5 Fallacies of Sales Management

Sales management can be as simple or complicated as you want it to be. Over the years, I have seen both management styles succeed. Since there is a significant variance in the way in which sales managers operate, it stands to reason that there are misconceptions both by observers and managers themselves. I would like to list the 5 fallacies of sales management that tend to surfaces often in the workplace:

Must be the best sales person in the group. How often have you heard this? How often have you seen this implemented? Many times! Well, this concept is simply not true. So often though, the best sales people in a group surfaces as the front runner and eventual winner of the promotion to a sales management post. I equate this to sports. Was Vince Lombardi the best football player at his position prior to revolutionizing his sport? Scotty Bowman won 9 Stanley Cups as a coach but never performed above the minor league level in his sport. There are countless examples of my point. Placing the best sales person in the management position will often demoralize the candidate and rob the company of an important sales asset on the front lines. High level sales people tend towards tactics were as this talent is only a portion of the sales management role.

Needs to be the “Closer-in-Chief”. This could be one of the most important of the 5 fallacies of sales management. We have all heard sales managers remind us to “bring me in when you are ready to close the deal”. I am sure that there are many managers who excel in this area and their talents should be leveraged when appropriate. The truth is that closing, just like every other stage of the selling process, should be lead by whatever resource gives the team the best chance to win. Presuming that you, as sales manager, is the go to person for one specific aspect of the sales plan is a mistake.

Adopts the Cheerleading Principle. Motivation is crucial to any organization but is particularly true of a sales team. Given the high level of rejection they experience, plus the importance of many of their sales projects to the health of their company, maintaining a positive state of mind is important. Although I agree, that the leadership of the group must take some responsibility for this, I hold that as a professional, each sales person must take ownership of their own state of mind. Some of our motivation must come from within. The confidence to succeed ultimately can not be totally reliant on the sales manager’s pep rallies or performance related rewards. Sustained confidence and determination to win eventually must come from within each of us.

Must approve all tactical sales plans. This may surprise some of you. It is a considerable responsibility to become the gate for all sales plans. Now, I’m not saying that a sales manager shouldn’t participate in the sales plan development of the team. In fact, sales management absolutely must oversee the planning stage of any significant sales project. But do all strategic/tactical aspects of a plan require the sales manager’s approval? I would argue that some leeway should be given the lead sales professional in terms of plan ownership. It would be very easy for a rep to relegate the responsibility for success to a sales manager who insists on approving every aspect of a sales process. Let the account managers have some ability to “make the call” on how the sales team should proceed in a given situation since they generally have a more intimate view of the details at work as well as the players involved. Delegate but checks, check, check as the Marines are famous for saying!

Fix only what is broken. No. No. No. This strategy turns a sales manager into a fire extinguisher, moving from problem to disaster. Before long, major aspects of a manger’s responsibility suffer for lack of attention and become problems in the making. Sure, when things go wrong, we are expected to step in and guide the team to a solution. The visionary sales manager, though, is looking to expand on the positives. This manager takes a winning process and considers how it can be bettered or replicated. Authorship is unimportant whereas leveraging proven processes regardless of where they came from can be the key to consistent success.
Do not let these fallacies define your management experience. Know your strengths, get out of the way when it makes sense, and leverage the positives that can be reproduced. Do this and you will have side stepped the 5 fallacies of sales management.

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Effective Sales Management Performance

Why Sales Managers Hate Performance Management
Performance management can be a dirty job. Many managers shy away when having to deal with performance issues. My approach says “bring it on.” I believe that non-performing players need to get their act together or there is no place for them on the team. Here are a few considerations when addressing sales performance issues.

Opportunity Cost:
What happens when one of your sales people is not performing? Companies have set up a process for addressing performance issues. Some of these processes can take 3 -6 months to determine whether the sales rep can address their performance gaps or if not, are fired.

When addressing a reps performance, sales managers will use formal Performance Improvement Programs (PIP). These are formal procedural documents used to demonstrate that the manager is serious about a reps poor performance. The manager’s task is to document areas that require improvement if the rep is going to remain on the team.

Managing a PIP is time consuming and stressful. Much of the documentation is in the manager’s hands and of course there is added tension between the sales rep and manager. This results in strained communication and mutual lack of trust.

Focusing on a non-performing sales rep diverts a sales managers’ time from important activities, such as coaching reps with greater potential. Many sales managers do their best to be fair and give the rep a chance to prove themselves. They give the rep the benefit of the doubt and allow the PIP to drag on. We all know the opportunity cost in terms of lost sales as well as additional management time spent on the individual. As a rule, do not allow a PIP to linger for more than 3 months. Either the rep can perform or its time to part ways.

Stay Focused on the Desired Result
It is critical to assess the issues when dealing with poor performing sales reps. Depending if it is an attitude or effort issue, a decision needs to be made if the rep is to remain part of the team. I know HR must follow proper procedure, but if you have a bad apple you throw it out. You need to focus on the outcome that you think is right for the organization. Being very clear with what you want as the end result is required up front so you don’t waver through the process. Managing a 3-month PIP means determining if the rep is a player you want on your team and then managing that PIP effectively to achieve the outcome. If you believe the sales rep can pull up their performance then you give them the chance. It’s not about lying or deceit, it’s about making sure you have the right people on your team. Clarity will ensure that the process is seamless and effortless.

Enough with the Perpetual PIPers (PP)
We have all come across the PP. This is the sales rep that can do a high quality sales job but is not willing to put in the time or quantity of activity that would up their performance. I call them the “talented slacker”. They are content to meet annual sales objectives, but not exceed them.

The disparity arises when a new manager joins the team and their performance gaps become glaringly apparent in relation to their peers. The new sales manager gets tired of pushing the talented slacker to do more and eventually puts them on a PIP. Because the sales rep doesn’t lack the quality, they temporarily up their activity and thus satisfying the terms of the PIP.

Overtime the perpetual PIPers will fall back into their old habits until a new manager arrives and the process repeats itself. Once a rep is on a third PIP, I say 3 PIPs and you are out! The third PIP is a termination letter.

Be Proactive:
All your reps should be on a SIP! A SIP is a Sales Improvement Program. If you want to proactively manage performance, every sales rep in the organization should focus on at least one area of improvement to take their performance to the next level. Even your STARS have opportunities for improvement that can take them to a higher level of performance. You can call it a SIP or a coaching journey. Regardless, proactive sales managers are always looking to elevate the performance of each of their sales reps to maximize results.

Conclusion:
Every rep should be on a program as a means of improving their performance. Companies who are truly performance based should be focused on continual improvement from all their sales reps. If a rep is not performing you need to be clear, concise and expeditious when addressing a performance improvement program.

Question:
What is the duration of a PIP in your organization?

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The 5 Ways Sales Managers Shoot Themselves in the Foot

Many sales managers have absolutely no idea how to be sales managers.

This isn’t entirely their fault. Many sales managers are emulating the exact same behaviors that their (bad) sales managers showed them. Many sales managers are sales reps who just got promoted out of their field of expertise entirely.

But of course the success of your company depends on your sales team. It’s important for all sales managers to stop shooting themselves in the foot-and even a clueless sales manager can improve. Here are six ways that sales managers shoot themselves in the foot, and what you can do about it.

#1. They Adopt a “Sink or Swim” Mentality

You could hire the 10 best sales reps in the nation, but if you adopt a “sink or swim” mentality most of them are going to fail.

Success in one company does not necessarily predict success in another. Every company is different. Every product is different. Every process is different.

Yet far too many sales managers simply fling their presentation book and territory maps at new hires and say, “Go get ’em, Tiger!”

Instead, you should take the time to figure out your sales process, from prospecting clear up until the customer installs or receives the product. Dig in to find best practices. Train them on a specific presentation. Give each sales rep a proven road map that can lead them to success over and over again-even if that rep was Mr. Sales Superstar in some other division or company.

And yes, if no such process currently exists then it will be up to you to create one.

#2. They Give Useless Advice

“Mr. Sales Manager, I want to hit quota but I don’t know how.”

“Just make more calls.”

Right now that conversation is being repeated over and over again across America. And it’s leaving a trail of frustrated sales reps and frustrated sales managers in its wake.

Assume your representatives want to succeed, and then figure out what’s standing in their way. Are they calling the right people? Is there something going on with their delivery when they call? The “numbers game” is a good starting point for sales success, but it’s not the end all, be-all. Stop assuming the problem is laziness or some other personal failing on the part of your reps and start positioning yourself as a coach and mentor.

#3. They Mistake “Rah-Rah” Huddles for Motivation

Having a positive attitude is certainly important. But cheering huddles, sales contests, and motivational posters are all surface solutions that don’t get to the heart of what it takes to create and maintain a positive attitude.

In reality, having a positive attitude comes from:

Knowing where you’re going.
Knowing why you’re going there.
Knowing you know how to get there.
Helping sales reps see where they are going is more than setting quotas. It’s also a matter of setting clear expectations for conveying the company brand, for achieving the right level of customer service, and for achieving certain success tasks such as setting appointments.

The “why” is about helping the representatives see the personal benefits of meeting those targets-helping them truly see what that level of income means to them and helping them place themselves inside of that picture. However, most employees want meaning, too, so why also comes from the company’s mission-what it’s trying to achieve and why the rep’s work matters.

But the third ingredient is the most important-how. There is nothing motivational about, “You can do it!” There is an incredible amount of motivation in “You can do it, and here’s how!” Give people action steps. Cheer for their actual successes, instead of slapping on a “we’re great” Band-Aid first thing in the morning. The Band-Aid solution is a hollow solution, and everyone knows it.

#4. They Develop an Antagonistic Relationship with the Marketing Department

Marketing is not the problem. Marketing is not delivering crappy leads. Turning the marketing department into a scapegoat doesn’t achieve anything except the breakdown of communications. The relationship should be symbiotic-they create leads, and you turn them into money.

Instead, see if you can work with marketing to determine the best, most profitable leads. Dig into the data with them. Find out what they’re doing so that you can incorporate their messaging into your sales presentations, allowing you both to present a consistent brand. Help them out by communicating the pain points, questions, and objections that your team encounters in the field-this is information that will help them create better marketing materials.

#5. They Spend All Their Time Putting Out Fires

Of course it’s important to be there for your team and to give them the tools they need to succeed. But resist the urge to solve every problem for your reps.

A recent post in “Top Line Leadership” put it pretty succinctly.

A sales manager who is reactive is one who is constantly fighting fires. And these “fires” are likely the same problems they were struggling with last month, too. The core problem that many sales managers have is the flawed mindset that, “I am 100% responsible for solving all team problems.”

So, salespeople hand-off their problems to their manager. Problems in customer service, order entry, you name it. They all get dumped in the sales manager’s lap. In extreme cases, a sales manager can take on the role of an administrative assistant to the team. I ask sales managers: “Do you ever wonder what your salespeople are doing after they give you their problems?” Here’s a hint: they’re likely not making more sales calls!

Adopt a different approach instead of taking every single problem into your own two hands. Give your reps some guidance on how they might solve the problem. Empower them to seek solutions. Let them know you’re always available for guidance-which takes a few minutes-but you’re not always available to spend 2 hours on the phone with another department sorting out the delivery snarl. That’s their job. Your job is to be the coach-to teach sales representatives how to succeed.

A close relative of this phenomenon is the sales manager who is spending all of his time going out on calls with representatives. That might be appropriate when the representative is very new, or when the rep is struggling and you’re attempting to pinpoint the problem, but it’s probably not the best use of your time otherwise. You certainly shouldn’t be taking over sales calls-that’s demotivating in the extreme, and it prevents you from working effectively.

Of course, all of this can be boiled down to a single problem, really-each of these failures is a result of a sales manager’s misunderstanding of his or her job. You’re not there to do the rep’s job for them. You’re not there to write reports and projections-they are part of the job, but they are not the job.

You’re the teacher, the coach, the leader. You’re there to inspire and to help change and correct the representative’s course when he starts to waver. You’re there to show your team the way so that they can be successful.

If you’re not doing that, then you are definitely shooting yourself in the foot.

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