Sales Manager: Superstar or Pretender?

May 26, 2008
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Terry Nicholson

When I addressed the challenge of “How do I inspire my salesperson to sell more” in my last column, it all started with selling your team on selling. But, once they are fired up about selling, it’s time to get into the nitty-gritty of sales management. Here’s a common description of the problem a lot of sales managers face:

“I’ve got a challenge with my salesperson. Sometimes my salesperson sells a ton of equipment, but then, he goes into a lull. He’s up and down. He’s inconsistent. My profitability’s just not there. I’m spending too much on advertising for the amount of sales that I’m getting.”

That’s the challenge of sales management: coaxing predictable results out of unpredictable people.

To help you do that and become a sales management superstar rather than a sales management pretender, here are three steps that will add some stability to the otherwise unstable world of sales management.



STEP ONE: SET EXPECTATIONS

There was a study done with elementary students that illustrates the power of expectations. At the end of the year, a group of elementary students were given a blooming intelligence test to identify the students with high intelligence potential. The next year, on the first day of school, their teacher was taken aside and told which of the students had blooming intelligence and which did not according to the test. The teacher was told that the school would be measuring the students’ IQs at the end of the year to see how much they had increased.

The results at the end of the year showed that the students labeled as having normal intelligence had increased their IQs by an average of 12 percentage points. The ones labeled as having blooming intelligence increased their IQ by an average of 27 percentage points.

So they were smarter, right? While the students were all probably bright, there’s more to the story. The reality is that the blooming intelligence test was bogus. The blooming intelligence students were randomly selected from the school. The real focus of the study was on the teacher and how expectations affect the results people deliver.

While all of the students were normal kids, the teacher’s expectations of the blooming intelligence students led the teacher to demand more of those students. As a result, those students delivered more than those who had lower expectations placed on them.

Salespeople operate in a similar fashion, and as a superstar sales manager, you should use this fact to get the most from your team. Expectations are crucial to the results of a salesperson, and as a sales manager, you are the one that sets the expectations for your company. Are you setting the expectations of the results that you want your salespeople to have? If you want to be a better sales manager, start by setting higher expectations.



STEP TWO: TEACH THEM HOW TO ACHIEVE THE NUMBERS

It’s not enough though to just set expectations. You must also teach your team how to achieve them. If you can’t train your salespeople to get the desired results, you are failing as a sales manager.

Before you blame your salespeople, who hired them? Who trained them? Who manages them? It’s you who is failing, not your salesperson.

I’m not suggesting that you have to be able to do their job, but you have to be able to teach them to do their job. You see this idea every day in the NFL. The coach might be a skinny guy who couldn’t dream of blocking the 330-pound nose tackle, but he better be able to teach the 300-pound center how to block.

The same goes for you and the methods of selling. If you can teach it and do it, that’s a bonus, but at a bare minimum, you have to teach your team how to achieve the results you expect. If you can’t teach it, you are failing as a sales manager.



STEP THREE: MEASURE AND MONITOR

Expectations are also no good if no one follows up on them. You have to measure against your expectations and monitor your team’s progress.

Everyone is used to keeping score. Every major league pitcher is evaluated by his wins and losses, his ERA, and his strikeouts. In fact, the numbers he achieves will determine how much income he takes home and how long he stays in the league. Sales is the same. Your job as a sales manager is to get the desired numbers out of your sales team just as the pitching coach is responsible for getting the desired results from the starting rotation.

Just like the pitching coach, you need to keep track of the stats of your team, and the two most important numbers in the replacement game are average sale and closing ratio. If you can monitor your team’s progress on those two numbers, you’ll know whether your team belongs in the major leagues or the bush leagues.

By keeping score, you’ll see the areas you need to work on with your salespeople to ensure success. If you’re not measuring and monitoring your progress, you are just pretending to be a sales manager.

Don’t pretend to be a sales manager. Become a sales management superstar by following these three steps and you’ll be on the way to making even more money every day.

Publication Date: 05/26/2008

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