Sales management is a discipline that can be as tough as—if not tougher than—a contact sport like football. As an owner or manager, you’re like a quarterback whose responsibility is not only to come up with the game plan, but also to ensure that it’s executed. You must constantly remind yourself that success cannot be attained without being personally involved and remaining focused on the target of generating new sales because if you back off, this will negatively affect the performance of your team. As the quarterback, you call and execute plays, which can’t be done while sitting on the sidelines.
When you decide the management strategy that’s best for your sales-force team, remember that it doesn’t end there. Your leadership and involvement as the owner/manager will be needed for it to work. There is no policy or procedure that serves as a substitute for good management.
That said, our major goal as owner/managers is to develop a longterm sustainable growth program for the company. That’s the game plan. Such a long-term growth program is multifaceted and includes an array of strategies and processes, including:
• A customer-retention program
• A same-store sales program to sell to your existing customer base
• An acquisition program
• Outside sales (sometimes called organic growth). The organic growth program consists of:
• Sales from you w Sales from the outside sales-force team
• Leading and calling the play for the outside team
• Leading and managing the sales force
Leading and Managing the Sales Force
• You must manage this process by doing some personal sales, some management, and some coaching. Like a quarterback deciding the best move to make for the team and calling the plays, you must closely monitor the progress of the sales associates until they have developed a rhythm and procedure that will enable them to achieve their corporate—as well as individual—goals.
• Sales management is a process that requires constant monitoring and relative metrics, or “keeping score.”
• This part of the sales management program, however, will not be just an analytical approach. The sales manager must lead from the front. I recommend you and/or your sales manager spend a significant amount of time not only in personal sales, but also riding with your salespeople—either announced or unannounced—to review the effectiveness of their entire sales process and time management. Better recommendations can be made from your actual observations “in the game,” instead of just reading reports on the sidelines.
• Budgets for each salesperson must be developed and used for the month and year. Setting proper budgets must use the SMARTS model: Specific, Measurable, Attainable, Relevant, Timebound, and Stretching.
• Ensure that the individual job descriptions for the sales team are tied to the financial goals of the company and your own goals. Also, perform regular performance evaluations, with Performance Improvement Programs (PIPs) when necessary. The sales team must be measured on their to-budget performance and their ability to close any gaps, thereby assessing their ability to achieve sales goals, or “score points.”
• To asses and measure your team’s progress, you should undertake the following tasks on a daily basis:
• Require a daily report from each salesperson that reflects each individual’s actual sales calls/visits, customers contacted, method of contact (personal visit, phone call, e-mail, etc.), status of the potential customers, along with key information such as bid dates, their current sales program, etc. Also check to make sure they’re following their sales calendar (see below).
• Read and analyze these daily reports, study them, and challenge them for propriety and accuracy. Sales metrics that should be reviewed include:
• The number of calls made per day
• The number of calls it takes to generate a lead
• The number of leads it takes to generate a bid
• The closure rate for the individual salesperson
On a weekly basis, you should:
w Require a calendar from each sales associate (due by the close of business on Friday) to reflect a sales plan of visits for the upcoming week.
• Review the calendar and challenge it for common sense, geographics, proper emphasis on customers and proper potential customers, etc. Remember to measure results, not activities.
• Hold and manage a sales meeting to actually measure sales achieved versus budgets for each individual team member and the organization. Then, review and test the pipeline for what is coming up. There is excellent software available for these tasks, so we don’t have to reinvent the wheel here.
• Hold a short touch-base meeting either on late Friday afternoon or early Monday morning. Again, you want to maximize their time in front of the customer, not at their desk filling out reports. In fact, a clear policy should be in place that corporate meetings and other extraneous tasks should be done during dead sales times, such as Monday mornings, Friday afternoons, and weekends. Until you develop a full sales process, these meetings will be set up to monitor activities such as sales calls, bids, etc.
On a biweekly basis, you should…
• Hold a one-off sales meeting with each individual salesperson just to get a good feeling for their attitude, enthusiasm, etc.
On monthly basis, you should…
• Hold a performance-review meeting to ensure that everyone is on track, much like reviewing game films for performance improvement.
On a quarterly basis, you should...
• Meet with your entire sales force to review and analyze progress and the actual to-budget gaps.
At the end of the year, you should…
• Hold a review for the team both as a whole and as individual players. You may want to reposition the players and/or recruit new players. Keep your eyes open for the available draft choices both internally and externally.
It’s Up to You
There are a lot more things we could discuss about the process, such as intensive training, telemarketing approach, websites, social media, proposal format, etc. But the above items are the “blocking and tackling” of sales management—the basics. A final word to the wise: Always be sure to follow up! You can make up for a lot of mistakes simply by maintaining long-term, consistent follow up.
The above process is result of my experience and by no means 100-percent perfect. Take this process—or take the parts of it you like best—and make your own. But above all, make sure you always have a process and game plan in place and then execute against it. As a quarterback, it’s up to you to make it happen. Like Martin Luther King said, “If it is to be, it is up to me.”
Barnett Gershen is owner/CEO “quarterback” of Gershen Consulting, LLC. He is available for questions at 713-839-1990. He will be presenting on this subject at the 2012 Annual Convention, October 18-20, in Chicago, Illinois.