An interviewer recently asked me to imagine that I’d just been hired as the Director of Sales at a company whose sales have stalled out, and the sales reps were demotivated. The CEO, naturally, is anxious to hit the reset button, to get things back on track as quickly as possible.
“Your first week on the job, Kevin,” said the interviewer, “what two things could you do that could have the biggest impact?”
I think my answer surprised him because I said I’d do nothing.
The emphasis here is on the “do.” I’ve been in a situation like this know it’s not a time where you want to parachute in and immediately start dictating solutions.
Meaning I wouldn’t take any actions at first. I’m not going to prescribe before I make a diagnosis, as I discuss here.
Instead, I’d spend the first week or two in observation. I’d want to spend a full day observing each salesperson interacting with customers. If that means going out in the field, I’d be out in the field. If it means participating in phone calls with prospects or customers, that’s what I’d do.
Observation Leads to Planning
During the observation, I want to assess the skill and attitude of each person. Once I have that information, I can identify the reps who can be part of the solution and those who are part of the problem. My priorities would be in three areas:
1) Reps who are “part of the solution” are the high-performing reps who also have a good attitude. These are the people I want to be bell cows on my team. I will recognize their contributions and use them to mentor newer or less-experienced reps.
2) To deal with the people who are “part of the problem,” I’m going to first establish a common understanding of what I call a Success Profile—this is a description of my expectations around performance, skills, and attitudes that a rep needs to have in order to excel in the company and on my team.
3) With the Success Profile in hand, I can provide one-on-one coaching to high-potential reps (those with mediocre or poor results but a great attitude). We can discuss very specifically the skills and wills they need to improve, define what actions they and I will take, and set deadlines.
There are other reps who are “part of the problem”—specifically reps with poor attitudes, whether they achieve great or bad results. I’d certainly want to work with them soon because a team can quickly slide further if a sales manager condones poor attitudes. But providing visibility to the bell cows and quickly raising the performance of my high-potential people would be my first steps.
Kevin F. Davis is the author of “The Sales Manager’s Guide to Greatness: 10 Essential Strategies for Leading Your Team to the Top.” The book is now available on Amazon.com here.