Many sales managers today have become spreadsheet masters who spend more time learning general accounting principles than they actually spend with their salespeople. Many blame this imbalance on unreasonable demands from their superiors; others talk about all the fires that must be extinguished every day with their customers, partners and peers. Regardless of the reason, all of them regret not working more frequently with their salespeople.
I believe sales management is one of the most uncomfortable positions in business. The ultimate expectation from upper management is that your team reaches its sales goal; however, their day-to-day messaging demands everything but coaching, field work and selling. The expectation from the salespeople is for management to help them reach their goals, but when the salespeople are mired in a reactionary mode of fixing the squeakiest wheel, the message of “help me succeed” is silenced. Most of the time, the message from the team to managers is “help me fix this emergency.”
As a sales manager, if you know more about pivot tables than you do about the day-to-day activity of your salespeople, you are in trouble, and nobody is going to help you get out of it. Your salespeople will continue to come to you with fires; your organization will continue to demand more and more reporting; and it is up to you to make the changes.
The task of a sales manager is quite difficult. Here are five ideas that will help you spend more time with your sales team and, in turn, pay more attention and focus on the ultimate goal.
1. Audit your activity for three weeks. For three full business weeks, track how many hours you spend in three categories: growing sales with your salespeople, other time with your salespeople, and time that you do things that do not directly impact sales – such as forecasting reports, approving expense reports, making your quoting spreadsheet cooler, etc.
2. Get the backing of your boss. After the audit, schedule a meeting with your boss to share your analysis. Let them know that you are committed to reaching sales goals, but you must change your habits. Do not ask for anything more than buy-in – let your boss know that you can and will fix the problems. This is a delicate step that can be perceived as complaining and blaming your scenario on the organization and your boss; instead, take ownership and ask for their backing.
3. Block off weekly time to spend time with salespeople and stick to it. Block off time every week that you will interact with salespeople, working on sales. When someone asks for an appointment during those times, tell them you are busy. Tell your team you have blocked certain hours every week for working directly with them, and that you expect them to invite you to meetings, ask you to brainstorm on winning projects, help them prospect, etc. If you find you have open time during this block, then invite yourself to work with one of them.
4. Don’t ignore the superstars. One of the most common mistakes made by sales managers is assuming the stars can handle things without them and spending the vast majority of their time trying to rescue the poor performers. As much as they claim otherwise, the superstars want to spend time with their bosses, and you need to understand what they need and how to help them do even better. There is no better way to improve the great ones than to support them and buy them lunch every now and then!
5. Get in front of customers. Seriously, get out there, in front of human beings who buy your stuff or could potentially buy your stuff. Do this with your salespeople and alone. Nothing will reinvigorate you and make you remember why you are in sales more than getting in front of customers.
Chris Peterson is the founder and president of Vector Firm (www.vectorfirm.com), a sales consulting and training company built specifically for the security industry. To request more info about the company, visit www.securityinfowatch.com/12361573.