In 1983 when I became a first time sales manager I did a really stupid thing-don’t repeat it! I beleive that most new managers want to make an impression on two groups of people-their salespeople and and the sales manager’s boss. The new manager wants to appear like he or she has their act together so the salespeople know that they have a leader. The newbie manager also wants his or her boss to approve of how they conduct themselves. And herein lies the rub.
Back to Schaber’s first sales meeting. As a sales rep I kept fairly decent notes on who my customers were, how often I visited them and the usual other admin bits of information-names, addresses etc. Everything was in a nice binder so I could access everything before each call. And if you believe that then you’ll believe me when I tell you that my golf handicap is 28! Not!
I wasn’t slovenly at recording key information on my accounts but no way did I have a binder with this information in it. So, what did I do the minute I got promoted? I created this one page document that allowed the salespeople to fill in all the key information on their accounts. Remember, this was 1983. There were 22 pound laptops, no emails, no CRM’s and tech support consisted of a couple of pot-laden, bearded wanna-be nerds who couldn’t articulate DOS in any way that anyone understood. I handed out these prized one page documents and told my five reps that I wanted one of these forms filled out for each account in their territory.
I was proud! I was also D-U-M-B! When you walk into a new sales management position and you’re sitting in your first meeting don’t introduce anything new, don’t make any grand proclamations, don’t promise the world, don’t pretend to know what you’re doing. If today I were to walk into a sales meeting as a newly promoted sales manager I would have an agenda for the meeting and I would have the sales people do most of the work. I might ask the salespeople to expound on some of the following topics:
- What are our major opportunities in this market?
- What do you most need to succeed?
- What do our accounts say about our company?
- Who are our major competitors and why are they better than we are?
- What do you think are the top three responsibilities of a good sales manager?
Do you see where I’m going here? Spend your first sales meeting learning things. Leave the creative stuff for when you understand the needs of the salespeople. Look, I know that this example is outdated but it makes no difference because there will always be stupid things for managers to do even with the current technology. Keep It Simple Stupid!
The Final Thought: “Talking comes by nature, silence by wisdom.” Proverb