A recent blog by S. Anthony Iannarino got me thinking. Building on his three core disciplines, the concepts really ring true for sales management in this evolving Yellow Pages industry.
As Iannarino noted, being a sales manager isn’t easy. There are dozens of tasks and activities that dominate a sales manager’s day. You have a sales team which needs your undivided attention each day, senior management that wants to communicate with you, and then a family that would like you to come home at night at a more reasonable hour. Iannarino focused on three disciplines a sales manager absolutely must keep to succeed. Note these are not goals, they are daily disciplines that sales managers need as their priorities in the face of the many other distractions that come out each day.
Discipline 1: Ensuring a Healthy Pipeline for your Reps
The difference between top performing reps and those that aren’t can often come down to one critical factor – activity, or more appropriately — the level of activity. Of course activity for activity’s sake doesn’t do anything to produce sales results. The activity I’m talking about has to produce outcomes, and the major outcomes that need measured are opportunities created and opportunities advanced – appointments made, appointments kept, as well as closes.
For sales managers, keeping an active eye on a reps pipeline isn’t micromanaging. Inspecting and reviewing the status of the pipeline on a consistent basis isn’t a lack of trust in the rep. The simple reality is that without enough opportunities, the rep, the manager, and the company cannot make their numbers. The math doesn’t work.
This discipline isn’t naïve enough to suggest the SMB owners don’t disappear for vacations, or get pulled off on emergency situations, or are ducking you because they are behind on their bills. These are a given and will happen. For managers the more operative value of this discipline is ensuring the pipeline has enough viable, closable opportunities to allow all parties to achieve their desired results.
So managers, you have to continually inspect the pipeline to ensure that your sales team is producing and managing the opportunities they need to succeed.
Discipline 2: Seizing All Coaching Opportunities
Wouldn’t it be nice if sales opportunities moved smoothly and evenly all through your campaigns? But how often does that happen. We are fast approaching Labor Day week. We all know that’s going to be a difficult time to catch up with many SMB’s as they head off for their last summer vacations or to be with kids heading back to school or college.
Coaching these selling opportunities is the second primary discipline of a sales manager. It is also another discipline that must be done continuously.
Riding with reps, ongoing role playing and other coaching techniques are needed to keep reps prepared for a constantly changing marketplace. But the other key part of coaching a team is to help them build/grow their capacity to move opportunities through their sales funnel on their own, and to remove any miscellaneous obstacles that stall or kill opportunities.
Coaching opportunities is where you are expected to earn your pay.
Discipline 3: Developing Your Sales Team
Have you noticed that the better your sales team is, the easier your job is? The inverse of this is also true, too: the worse your sales team, the more difficult your job is. It’s rare that any team is made up of all “A” players. No matter what level they are at, the only real asset you have producing sales results is your salespeople. The link is an obvious one — coaching is important to sales in that the more you develop your sales team, the better your sales team becomes, the better your sales results will be.
Time spent coaching, teaching, training, and developing your salespeople can produce outsized results. But it also does require a time investment on the manager’s part.
One of the most critical disciplines of the sales manager is building salespeople so they can overcome the challenges and obstacles they face themselves.
Discipline 4: Be the Filter for the Sales Team
These are very unsettling times in the industry, in many companies, in our overall economy. Things are changing constantly – new focus on products, changes in ownership, even some name changes (can you say “Hibu”?). The fourth item I have added to the list of primary disciplines is the need for sales management to filter all of this internal and external noise so sales can concentrate on the task at hand that day – making sales.
As I suggested to one unsettled rep – look at it this way – you run your own small company. You have one client – your existing employer. Now you can change clients at anytime, but how’s this one treating you? And each client, no matter what industry has their own little quirks and requirements. Don’t get caught up in what the client is doing. Focus on your business.
These are my suggested four key disciplines. Do you have others that should be added??