This article provides four questions that you can ask a sales manager to quickly judge if he or she is a great sales manager, or not. If you currently are a sales manager, ask yourself these four questions to assess your own sales management skills and areas for improvement.
Do all of your salespeople implement your coaching suggestions?
Recently a sales manager told me that he was extremely frustrated by a salesperson whom he considered to be un-coachable because the salesperson never implemented his coaching suggestions.
Whenever I hear this type of comment, I’m reminded of Stephen Covey’s famous quote:
Every time you think the problem is “out there,” that very thought is the problem.
I probed the sales manager to learn more about his approach to sales coaching. I discovered that, like many mediocre sales managers, he managed his salespeople primarily by asking them what I call “how many” questions. For example:
- How many sales calls did you make?
- How many appointments did you get?
- How many sales did you make last month?
- How many opportunities will you sell this month?
Great sales managers understand that asking salespeople “how many” questions only helps to better understand a rep’s activity level. It really is of no help in understanding the salesperson’s effectiveness in customer meetings.
By focusing primarily on “how many” activities, this manager was ignoring the knowledge and skills that his salespeople needed to learn in order to sell like he once did. “How many” coaching is not really coaching because it leads you to make lousy suggestions to your salespeople like, “you need to make more sales calls.”
Great sales managers understand that if they want their salespeople to implement their coaching, sales managers need to provide salespeople with high-quality sales coaching. And great sales coaching comes from observation, analysis, asking better questions, teaching, and follow-up. The vast majority of your salespeople will be more motivated to implement your coaching when it is more specific and helpful.
When you look at your calendar, have you been allocating your time in a way that is consistent with your highest priorities?
Great sales managers can answer “yes” to this question because they manage themselves in such a way that they are able to spend more time on what’s most important to achieving priority business goals, like improving the team.
Let me share with you one of my sales management consultant’s secrets. When I am called in by a company to work with sales managers, one way I can tell the difference between a great sales manager and an average manager is by looking at their calendar. Great sales managers have a predictable rhythm that includes time allocated for planning, observation, coaching and other key activities. That is, time reserved to work on the “important, but not urgent” tasks that develop a sales team. Mediocre managers do not.
So, I want you to imagine that one month from now I’m going to come work with you for a day. I’m going to ask to look at your calendar. What would I see?
If you knew back then what you know today, would you re-hire every salesperson currently on your team?
What I find interesting about this question is every time I ask it of an audience of sales managers usually only one in 10 managers will raise his or her hand. In other words, 90% of sales managers retain low producing salespeople for far too long.
So, I then ask a follow-up question of those in the audience who didn’t raise their hand—
How long have you known about this sales performance problem?
I’ve heard answers that vary from six months to 12 months to two years.
Great sales managers do not tolerate mediocrity. If you have an underperformer on your team you must face the issue now, not later. It’s quite possible that the person is not well-suited to the sales role, altogether.
You can sound off all you want about your high expectations and the importance that you place on sales excellence. But the lowest-producing rep currently on your sales team sends an unspoken message to everybody else on your team: that this lousy level of sales is actually acceptable to you.
Well, I ask you….is it?
Do you know who your next team leader will be, and do you give that person an extra portion of your sales coaching time?
You are a great sales manager if you can answer “yes!” to this question because you recognize the importance of creating a coaching success story on the team.
No doubt your company’s marketing department publicizes customer success stories. Marketing’s purpose is to motivate prospective customers by providing them with examples of how your existing customers have achieved great success by implementing your company’s solutions.
As a sales team leader, you, too, need a coaching success story. When you create a coaching success story it makes a powerful unspoken statement to everybody else on your team – that if they follow your coaching and leadership they too can achieve breakthrough sales performance. And that’s the mindset your salespeople need to have for you to develop an elite high-performance sales team.
For more helpful suggestions on what it takes to be a great sales manager download my article that won Training Industry’s “Readership Award” as one of their top 10 articles of the year. The article is titled, “5 Things Proactive Sales Managers Do Differently.” Be well!