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The Sales Manager Litmus Test

As a newly minted District Sales Manager leading the Philadelphia office at the tender age of 25, my boss told me I now had the most important job in the company. He went on to explain that as a front-line sales manager, I had the “Power of 10.” I now had the responsibility to develop the ten sales reps that reported to me and highlighted the positive (or negative) effect I could have on their careers.

The #1 area companies must address when struggling to hit their sales quota/budget is the strength of their front-line sales management. It’s the “elephant in the room” most companies tip-toe around. Time and time again, we hear the following from our clients:

“How do you determine if your front-line sales management is doing the job outside of meeting their numbers?

My answer is simple: Performance is the yardstick of measurement. If they are doing the right things, they will hit their numbers. The difference between the successful sales manager and the unsuccessful sales manager is this: the successful sales manager is in the habit of doing things the unsuccessful sales manager doesn’t do.

Here are the habits of a successful sales manager that any company can benchmark against:

1. Conduct weekly one-one-ones with sales reps every week. Not optional.. These “game films” should include a structured agenda whereby the manager has the information to coach to strategy, activity and skill.

2. Spend two days a week in the field with two different sales reps. A desk is a very dangerous place from which to view a sales organization. Sales managers need to spend 40% of their time in the field with their people. This is especially important with Millennials.

3. Conduct a 1-hour bi-weekly sales meeting. This should include a formal agenda with a different salesperson presenting a success story or a specific challenge seeking team input. It should also include “situation scrimmages” whereby different sales reps are required to role practice different scenarios. To quote author Patrick Lencioni, “Not finance. Not strategy. Not technology. It is teamwork that remains the ultimate competitive advantage, both because it is so powerful and because it is so rare.”

4. Conduct a weekly Major Account Deal Review. This should include both new deals from prospects and new opportunities with existing major accounts.

5. Conduct a 30-Minute Weekly Pipeline Review with the team. This reinforces the fact that you are never psychologically safe as a salesperson and that all of your successes and failures are out in the open for everyone to see. Again, leveraging the knowledge of your teammates can be a powerful tool for making the necessary adjustments.

6. Interview one new sales candidate per week. Sales turnover is inevitable and strong sales managers understand “ABI” (always be interviewing) even if they are fully staffed. This is one of the blind spots for even the best sales managers.

7. Devote considerable time in onboarding new hires. New hires are your investment in the future. The key is to start right and stay right. That requires investment in the relationship.

How does your front-line management rate against the seven areas highlighted above? Inconsistent execution of one-on-ones, canceled pipeline reviews and deal reviews are areas of opportunity for most struggling organizations. Compound that with excuses as to why sales managers are “too busy” to spend time in the field with their reps and we will show you the beginning of a “death spiral.”

At Butler Street, our Leadership Development Programs help create positive habits around the four B’s: Basics, Backing, Belonging and Becoming. To learn more about how our leaders can help you develop your leaders, click CONTACT and let’s schedule some time to talk.

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