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Bill Blades, CMC, CPS
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10 Crucial Steps for Sales Management Success

Great sales managers are made, not born. Unfortunately, many companies believe that because someone was a great salesperson, he or she will make an equally great sales manager. Nothing could be further from the truth. Selling to clients and leading a sales force are two separate skill sets. Those who manage their sales team effectively have made the leap from selling to leading. You can too.

Often, the one trait that separates the top achievers from the pack is their ability to request help. Following that, displaying availability to act on the newly acquired skills is a major trait. So if you're available to assess yourself honestly, here are 10 tips that can propel your sales management career.

1. Recruit and Select the Best

Recruiting and selecting the best of the best is a difficult assignment, but you can't lead the wrong people. Invest in your recruitment efforts as if it will be the best or worst hiring decision you will ever make. Here are a few ideas:

    Recruit when you do not need anyone. Always be on the lookout for talent.

    Get an outside resource to help with interviewing and selecting. An objective third party can give insights you may not have thought about.

    Remember that the only thing worse than high turnover is when there is no turnover when there should be. Let go of people who are not right for the job. Have personality profiles run on each candidate to ensure they are in proper profession (many people shouldn't be in sales).

2. Invest in Training

Train your people to become 50% more effective. Many companies utilize a classroom training approach, but realize that you can offer one-on-one education virtually anytime and anywhere. Education, when professionally executed, is much more effective versus classroom work. More ideas to ponder:

    Invest more into unlearning than training. If people don't unlearn their bad selling habits, they'll resort to them in the future.

    Enforce the idea that not acting on new skills learned is not an option. Whether they liked the training or not, they must put into practice the new knowledge. That's the only way they'll stretch their capabilities.

    Motivational speakers have their place - for an hour. Don't bore people.

    Don't be cheap when choosing your sales training and educational options. The good news is that most of your competitors are too cheap to invest in their team.

3. Motivate and Retain the Best of the Best  

You or a motivational speaker can only educate your team. You can't motivate them. You can only provide the tools and do it in a motivating way. If the recipients want to act on that expertise, they will. If they don't want to act, they can be very creative with their excuses. Minds are like parachutes.they only work when opened.

A great goal for motivating and retaining is to ensure your sales department and company is a fun place to work. Fun also assists in boosting sales. So make sure your group is having fun. Remember, they are either pulling together or pulling apart. Fun plus the right incentives are the two key components of #3. There's no middle ground.

4. Add Joy and Value

Joy and value starts with the manager delivering both components to the group. If you don't add joy and value to your group, then you should find a new occupation. As a sale manager, you must provide not only leadership, but also a positive attitude that all can learn from. Being bossy, sarcastic, or a gloom and doom type gets few positive results.

When you deliver joy and value to your group, they'll want to speak with you and be with you regularly.. to both learn from you and enjoy your company. When you teach the sales group to bring unheard joy and value to clients, they'll make more sales and increase the profit margins.

5. Get Creative

Creativity is virtually non-existent in the sales profession. Only 1 out of every 100 salespeople has it. Fortunately, creativity can be taught. That's good news because creativity beats logic time and time again. A logical salesperson usually comes across as boring. Teach your people to be CRAZEE. That is:

    C reativity: What's the most creative thing you did last week? The same question applies to your group. If you can't answer the question, you need help. Stop boring selling.

    R egimen: Are you equipped to be in the top 1-2% of the sales managers in your industry? Are your sales people equally equipped?

    A mbition: If you don't have the desire to be a great sales manager, no one can help you. You can't have a great group of salespeople unless the leadership is there.

    Z any: It's farther out than creativity. You're not going to be zany every day, nor every week. Just go as far out creatively as you can imagine. After you find that clients love it, then go further. Don't fear being perceived as "out there" because you must go "out there" to get the business.

    E motional E quivalency: Means, "I'm going to use my God-given talents as best I can. I will chisel and refine myself. I'm not in this profession to be the boss and make good money; I'm here to help my group and my clients receive more joy and value." Being a servant leader yields great rewards.

6. Create Position Descriptions and Standards of Performance

Position descriptions and standards of performance are a must for the managers and the group. The position description states, "Here is what I want you to do." The standards of performance state, "Here is how I am going to measure you." These are two coaching tools that will help the chief and each person stay on track. Utilize them monthly via informal evaluations as well as quarterly for formalized evaluations. Most corporations are woefully weak in:

    How to measure everyone.

    How to use the tools for effective coaching.

    How often they evaluate the group.

These tools, combined with the correct reward structure, will keep almost everyone focused.

7. Create Target Accounts

Target Accounts are those accounts you want to land, want to grow, and never want to lose. You must keep your target account efforts focused. Train your people not to waste time with small clients and to invest major time with major clients. Treat time as your major currency because it is. You can either deposit time or make withdrawals - one makes you money and one costs you money. Don't let your people call on comfort zone clients for social visits.

Now comes the clincher to stop drift. Who are the next 25 clients you will land or increase revenues with? And what's the no later than date, the volume you will receive, and the product mix? If you don't know, you have massive drift. Focus, focus, focus.

8. Be a Mentor

Mentor your group consistently once you've earned the right to be a mentor. That means you have received the required mentoring yourself to be a great mentor. Eighty-four percent of all managers in the United States never received management training prior to becoming a manager. For sales managers, the number balloons to 99+%. Machiavelli wrote, "You can't well advise a prince who isn't wise himself." Get wise yourself and then make others wise.

9. Create Sales and Marketing Plans

Sales and marketing plans should address two key areas - your people and your clients. Consider:

    Business would be a real snap if it weren't for two things - money and people. Which one is the tougher part? People. Whenever people are doing what they can, they can always do more. So define the improvements you want from the group and from each individual. Then apply the resources.

    What are your strategies and tactics for each client? What resources will you apply for each one? Why? When? How? Define almost everything you're going to do for the year and apply deadline dates for added focus. Then, get your eyes on the plan monthly so that you and everyone beat the deadline dates.

10. Communicate

Communication skills are absolutely essential for the sales manager. You will win or lose your people and clients based on your communication style. If your communication is not boring, you will engage clients' minds. If it engages clients' minds, it will stick. If it sticks, they will likely act on it.        If they take action, your communication was of value. If your communication was of value, they will want to see you again.

Communication is definitely an art. Does your communication flow like a paintbrush? Does it need an airbrush? Get the truth on it by evaluating your communication results and then asking others what they think of your communication skills.

Leading the Way to Greatness

The phrase "He's a born salesperson" holds no more water than if others said the same thing about sales managers. Great managers are not born or hatched. With the proper training, they are created. If you're not scoring a perfect 10 on each of the above items, realize that with the proper training, you can. Even more important, you'd better score a 10 - your career and your department's results depend on it.

About the Author:

Bill Blades, CMC, CPS, is a sales and leadership speaker and consultant. He can be reached at 480-563-5355 or bill@williamblades.com.

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