Sales managers need to be leaders. Knowing how to inspire, motivate, coach and hold sales people accountable for their behaviors is the foundation for improving sales. Skill sets for success as a sales manager are not always the same as skill sets for successful sales people.
Making the top-producing sales person the sales manager might be seen as a reward, but without the skills and regular management training, the previously successful top sales producer can become a disaster.
Prior to 9-11, less than 50% of today's business-to-business salespeople have ever sold during an economic downturn. An entire generation of sales professionals had worked all of their professional lives knowing nothing about selling in hard times. So it is not surprising that unskilled sales managers with no training can commit many of these fatal errors without recognizing why sales fail to increase.
Here is a list of 10 fatal errors:
- Refuse to accept personal accountability for the behaviors and production of the sales force. Spending time blaming the sales people, the market, the economy, the product or the company will never increase sales. Accepting excuses from sales people cheats them as well as the company.
- Neglect to develop the sales people you manage. The top job of the sales manager is not to sell. It isn't even to "get sales up." It is to develop the sales people on the team. The problem with promoting the best producing sales person to the sales management position is that they probably think sales would go up if everyone sold the way they did when they were the top producer.
- Focus only on results and ignore behaviors and attitudes. Results are clear to everyone. They may even be posted on the wall or the company Intranet. However, knowing that appropriate behaviors and attitudes, enables sellers to sell is the first step. The next step is to admit what is getting in the way and make a commitment for change.
- Ignore good information; Never evaluate your sales people. It just doesn't make sense to stay in the dark about your people, when highly accurate, dependable assessment tools will tell you precisely how and why they sell the way they do.
- Manage all your sales people the same way. Managing everyone the same way will result in frustration, lack of clarity, and missed opportunities for growth in sales ability.
- Forget the importance of profit. Sales volume is not the indicator of success. Dropping the price may get the sale, but it leads to leaner margins, lack of confidence and a poorly performing sales force.
- Be a buddy not a coach. Your sales force wants to get better. If they don't, see #11. Sales people need a mentor, a coach, to spur them to leave their comfort zone to find new success—not someone who they can commiserate with.
- Don't set standards and only rank your sales people by revenue. Without clear expectations, without the awareness that there are varieties of ways to succeed, and without the knowledge of where they stand, sales people flounder into isolation and alienation.
- Never train your sales people. Thinking you know everything the sales team needs to know about sales limits them to your experience. Without continual refinement in the rapidly changing marketplace, you can find yourself unprepared to meet unexpected challenges.
- Condone incompetence. Sales people can actually believe their lack of competent performance is acceptable when they see no consequences for lacks in performance. Learn to raise expectations.
So what is the answer? Don’t just find people in sales with the attitudes, beliefs and behaviors that will make them successful managers. Train them to manage the sales force. Show them you believe that developing sales people is their job. Show them you believe that well-developed sales people with strong coaching and regular tracking will produce sales.