22 Immutable Laws of Sales Management
Often delegates to my sales management trainings ask me the secrets to becoming an effective sales manager. This triggers my thoughts to a large number of sales managers that I often come across who focus more on ‘sales & revenue’ and ignore the machinery (sales executives) that brings in the sale! They tend to believe in ‘spare the rod, spoil the child’ policy when it comes to the sales executives - the question is, does such an attitude work in the long run? You be the judge.
For me the single most important thing about a functional sales team is the team’s morale – this positive climate comes from the relationship that exists between the team members where the sales manager is integral to making & keeping the team working together.
It is similar to a functional family where the parents spend quality time doing fun things with their children, that not only bonds the family but also gives a sense of belonging, security, & purpose to each child in the family ~ the parents are the administrators, teachers, coaches, mentors, and above all providers of unconditional love all rolled into one. This is easier said than done, as it requires dedication, caring, sensitivity & a level of fortitude that few parents can accord.
And effective & highly successful sales managers are not far from this role; they too have to do the impossible job of coaching, inspiring, & disciplining their sales executive all at the same time – a very tricky job!
Many sales managers who meet their sales targets usually become complacent about their sales operations assuming that meeting sales targets is enough indication that their sales operations is above par. Sadly what they fail to realize is that meeting sales targets is only a reflection of what happened during the current year - it could be that the targets set were lower than what they could have achieved, the overall market situation was conducive (demand was greater than supply), or there was lack of competition, and a myriad of other reasons…
However the fact remains that to have an effective & resilient sales operation that sells & exceeds set targets year after year; and in spite of the usual market volatility & unpredictability these days; requires objectivity, systematic, & strategic approach that is highly proactive, practical & yet simple.
Given below are twenty-two questions that can help sales managers to assess their effectiveness in context to their sales management function. Answers to many of the questions would depend on the type of sales operation, size of the team, industry practice, government regulations and a lot of other related factors. But pondering on these questions (not arranged in any particular order) could reveal areas that require attention & change. Go ahead and be absolutely ruthless in your assessment and see what comes up for you.
- Do you know what each of your sales executives are selling each and every day/week/month & to whom?
- Are your sales executives chasing & closing deals with qualified leads or just roaming the market to find business & close deals?
- Do your sales executives prepare before they approach qualified leads or are they experts at managing clients in an impromptu manner?
- Do your sales executives find the problems of their potential customers prior to approaching the customer or do they find out ‘first hand’ when they meet their customers?
- Are they chasing the customers who your company can service or are they chasing anything big that moves?
- Have you set up a well-defined ‘Sales Process’ that guides your sales executives progressively into managing their clients?
- Are your sales executives connecting & dealing with the decision makers and supporters in the client organization or they don’t miss any opportunity to sell to the first person they come across in the potential client organization?
- Do you ensure that your sales executives are getting the best ‘support’ possible so they can spend more quality time with their customers or such a practice can make your sales executive spoilt & lazy brats?
- Do you encourage your sales team to be innovative, develop new strategies, and ideas that work & adopt accordingly or doing so could seriously undermine your control & authority over them?
- Do you coach & spend more time with the poor achievers in your sales team or should you spend significant time with the high achievers as well?
- Do you know what is ‘Kerbside’ conference and do you apply this to coach, assess, and motivate your sales executives?
- Some sales managers get actively involved in the recruitment process for new sales personnel even though the HR is more than capable of recruiting high achievers from the market – do you think that they could use the time better by focusing their energy on managing their sales team than getting involved with recruitment?
- How do you find out if each and every one of your sales executives is in the market? Or are they just submitting bogus reports? Put it another way - are they making the required number of sales calls/day and even if they are doing it, are they doing it objectively?
- Keeping logistical difficulties apart, do you think you should have a briefing session with your sales staff as often as possible & first thing in the morning before they go out into the market?
- Do you ensure that your sales executives have open & working channels/communication with support functions/departments in the organization?
- Should you employ more of positive or negative motivation to bring your under performers in line with what you expect of them?
- Do you ensure that your sales team undergoes sales training from time to time to ensure that your sales executives have the right attitude, knowledge, & skills – or do you feel it is a waste of time?
- Do you discuss, advise, & have an ongoing dialogue with your sales executives on their performance (targets vs. actual sales, call frequencies, call plans etc.) or you reserve that for performance reviews?
- Do you regularly scan your sales executives ‘call plans’ to see how much time & effort they are dedicating to the cash cows - the famous 80/20 rule?
- Do you ensure that your company’s marketing effort and your sales drive synergies & complement each other?
- Do you deal with each of your sales executive in accordance with their individual personalities (disposition, nature, & temperament) or you think that it is best to treat them all equally and as per the book?
Do you inculcate a sense of ‘bonding & belonging’ in your sales team through activities, friendly competitions, recognition & reward mechanisms, brainstorming sessions etc.?