Monday Morning Manager

You’ve just been offered a job as a sales manager for a company out of your specific industry but related to it in terms of client base. You’ve been in sales for 15 years and you’re 36 years old. You’ve never managed before. Although the company, Widget Ltd., is small thay have a good reputation and they are growing. They need a sales manager for the area where you now live. There is approximately a 30% increase in travel over your present sales job. You would make more money assuming the sales people did their job. You’ve always wanted to manage so this opportunity seems like a good fit. What do you do? You make the call!

It is tempting to say that this is a “no-brainer” but there are several key factors to look at before making any decisions. I wish I had an acronym for this but I just can’t make one out of this mess of consonants, so we’ll call the factors the 5 R’s:

1. Right people

2. Right compensation

3. Right product or service

4. Right culture

5. Right training

The right people refers to the philosophical makeup of those who run and staff the company. What are their ethical values? Do they cut corners on pay, benefits, safety, product specs? Are they over-extended at the bank? Do the owners consider the company their own private IRA? What is the relationship between marketing and sales, production and sales or customer service and sales? What does the financial community think of the company? What kind of experience do the salespeople have that you will manage? Companies are only as good as the people that make it up. Your future is on the line so it pays to research the company and talk to other groups within the company when you’re interviewing.

I probably don’t have to say too much about right compensation but here’s a few thoughts anyway. Will you get an override on the rep’s sales? Will that come monthly, quarterly or annually? Is the base high with smaller commission payout or is the base low with higher commission payout? (Always preferable.) Have the other sales managers consistently made plan or are making commission and bonus based on a miracle ? Is the comp plan based on other intangible factors? Is the comp plan simple or do you need a degree in quantum mechanics to figure it out?

The right product refers to factors like market acceptance, competition, pricing, delivery etc. Is the product a “me-too?” Does the product have a long “market life?” How many competitors are there? What is the product development cycle of the company’s products? How many markets can the product be sold into? What is the return goods percentage? How many products are there?

I probably put the most emphasis on the right culture. True, you can’t spend culture but if the culture is right then management will listen to the employees with an attentive ear. Culture is how do people get along? Is there a willingness to share ideas and an openness to change? Collegial is an over used word but it does apply. Is the culture collegial? What is the “mood” of the office as you walk through it between interviews?

The right training covers two main areas: sales management training and sales training. Has the company invested in either? Does the VP of Sales or President believe that a sales organization should have a corporate sales language? Will you, as the new sales manager, be dumped out into the field and told to “pick it up as you go” or will management or an outside consultant coach you on the sales management role? The right training does help prepare you for success.

The Final Thought: Good enough never is. Debbi Fields, Founder Mrs. Fields Cookies


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