Managers — Nature or Nurture?
A good start to a new year is to tune up your sales engine for peak performance and reliability, starting with your sales manager.
Are great sales managers/leaders born or made?
I say “made” based on personal experience starting in 1993. Yeah, I know, ancient history. But it’s still a fact.
I was a darn good senior national account manager at ADT, and I was promoted to lead a team that was behind the curve. Piece of cake, right? Wrong! After four months, I realized that my way of selling did not fit the 14 national account managers (NAMs) I led.
I swallowed my pride and went back to school to learn this job.
After some tough moments, it worked, and the team excelled to their true potential and doubled sales. That success was on them. My success lay in learning a new leadership role and parking my ego. That’s the lesson I learned.
Tune Up Your Sales Engine
A good start to a new year is to tune up your sales engine for peak performance and reliability. Your sales manager is the logical starting point. Sales managers require more training than anyone in your company does. I encourage you to reflect on this thought; I learned it the hard way, but quickly!
Sales management is part art and part science, but it’s mostly professional training and discipline. If done right, it looks easy — an almost effortless delivery of consistent sales and revenues to meet projections.
Great sales managers have respect for and work with your operations, resource-planning and logistics teams, all of whom need to plan resource allocation with confidence.
Great sales managers are not born that way; rather, they have been nurtured by a professional to hone critical skills through high-quality training. I’m referring to a professional who has deep experience in the security industry, and who has a proven record of sustainable results.
Has your sales manager been professionally trained? If not, you might recognize a few of these scenarios, just as I have, working as a consultant and security business trainer over the last 26 years.
Some Familiar Sales Manager Scenarios
- As an owner, you utilize the sales manager as a buffer between yourself and the sales team. Who needs all that drama, whining, complaining and excuse-making eating up your time? “I have a business to run, and, frankly, they annoy me!” you might exclaim. Rethink your strategy unless you enjoy drama and inconsistent sales performance.
- What follows are some telltale signs that your sales manager has not been trained to do his/her job at a high level of competence:
- They make poor sales-hiring choices based on knee-jerk need, as opposed to a hiring process.
- They experience a high turnover of salespeople for the wrong reasons.
- You hear a particular refrain — “There aren’t any good salespeople out there anymore” — far too often.
- The operations, service and admin support departments are always at odds with the sales team.
- Sales projections have wild variations with actual sales revenue, which doesn’t instill confidence.
- The morale and confidence of the sales team is low. (You can read this from their demeanor.)
- The sales manager isn’t accountable for performance or issues. He/she always has excuses but doesn’t have answers.
- The sales manager complains that his/her people don’t sell like they used to sell.
- The sales manager holds onto unproductive salespeople for too long and for the wrong reasons.
Avoiding the Sales Manager Blame Game
Typically, with an untrained, undisciplined sales manager, the blame game will start immediately with firing an underperforming salesperson. This is a confession and deflection of his/her own accountability for failing to develop the salesperson and hold them accountable. The departing salesperson will often be vilified for the failures. On to the next victim! Harsh, but often true.
Another situation is when an underperforming salesperson hangs on for nine to 12 months, collecting a paycheck and benefits, but does not respond to the sales manager’s efforts to coach. “I just can’t through to them,” the sales manager might say. “I am so frustrated!”
A well-trained sales manager rarely makes hiring mistakes. A well-trained sales manager is effective in his/her onboarding and communication, as well as in setting expectations. A raw talent who works hard and takes coaching seriously could be with your team for many productive years.
What can you do to start your year off with a bang? Buy and read The Happy Sales Manager by Gretchen Gordon (available on Amazon). This is an excellent book that takes a closer look at your sales manager management/leadership profile.
I have worked with Gretchen for many years; she is the real deal and an “A” player. One tip: Don’t make a wager with her when golfing! The odds won’t be in your favor!
Take a fresh look at your sales manager. Gain insights, find training gaps and address them to improve their performance and motivation.
I have often said that sales managers are the most overlooked and undertrained leaders in most companies. They are the engineer driving your revenue train, loaded with money. So, train them!
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