Posts Tagged ‘sales manager’

Another New Sales Tool? Really? Why?

Almost every day I am solicited to try this or that new sales tool.  All promise incredible results.  Really?

sales-toolHow many sales tools does a salesperson really need?

How did top sales performers years ago manage before the creation of all these new technology based sales tools?

Will the adoption of a new sales tool really increase sales?

Do you suddenly become captive to the newest latest technology and lose sight of what you as a sales manager or salesperson are supposed to be doing?

Here are some other questions to ask before adopting any new sales tool:

  • Are you taking this action proactively or reactively?
  • Is the justification to “monitor” or control your salespeople?
  • Will the technology build trust both internally and externally?
  • Will the tool actually improve individual sales performance?
  • Will there be more time spent on entering data instead of making calls or meeting with sales prospects?
  • How much time is involved in the learning curve?
  • What is the actual return on investment including dollars and time?

I remember reading on numerous occasions the greatest complaint about most CRM tools was:

The salespeople don’t use them!

Technology is great when applied correctly and for the right reasons.  As the old saying goes, “one does not need an elephant gun to kill a fly.”  Just make sure you have the right tool for the right purpose.

Remember time is money and adding any new sales tool starts as a negative drain on profits and productivity.

Consider investing a few minutes to speak with Leanne Hoagland-Smith about how to increase sales. CLICK HERE to schedule your free session.

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How Sales Coaching Improves Novice Salespeople

Maybe it is just me, but there appears to be an onslaught of novice salespeople.  And this also means a lot of unnecessary sales mistakes. Sales coaching is the simplest solution to insuring the success of those new to sales.

sales-coaching

Credit www.funnysalescartoons.com

Yesterday I spoke to someone who was new to sales within the real estate industry. As I listened to her, she made several rookie mistakes that with some coaching could have been avoided.

Mistake #1 – Presumptions

Experienced salespeople know never to presume anything.  This is why asking questions is so important especially in overcoming stalls and objections. This sales eager beaver was very intent on telling me her message based on presumptions probably learned in some questionable sales training program or seminar.

Sales Coaching Solution – Effective coaching especially through role play is a great way to overcome any presumptions. Of course, the sales manager must also not have any presumptions which is another topic for another day.

Mistake #2 – Honesty

Even though she thought she was being honest, she made one significant glaring mistake which immediately brought into question her honesty.  Actually this was quite ironic given she had just told me she is always honest with her clients.  My sense is she just didn’t want to tell me how she came upon the information that our home was listed as For Sale By Owner.

Sales Coaching Solution – Role play returns as a way to overcome any potential miss steps that may be viewed as deceitful.  Learning to tell the truth or say “I don’t know” is always better than telling a little white lie or a big lie.

Mistake #3 – Violating the Sales Process

People buy from people they know and trust.  Until people know you, they cannot trust you.  With limited time, many novice salespeople jump into the sales pitch (selling) before the marketing has actually started.

Sales Coaching Solution – Understanding the sales process is key to sales success. Rushing into selling without building a relationship especially in B2B or even B2C industries can spell disaster.  Customers are becoming far more educated.

Many novice salespeople cannot afford a sales coach. This is way it is essential for sales managers or SMB owners to understand the coaching process and ensure it is present in their organizations.  Failure to bring coaching into the business only sets up these novice salespeople for failure and may ruin a truly good to great salesperson.

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Reviewing Sales Activity From an Unique Perspective

Sales activity for many salespeople and their managers comes back to sales results specific to “How many dollars did you bill this past month?” This is a quick monthly analysis of the sales success for the salesperson or the overall sales team and potentially reflects the effectiveness of the sales manager. I call this “Sales at Sea Level.”

sales-activity

Credit www.gratisography.com

What would happen if we changed our perspective and looked at sales from an unique perspective such as “Sales at See Level?”

“Sales at See Level” is really analyzing monthly sales from the perspective of last year’s sale which is the 30,000 viewpoint.  From this perspective, there are 6 areas that can be viewed.

#1 – New Accounts

Discovering new accounts is good especially for those mid size to small businesses who wish to grow their customer base and expand into new markets. New accounts also reflect the sales activity of the salesperson.

  • Is the salesperson harvesting from existing accounts?
  • Is the salesperson hunting new accounts?

With everything being equal, new accounts work with sales growth goals and projections.  This area is a great one for quickly measuring the effectiveness of any new marketing initiatives.

#2 – Exceeded Last Year’s Sales Area

When customers exceed last year’s total sales this suggests several things. One there is now a new project, expansion or change happening within the business. Another is your marketing has been effective and you have gained top of mind awareness.  New opportunities are now present to further increase sales.

Imagine for a moment you as a customer receive a thank you card from your vendor who acknowledges your business.  In this thank you note is a gift gas card or some other small appreciation of your customer loyalty.  Would you be inclined to continue to send business to this salesperson?

#3 – Reached 50% of Last Year’s Sales Area

Depending upon the month of the current year, this is also a great metric to capture. This sales activity statistic allows you to better forecast total sales for this particular customer. You as a salesperson can also better schedule your time.  If this metric shows up early in the sales year, then it may provide some insight as to what is happening with the customer especially if you had originally forecasted less sales activity.

#4 – Reached 25% of Last Year’s Sales Area

Again, if the goal is to increase sales, then learning where the sales activity by the customer is crucial.  This benchmark helps the salesperson and the sales manager better schedule their time and see any trends that may be happening within a particular industry or sales account.

# 5 – Reached less than 25%of Last Year’s Sales Area

If the customer’s  sales activity is to buy monthly or even quarterly, by capturing this data can show when a customer may be meeting or exceeding the previous year’s sales.  Depending upon the time of year, this area may be one to watch more closely as it is a good indicator of trouble with the account.

#6 – No Activity from Last Year’s Sales Area

Inactivity by customers especially if there are marketing campaigns happening is another good indicator of potential problems. Yes, some accounts are seasonal. However, many small businesses fail to discover why customers are no longer buying their services. This is why outreach from customer service to the individual salesperson is critical. Keeping customers are far less costly than finding new ones.

For many mid-size to small businesses especially those with a large customer base, sales activity perspective can become myopic. “Sales are up from last year and that is all we care about.” This perspective creates many missed sales opportunities.

By investing the time of the sales manager and the salesperson to review each account provides new sales opportunities as noted above as well as to potential insight as to oncoming market trends. Finally, this unique perspective of “Sales at See Level” works to build customer loyalty.

* * * * *

Leanne Hoagland-Smith is THE People and Process Problem Solver. She supports forward thinking leaders in bridging the gaps between the two problems restricting strategic business growth – people and processes. Leanne can be reached at 219.508.2859 central time USA.  Follow her on Twitter or check out her profile on LinkedIn.

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If You Want to Increase Sales, Stop with the Rotten Sales Management

People especially top sales performers leave rotten sales management more than money from my 30 plus years of experience.  It is truly hard to believe with all the books, workshops, seminars, sales training and sales coaching, rotten sales management still exists, but it does and appears to be growing.

sales-managementOnce again after talking to a new sales coaching client who is relatively young and new to sales, the barriers for a high performance culture still exist. Those in sales management and in executive leadership appear to manage and to lead by these three rotten management styles:

  • Favoritism of another salesperson or salespersons
  • Fear by the sales manager that the salesperson will outperform him or her
  • Force (implied)

Favoritism

Sales managers are human beings and human beings for the most part have positive or negative biases.  Favorites happen especially when some less than authentic professionals can see through their sales managers and quickly “brown nose” to get ahead. Having favorites gives the sales manager a built in support team. Additionally when the sales managers have self esteem issues, favoritism rears its ugly head.

For example, how many times have sales managers been told in confidence about a terrific new sales lead by one of their team members and then quickly share it with another member whom they favor?

Then there is always the redistribution of accounts and good accounts go to the “favorite” team members while the “dog accounts” go to those not in favor.  When salespeople ask how the accounts were assigned, management and executive leadership hem and haw because there is not established protocol with specific criteria.

Fear

The majority of current sales managers from my experience and observations have been top sales performers for their respective firms.  They fall into the “super worker, super visor syndrome.”  The job and task specific sales skills they needed as a super salesperson are not necessarily the skills required to be a super manager.

Then what happens a top sales performer comes on board and all of a sudden the sales manager fears he or her past accomplishments will become second or third place on the wall of top sales performers. He or she then begins in engaging in sabotage type behaviors because fear is driving the sales manager’s style of managing.

Force

How many times have I heard this statement “If you don’t like it here, then quit.” or how about “You must do this or that?” Then there are those sales managers who through the force of their position demean their team members.

Force has been proven as one of the worst extrinsic motivators. Yet those in sales management continue to rely on this as an effective solution to increase sales.

Yes rotten sales management still exists. Maybe it is time for management to be interviewed by potential sales candidates.  Wouldn’t that be interesting?

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The Resurgence of the 5 Martinis a Day Managers

One of my executive coaching clients just started a new job because her past employer, a recognized Fortune 500 Global, had several 5 Martinis a day managers.  I actually thought with the continued emphasis on employee engagement, developing leaders within the management ranks especially for sales and HR these type of managers had for all intent and purposes ceased to exist.

managersHer sales manager clocked in at 10am, went for a 2 martini lunch at 11:30am, returned around 1pm and then left for the day at 2 pm. Sometimes he did come in earlier to do a Rah, Rah, session with his sales team that was in actually less than motivating.

As I continued to interact with other clients as well as listen to my colleagues, my sense is there a growing contingency of  5 Martinis a day managers.

Why is this happening?  My sense is this resurgence is because of these three factors:

  • Ineffective to poor leadership
  • Misalignment between strategies, structure, processes, rewards and systems (5 Star Model)
  • “Superworker” to Supervisor Syndrome

Ineffective to Poor Leadership

Leadership is the number one reason a company makes it or breaks it.  For my client, the bad behaviors demonstrated by her sales manager were common knowledge by everyone in the office.  Yet, executive leadership, his boss allowed these bad behaviors to continue and by not taking action quietly approved the 5 Martinis a Day.

Misalignment between Strategies, Structure, Processes, Rewards and Systems (5 Star Model)

Just like a exquisitely crafted handmade watch, when all the gears are in alignment, the watch has perfect timing.  Misalignment in a watch causes the clock to run fast, run slow or not run at all.  This analogy also works the same for organizations. The 5 Star Model is a great tool to quickly determine where misalignment exists.

“Superworker” to Supervisor Syndrome

Promoting from within is a good organizational strategy especially to build internal customer loyalty. Yet, in many instances including the one with my executive coaching client, the supervisor or manager is promoted for his or her technical sales and these are not the skills required to be an effective supervisor.  When superworkers are promoted to supervisory roles, they do require further training around management as well as personal leadership development.

For organizations from the global Fortune 500 to the local small businesses, staying profitable is difficult.  There are many different forces pummeling these firms and in most instances people are the first ones to receive the results of these forces. Executives are all levels may wish to consider if their behaviors and their organizational structure are partly responsible for creating and then allowing these 5 Martinis a day managers to exist.

Fail-Safe Leadership is a short and great read to get your organization back on the right path or even a better path.

P.S. Thanks to Stephen Lahey for reminding me of thisather old phrase of 5 Martinis a day.

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If Only Sales Management Would Do the Math – Part 1

Math sometimes seem to be a poison to those in sales management.  These industrious folks have a tendency to jump on board with the latest so called best practice without actually doing the math to see if their sales team can meet the goals.  What actually happens is the sales team are penalized because sales management do not understand basic arithmetic.

sales-managementIn talking with an executive coaching client in the lending division of a national bank, he shared the most recent “great marketing goal” promoted by the VP of Business Development (sales manager).  His manager said:

“This Saturday, stop by 10 open houses by different realtors and request 10 of their business cards. Then visit 10 of the home encircling the open house home.  Go to each of those homes, knock of the door, introduce yourself and give them the realtor’s card as well as your card. Then go onto the next house until all business cards are passed out. 

Now on the surface, this seems like an quick and affordable way to get the bank’s name out while further building a relationship with the realtor.

However when one does the math, this “best marketing practice” has more holes than Swiss Cheese.

First, many open houses are only open for 4 hours as realtors attempt to get several open houses on the same day.  These events do not start until 10am and are usually over by 4pm for a total of 6 hours.

Second, walking and then calling on 10 homes conservatively takes 40 to 50 minutes provided there are not any extended conversation and the homes are not on big lots. Even if the open houses were within 10 minutes of each other this means 400 to 500 minutes or 6.67 hours to 8.33 hours.

Third, one must allow for the time to travel to the different open houses. Depending upon the relationships with the realtors, this could be 5 minutes or 30 minutes. For 10 open houses, accepting the fact the salesperson was on time for the first open house and the realtor was on time, he or she would need a minimum of 60 minutes traveling time.

Fourth, possibly not all 10 realtors have open houses on Saturday.

By doing the math, it is impossible for even the quickest loan originator (salesperson) to successfully complete this marketing goal because there is no allowance travel time, lunch time or even time for a bathroom break.  And heavens forbid if the salesperson encounters a talkative homeowner or gets caught by a train or in traffic.

Quite often those in sales management or in sales leadership roles have what I call “brain farts” or great marketing ideas.  They simply do not think their wonderful idea through a schematic process.

If they would invest the time to talk to their sales force first and “Ask is this idea feasible?” or “How can we adapt this marketing or selling tactic to suit our reality?” probably far greater results would be achieved.

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Is Your Sales Management Relevant?

Imagine for a moment you, as a member of a sales team, receives a message from sales management asking if you are “relevant to the company?” Then the message lists the  3 top sales performers and their accomplishments to date with a closing sentence of “So and So is relevant.”

How would this make you feel if you were not one of  those mentioned?

Then knowing sales management has:

  • Only gone on one joint sales call with you yet you have invited her or him on several key calls yet routinely she or he goes out with the top performers
  • Berated you publicly for non-performance even though your task was to open a new vertical without any sales leads, contacts and without any support from other sales people as well as sales management
  • Expected a sale in 6 months even though with established businesses the sales cycle is 18 months
  • A daily schedule of in between 9-10 am out by 2pm

Possibly you may begin to ask yourself is sales management relevant?

To receive such a demotivating and obviously biased email message from sales management is insulting to all sales team members. There was so much wrong with this message I truly did not know where to start. Unfortunately I could not share more because it just might reveal the person who wrote it.

This communication is a prime example of not only poor sales management, but unbelievably bad leadership.  The executive leadership should take this sales manager to the woodshed and then have him or her rewrite the message from an supportive sales management  position that would include something like:

sales-managementHow can I support you to be more relevant to the company?

Would you like me to make joint sales calls with you?

Possibly we can engage in some role playing?

Everyone here is relevant to our company and I want to make sure the company knows how hard you are working to achieve our current sales goals.

As the old expression goes, people do not leave companies, they leave managers. This particular firm probably has more than one sales team member looking for a new job.

 

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An Often Ignored Open Ended Sales Question

Open ended questions are excellent ways to find out the wants and needs of the sales lead or prospect. Yet if people buy first on emotion then justify that buying decision with logic justified, where is the emotional open ended sales question?

open-ended-sales-questionBeing  “just the facts, ma’am, just the facts” Joe Friday salesperson may be leaving incredible opportunities on the table. Additionally you as the salesperson could be viewed as impersonal and uncaring.

During a recent executive coaching session with a sales manager in the healthcare industry, she was sharing some of her open ended fact finding questions.  The questions were extremely well crafted.

As I listened to her give me a preview of her sales questioning approach, I stopped her after one particular question and asked “So what do you ask next after your sales lead has shared some significant and potentially harmful fact finding information?” My client then shared her next question.  The question was another open ended sales question.  She had been trained to focus on these type of fact finding questions.

My response was “Good question, but not the one I wanted to hear.”

We then went through a discussion about what could have been a better open ended sales question.

Finally, I had to return to the 3 Sales Buying Rules those being:

  1. People buy from people they know and trust.
  2. People buy first on emotion; justified by logic.
  3. People buy on value unique to them.

We had agreement the sales lead knew and had established a level of trust with my client as this was not the first meeting.  As to the second sales buying rule, the executive coaching client realized she was not emotionalizing the fact finding step within the selling phase of the sales process.  I asked her what would happen if she asked the following open ended sales question at the appropriate time because timing in sales as in life is everything:

How does that make you feel?

Suddenly there was silence on the other end for several minutes. My client said very quietly to me “I have been missing out on incredible opportunities.  This question would have the sales leads  potentially sharing far more. It is a flood gate question!”

Care should be taken when using an emotional open ended sales question.  Too many can turn off a sales lead because the questions can be viewed as too personal especially any questions that start with the word “Why.”

Also after asking “How does that make you feel?” and receiving a response, sometimes the next best question is the “And….?” or the “So….?” You, as the salesperson, say the word “And” in a trailing voice and the sales lead usually continues with more critical information. The question is still a very much open ended sales question, but far less threatening and leading.

So if you are not receiving the facts you need to present your solution, then review your fact finding questions and determine if  judiciously by adding a little emotion into your sales conversations would yield even better results.

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The Super Worker Promoted to Sales Manager Disaster

Once again a new sales coaching client is facing the super worker (think salesman) promoted to supervisor or sales manager disaster. Coming from a very supportive sales culture where her previous manager coached and helped her, she is now facing a 180 degree opposite. Each day feels like a train wreck just waiting to happen.

sales-managerImagine for a moment your first meeting after being hired and you are sitting in front of the sales manager’s desk. What you see is all of his sales awards right at the edge of the desk staring at you.  The message is loud and clear.

“I am great, look at what I have accomplished and you are insignificant.”

This almost reminds me of the all seeing, all knowing Wizard in the Wizard of Oz hiding behind his curtain.

In your new salesperson position, you continue to make your sales calls, schedule your appointments, do your new industry (vertical) research, etc.  and the entire time not knowing what your sales manager expects. You begin to think:

  • Am I doing things right?
  • Since he doesn’t talk to me, is he looking to fire me?
  • What can I do to change things?

Possibly you feel like the, Dorothy, the Tin Man, the Scarecrow and the Cowardly Lion all rolled into one individual?

Bottom line, you as the salesperson probably cannot do anything. This individual lacks the necessary management skills because his past successes were based on technical, sales skills. Yet this position of sales manager requires a far different skill set.

Of course it takes a strong person to work around and through such an obstacle especially when one is new to the organization.  Then his leaving the office each day at 2pm doesn’t help the situation.

The good news is this sales manager is probably your best learning experience of how not to manage and lead others.You may more about how not to increase sales from him than from anyone else.

What is so crippling to many organizations is there exists a plethora of these super workers turn supervisors or sales managers. These businesses are actually engaged in setting people up to fail and not just the sales manager, but his entire sales team and all the support personnel.  This type of poor talent management may also create a self serving, it is all about me, forget you cut throat culture. Collaboration within the sales team is non-existent.

If you are a member of the executive team or in a position of regional leadership and are wondering why a department or region is not able to increase sales or meet those sales targets, then it just may make sense to truly look at your sales manager or managers.  Are they in actually the super workers turned supervisors?

Leanne Hoagland-Smith is a heurist who disrupts the status quo by discovering new ways to guide and support rapidly growing small businesses; those who wish to grow beyond their current employees and executives in chaos.  She is recognized as one of the Top 25 Sales Influencers in 2013 by Open View Sales Labs and can be reached at 219.759.5601 CST.

 

 

 

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Do You Really Need A Sales Manager in Today’s SMB World?

The reality is much of the organizational structure for mid size to small businesses (SMB) today including having a sales manager is based on some of the practices of years gone by much larger companies with over 100 employees and multiple locations.  Maybe now is the time if your firm is actually a SMB of 99 employees or less to reconsider this organizational structure?

sales-manager

During a pre-recorded radio interview with Lynn Hidy and Dan Waldschmidt this past week, we discussed what makes a good sales manager versus a poor one. During this 60 minute conversation, this question surfaced:

Do you really need a sales manager?

The SMB world of today is quite a bit different than yesterday.  Technology allows for data delivery and analysis far easier and faster. No longer must someone such as the sales manager compile, calculate and communicate performance of the sales team.

If the small business owner has hired right, the sales person should be self directed sales leader meaning he or she needs no to little guidance or support and has those sales leadership talents especially if the SMB has clearly articulated the vision, values and current mission of the organization.  Sales  Coaching Tip:  Instead of sales training, consider sales leadership development through sales coaching to improve the performance of your sales team.

This question also once again confirmed that SMB must begin to think differently and cast off those strategies, structures, processes, rewards and even people (5 Star Model) that came from the 1.2% of the past. Today’s business world demands greater flexibility, speed, agility and a much flatter organization. Sales Coaching Tip:  Deming advanced changing the organizational structure to improve quality (think results) years ago and the US businesses ignore his vision, but the Japanese listened.

Today’s world is all about self directed sales leaders who know the target, have the best tools to hit the target, have the skills to aim for the target and then actually hit the target. Possibly by having a sales manager, you have created a hurdle for your sales team? I am reminded these often repeated words:

“If you continue to do what you have always done,

you will always get what you have always received.”

P.S. Join this FREE webinar, The 3 Sales Buying Rules,  on Thursday, March 7, 2013 from 12-12:30pm to learn now only these sales buying rules but the sales leadership talents necessary to work with this rules.

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