I have not written about sales managers in a long, long time other than the few comments I made about sales managers and small businesses. But this thought occurred to me this morning in the shower. (Why there I have no idea!) I do think that this topic has value.
There is one interesting qualifier here, which most so-called experts on sales management never consider. What size company is the sales manager working in? This does make a difference. In smaller companies where the owner is the sales manager (God rest his or her soul) the success of the owner/sales manager should be assessed by the following:
- Does the owner know enough to create a sales process or method?
- Does the owner know when the need for more sales will require the addition of the first salesperson?
- Does the owner/manager know whom he or she should hire? The variables in this decision deserve another post.
- Does the owner/manager understand how to bring a new sales rep up to speed on product knowledge?
- Does the O/M have a sense for how big the sales staff will have to be so hiring becomes part of a long-range plan vs. the typical stop-gap hire?
- Does the O/M know how to manage the salesperson? (Chances are slim the owner does.)
- Has the O/M set performance expectations for the new salesperson?
I could go on here for more bullet points than you have patience to read. There is a lot to consider when you are evaluating a sales manager’s performance in a small company.
Tomorrow we’ll add some comments about the mid-size company and sales manager effectiveness.
More than a few years ago I received a monthly sales tip sheet called A Sales Bullet published by the Economics Press. Several times in this blog I have referred to various bits of wisdom from the sales bullet. Here is another and one that I have used over the years.
Each prospect that we meet has his or her own peculiarities. Here are some personality types and how to approach them:
The Observer has a careful approach; will “see through” anything; will watch what a salesperson does, they can be critical; they know what they want. Give this person accurate details; move methodically from point to point; if your first close does not work then give more details and try another close. This kind of prospect will convince him or her self.
The Needler will see how much a salesperson will take. This type of person will try to pick you apart looking for errors and may ridicule you. Don’t become emotionally involved, don’t argue and don’t lose your temper. Find a way to appeal to this person’s ego.
The Arguer likes to disagree. They will contest what you say in the hopes that you will debate them. Don’t try to prove this person wrong or you’ll more than likely lose the sale. Be patient; avoid head-on differences; find a way that both you and the prospect can be right. Present facts and information and let the prospect think of their own reasons for buying.
The Wandering Mind will fiddle with pencils, look out the window or introduce irrelevant topics. Try to focus this person’s attention by stopping talking for a moment. Give this person something to do-look at a piece of literature or examine a sample. Once you get this person’s attention back ask questions to hold their attention.
The Sphinx is reluctant to say anything at all. Most questions you ask will be answered by a yes or no. For this type of person ask questions that require more of an answer. Then just wait. This approach will sometimes force the prospect to open up.
Some of the terminology and language in the sales bullet is a bit dated but the principle remains valid. The number one job of a salesperson is to understand the style of the prospect and adapt your selling approach to that particular prospect.
The Final Thought: “We are like chameleons, we take our hue and the color of our moral character, from those who are around us.” John Locke
I’ve always been a skeptic about sales training and I was a sales trainer for eight years! I stumbled on a great article by Dave Stein that talks about the half life of sales training. It’s probably more aptly named eighth life. Training salespeople can be a thorn in the side of the CFO and CEO if the net results are no change and that is often the outcome.
In my opinion the two key reasons that Dave mentions for training failures are:
- No post-program reinforcement
- No measurable improvement
Any golf pro will tell you that changing your golf swing means retraining your muscles. The chance of that happening with one lesson are zero. Several years ago Tiger Woods changed his golf swing. After about a year and hundreds of hours on the practice tee the swing was changed. And we know what happened after that.
Changing behaviors requires time and a very, very good coach. In sales, the coach is the sales manager who takes the sales training with the salespeople. The manager is the one who reinforces the training when he or she travels with the salesperson in the field. So let’s tie measurable improvement into the equation. The obvious way to measure improvement is observing what happens to sales revenue. If the training is worth anything and the salespeople use the techniques they learn then revenue should improve. (Be cautious on this because it takes at least 3 months to see results.)
There is another way to measure improvement but it is more difficult to do. A sales call needs to be broken down to its basic components and the components may differ slightly from industry to industry. I would break out the call into these components:
- Pre-call preparation
- The opening to the sales call
- Identification of needs/questions
- Handling objections
- Close or setting the expectations for the next sales call
The key is for the sales manager and the salesperson is to agree on specific steps within each of these and to determine where the salesperson needs to improve. Next, take the techniques learned in the sales training and apply them to those areas where the salesperson is weak. And finally, the sales manager assesses the use of the new techniques during sales calls.
Sounds easy doesn’t it? It’s more work than most people can appreciate.
The Final Thought: Habits are the shorthand of behavior” Julie Henderson