Sales Managers: Paper or People?
Monday, August 28, 2017
Posted by: Alyce Ryan
Originally Posted On: Linkedin
Written By: Robin Green
Robin Green will be hosting the upcoming Sales Strategies Webinar Series with AICC starting Tuesday, September 12, 2017.
If you manage outside sales representatives, you have a tough job. First, you are likely being asked to bring in greater results with fewer resources. For many, it's not getting any easier. Your role requires you to wear many hats: supervisor, trainer, coach, and mentor. You are being pulled on in every direction. Marketing wants you on a new committee. The service team needs to talk to you about how your team is setting up new customers. Plus, you have a boss. They need reports and progress updates. And you are also the Chief Problem-Solver for each of your reps...they are waiting in line for "a second" of your time. If you aren't careful, it's easy to lose sight of what your role really is.
So, what is your role as a sales manager? What's the one thing that you can't ignore?
Your role is to grow and develop your people.
That's it. And if you don't, who will?
The challenge is most managers are drowning in a sea of minutiae. They are bogged down by paperwork, reports, and endless meetings where not much gets done. One manager, who was struggling with this very issue, recently told me, "I spend hours doing reports. And I'm convinced the people asking for them don't even read them!" Many would say their job is more about pushing paper than developing people. And it's to the detriment of the organization - and to your team.
What do you do?
Get out in the field with your people. As a manager, if my job is to grow and develop them, how do I do this without observation, training and growing our relationship? If I'm not face-to-face with them, how do I build trust so that we can have authentic conversations instead of the "smokescreens" managers typically get?
Managers will often succumb to the demands of the environment and reluctantly do "desktop managing." Others haven't embraced the idea that being in the field with their people is even necessary - or important. They are content with reading call reports, diving into the CRM notes, and having a weekly call to "catch up on things".
Desktop management doesn't work.
You can't help your team grow by looking at reports or listening to your reps stripped-down version of the events of the week. You'll always get a rose-colored version of the events of the week or a self-deprecating view, which is a thin veil for reps who are seeking strokes and approval from you. "Now Cindy, I bet you did a great job. You are always so hard on yourself." Neither of these is acceptable for a top-flight manager.
You must see them in action if you want to train and coach effectively. How do you know if they are talking too much on their calls? How do you know if they are asking good questions? How do you gauge their relationships? Most won't tell you. Don't we all think we are flawless? If you aren't in the field with them, you won't know. Plain and simple. You have to see your team in action.
So how do you do it?
Here are some thoughts to consider as you develop your "in the field" mindset.
A book could be written on "in-the-field coaching" but these simple concepts should help you think about how you are developing your sales team to ensure your focusing on your main job - growing and developing your people.
- How many days in a month will you spend in field? And who gets your time? I'd suggest your time is better spent with 2 groups - your top salespeople and the moveable middle. Resist the temptation to leave your top people alone. They need mentored and coached. They must be on a path for continued growth. They need strokes and feedback. Never forget that your top performers are someone else's top candidates. They want to that feeling of engagement. Do your part to help them grow. And they will drive your success.
- Managers often spend far too much time with the bottom performers. It's like a first-aid mission. We invest a lot of time trying to fix them and help the get up to speed. Stop! They are at the bottom for a reason. Your time with them should be spent developing plans for growth - and if they aren't making progress, it's time to turn to your "People Bank" (great managers are always recruiting new talent) and begin to look for others who are a better fit for the role. Of course, new members of your team should get an appropriate amount of time to hit their varied performance milestones.
- When you are spending a day with your rep, spend a day with your rep. Far too many managers use their field days as a way to stay on top of emails, step away to take calls and spend time "putting out fires." If you want to be in fire-fighting mode, just stay in the office. The problems will be waiting for you! Make the most of your investment and be present. Sandler CEO David Mattson tells of his early days with company founder David Sandler. When they were in the field making sales calls, Sandler would drive Mattson's car. With Mattson in the co-pilot seat, he could take notes, role-play scenarios and be fully engaged in learning mode. That's hard to do when you are negotiating left turns and merging onto the freeway. Sandler drove the car and asked the questions. He ensured that the day was a growth and development day for the young sales rep!
- We all want our reps to have a pre-call plan, right? Do we pre-call plan the day with our rep or do we just show up and follow along with what they have planned? As managers, we need to have some level of control for the day or we are likely to end up spending the doing "meet and greets". Have a clear Up Front Contract on what will happen during the day together.
- Never turn on the ignition without de-briefing the interaction. What went well? What could have gone better? What lessons did I learn? What will I do the next time when I am in a similar situation? By the way, reps should be trained to do this on their own when you aren't there. The best reps are their own best coach.
About Robin Green:
Robin Green is the President of Ascend Performance, an award-winning Sandler Training center in Virginia. If you'd like to learn more about our management and coaching programs, contact him at firstname.lastname@example.org or call (804) 914-1723. Mention this article and we'll provide a complimentary assessment of your sales team. It doesn't mean you'll be our next client! In fact, we may not be a fit at all. But our experience is that it's always an interesting exercise and engaging discussion.