How to Manage Your Sales Manager

If you’re a business owner, then I know you place a lot of responsibility on your inside sales manager. In many companies, managers are not only responsible for finding, hiring and developing successful reps, but they are also responsible for training these new reps and for the continued training of existing sales reps as well. Sales managers are also directly responsible for the achievement of reaching quota each month, quarter and YTD. In addition, managers are often responsible for reporting on daily, weekly and monthly progress, with motivating the sales team and with proper management of lead resources, sales pipelines, and many other reporting processes. When you add up all the duties and responsibilities of your sales manager, it can seem overwhelming and begs the question of you as the owner – how do you manage your manager?

The answer to that question for most owners is they manage their manager and the sales department through a series of sales metrics sometimes called sales dashboards (there are many other names for this, but I’m sure you know what I’m talking about). These dashboards have a variety of metrics and statistics on them including lead conversion percentages, closing percentages per rep and for the team, pipeline numbers and percentages, time on the phone, number of calls, etc. These metrics are important for predicting revenue and directing activity and lead distribution and for measuring the trend of sales for the month and quarter, but they don’t do what you have hired your manager to do – drive sales.

All the metrics listed above have one fatal flaw when it comes to driving sales – they are snap shot of what has happened in the past. They are a rearview mirror look at what your team has done up to this point, and as such, they are ineffective for driving or improving current sales. This is a hard point for many business owners to accept, because experience tells them that if the team just works harder, makes more calls and contacts, then deals and revenues increase. The problem with this is that increased activity (say 10% more calls) doesn’t result in 10% more business. Again, these metrics, while important, aren’t what drive sales.

And that brings us to the point of this article. What drives sales isn’t the activity around the sales (the metrics listed above), but rather it’s the activity that takes place during the sale that determines results. It’s what your reps are saying during the prospecting call, during the call backs, and how they handle the objections and stalls that occur during the close. It’s what your reps say and how they handle the smokescreens and put offs on the third and fourth calls that determine how much business they write. And when it comes to measuring these crucial activities, most sales managers and business owners don’t have a system or a process to do this, and so they don’t have the means of truly impacting and consistently improving their sales results.

The good news is there are a series of steps and processes you can use to do this, and it’s the way that successful business owners effectively manage their sales managers. To start with, your sales manager must get more involved on the sales floor and more involved in listening in during the prospecting and closing calls. Your manager must be able to step in and affect the sale while it’s in progress. There are a variety of ways for them to do but these exceed the limited scope of this article. I will list a resource you can turn to for more information on this later. The important tool for you as the owner, though, is a script grading adherence form.

If you’re not already using a script grading adherence form, then this should be your first priority to develop. In a nutshell, a script grading adherence form breaks down each part of your sales approach or script, and assigns a numerical grade to each section. For example, your reps are graded on how effectively they get past the gatekeeper, greet and build rapport with the decision maker, handle initial objections, qualify prospects, create commitments at the end of calls, etc. The total grade will be 100, and it’s your manager’s job to grade live calls or recorded calls to see how well each rep is adhering to your best practices and solid inside selling skills and techniques. This is the only metric that truly measures what matters most: how skilled your reps are at navigating their way through your sale.

Think about your Top 20% closers for a moment. Wouldn’t you agree that they almost intuitively know how to qualify and close prospects more effectively? Aren’t their leads almost always more qualified, their close rates higher and their closing cycles shorter? Don’t they seem to handle brush offs and objections more effectively? Aren’t they more confident and empowered? Now compare them to the rest of your team. Isn’t it true that the other 80% struggle in all of the areas above? Again, the metrics that make up most company’s dashboards don’t affect your rep’s ability to get better in these crucial areas. They simply measure past results. Only measuring and grading what your reps do during the sale has the ability to drive sales.

The best way for you as a business owner to manage your sales manager is to make sure they monitor, grade and coach their reps through the sales cycle and offer specific, effective sales skills and techniques for their reps to improve. And the best way for you to manage this is to add a section to your dashboard called “script grading adherence percentages.” Remember, until you know how your sales team is performing during the sale, you won’t be able to effectively change the other metrics that measure their performance after the sale.

Copyright (c) 2012 Mr. Inside Sales

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When Selecting a Sales Manager, Good Is Better Than Best

It has been the accepted practice for decades that the best performing sales representatives are the ones most likely to be promoted to sales management positions.

Coincidentally, if you were to ask sales executives to evaluate this practice, most assuredly nearly all would reply that two things happen — neither of which is good!

First and foremost, a high performing sales person is taken out of play, so the team loses a great salesperson.

Secondly, the former high performing sales person usually turns out to be an average or mediocre manager, so the team loses again. Sometimes the company loses because many times the former high performer, now less than average manager, will find employment elsewhere.

Some of the cause for this outcome is the fact that companies tend to spend a great deal of time and money on technical and product training for sales representatives, but spend little or no time and money on leadership and management training. Leadership and management skills and leadership abilities should be the qualifying actions and requirements before promoting any sales representative to manager.

The practice of promoting the high performer continues throughout all business enterprises in the United States. The practice is based on two assumptions. It is assumed that promoting a high performer is the right thing to do as a reward for success. And highly successful sales representatives will be good leaders.

The former may have some merit, but the latter is clearly neither a sensible or logical conclusion. As suggested in the opening paragraphs, a high performing sales record does not assure the ability to lead. There is much evidence to support this assertion.

Professional sports teams are great examples. Many former professional baseball, basketball, and football players became or are now Head Coaches or Team Managers. Only a few of them were top performers. Some were good performers, and many others were just solid players. After all, anyone who is on a professional team is head and shoulders above us ordinary people, but not all of the extraordinary are super-stars. There are those who are the elite within the elite.

Generally, the superstars who become coaches or managers are not usually great managers or coaches. There are exceptions. Bill Russell comes to mind as a good example of a superstar who was a highly successful coach. His teammate K.C. Jones was a very good player who was probably an even better manager.

The former players who become successful Head Coaches and Team Managers were usually good players, but not superstars.

Phil Jackson is an example. Who would have thought that the “Human Coat Hanger” as an off-the-bench player for the Knicks would become the “Zen Master” and highly successful Head Coach of both the Bulls and the Lakers winning many national championships for the two teams.

Another example is Tony LaRussa. He retired after winning another World Series with the Cardinals and he will go the Baseball Hall of Fame as a Manager, not a player in the major leagues.

Most former professional football players who have gone on to being a successful Head Coaches were not superstars. On the other hand, not many professional football superstars became successful head coaches.

How does this apply to selecting a sales manager? Here’s how.

Sales reps are very competitive and often have huge egos. That’s okay. Those are traits that benefit the execution of their craft. Top performers like superstar athletes have high expectations not only of themselves, but also of all the others on the team.

The professional players who were less than superstars know that everyone on the team has a contribution to make, so their expectations are not for everyone to be a superstar, but for everyone to contribute to the team as expected.

This is the single most significant reason why the non-superstars make better coaches and managers. While the fact remains that everyone on a professional sports team is part of an elite group, there are those among the elite who are more elite. The latter group often does not relate well to the former group.

And this is why the top sales performer most likely will not be a good sales manager or leader. The top performer’s expectations are likely to be too high. The top performer expects that everyone else on the team will share his drive, his discipline, his methods, and his zeal. That expectation is unrealistic.

It is not uncommon for a previously top-performing sales person, now promoted to manager, to affect what I call the Clark Kent syndrome. The syndrome often engages when the superstar manager meets with customers alo

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