The Sales Manager: a crucial role
Having the best sales people is not enough!
The role of the sales manager has always been a key element of success. Unfortunately, we often see companies where the sales manager plays the role of savior or fireman, or worse, spends most of his time in internal meetings and reporting.
In the context of the upcoming crises and difficulties, the importance of the sales manager is even greater. We can no longer rely solely on the performance of individual sales forces. It is the ability of the manager to set up a structure of the sales department and to ensure the agility of the whole team that will make the difference.
At Halifax Consulting we believe that 75% of a sales team’s performance is based on its structure and organization; and that 25% (only) depends on the agility of the sales people. However, we often focus much more on this agility, which has the limitation of not reaching the full potential of the team. Managing the structure and organization of the sales department is the manager’s responsibility and priority.
THE SALES MANAGER: MANAGER AND COACH
It is impossible to define the role of the sales manager in a single verb, since in reality it is based on two: managing and coaching.
From PODC to POMA
We all know the PODC (Plan, Organize, Direct, Control) model taught since the 1950s. Almost 80 years later, we propose to teach you a modernized version of the model: the POMA (Plan, Organize, Mobilize, Appraise). (Ref. Céline Poncelin de Raucourt, 2002, unpublished) which encompasses these two a priori opposed missions, managing and coaching. Managing is Planning and Organizing, Coaching is Mobilizing and Appreciating
1 – Planning
As a manager of his team, the sales manager must develop the sales plan.
The sales plan is based on objectives to be reached (sales) which must be transformed into action objectives, and then translated into weekly activities.
If, for example, a salesperson has to reach 500K in annual sales, what weekly tasks does he or she need to accomplish to get there? It could be appointment setting, new meetings, number of prospects contacted, number of bids etc… These are the actions that build results.
The sales manager’s job is to break down a year into quarters, months, and weeks in order to establish a methodological basis for his team’s work while adapting the performance measures to the new reality.
This will allow them to always know what they need to do and not waste their time planning their actions themselves according to a result objective.
Did you know that a poorly managed salesperson loses 1.5 days of work per week, mainly due to poor targeting, poor management of his or her agenda, lack of optimization of his or her territory as well as customer meetings? And since Covid and the generalization of the hybrid salesperson with remote meetings and therefore less travel, the situation has not changed. A salesperson continues to spend on average no more than 30% of his or her time in customer interface.
Once the sales plan has been adapted, validated and optimized, it is then up to the sales manager to put in place everything necessary for its successful implementation.
These organizational aspects are many and varied. They may include:
- Determine the frequency of team meetings (face-to-face or videoconference)
- Recruiting new team members
- Train the sales staff
- Manage the team’s agendas
- Delineate sales territories
- Provide the right tools (cell phone, tablet, CRM, Zoom account, Team, etc.)
- Provide a “playbook” (best practices sales scenario)
- Provide business presentation materials
- Determine optimal territory coverage rules
- To have a dashboard of follow-up of the actions
It is important that the plan and organization established by the sales manager be known by the entire team.
We now come to the second major axis of the sales manager’s work: coaching.
The sales manager must verify that the organization he has put in place allows for the execution of the sales plan.
To do so, he must spend 2 to 2.5 days per week with his sales representatives in action (by attending, for example, field visits or video conferences). At this time, the manager acts as an observer. However, he cannot take the place of his salesperson at very specific times that have been agreed upon beforehand.
However, for the most part, observes whether the salesperson is truly following the process and executing the actions in the sales plan. The meeting with the customer also allows him to determine the level of preparation of the sales representative (have the objectives been set beforehand, have the obstacles been identified and thus circumvented?) In other words, the manager evaluates his sales representative to determine whether or not he is performing the right actions, at the right times and with the right people. This is certainly the best method to evaluate the agility of his sales person, the strengths and the points to improve to sell more and better.
This observation phase is crucial, as it allows for feedback to improve the salesperson’s performance. It is therefore important that the sales manager, however tempted may be, does not leave this role of observer.
It is also recommended that the manager discusses each Monday morning, individually, with each of his sales representatives to better anticipate any slippage. During these meetings, the salesperson reviews the week’s agenda to ensure that it is optimized and that the week’s strategic meetings are perfectly organized and prepared.
His role as a coach will also be to identify training needs , either for a specific sales person or for the whole team in order to have a positive impact on the achievement of results.
Did you know? It is recommended to invest $1,500 per year per salesperson for the training of sales teams, a little more for the manager. ( Source State of Sales from Sales Force). This is what the top 20% of companies in organic growth do.
We have already illustrated the importance of moving from annual objectives to weekly planning. The role of the sales manager is to go from the smallest Russian doll to the largest to ensure that the performance of the actions is indeed achieving the results.
You can improve a salesperson’s skills, reflexes and actions, but you can’t change the results.
This means that the manager’s dashboard must evaluate the salesperson’s level of performance in relation to the customer, his or her ability to respect the processes and the increase in performance. Finally, the results will be measured.
Some ideas for measurable actions that can be incorporated into your performance dashboard:
- Is the salesperson able to identify the decision maker during a meeting?
- Is the salesperson able to identify the added value for each person he/she has to convince?
- Is the salesperson able to adapt to each of the personalities in front of him?
- Does the salesperson ask the right questions, with the right wording, at the right time?
- Has he scheduled his 4 hours of prospecting during the week?
- Is it making progress on its closing rate?
- What is its margin level or average amount per case?
Finally , to appreciate means to measure but also to recognize, to encourage like a true coach.
WHAT IS THE PROFILE OF A GOOD SALES MANAGER?
In other words, the sales manager is a project manager who plans the smooth running of operations, a site manager who makes sure that the plans on paper come to life with the right tools. He or she is also a good observer who can detect bad practices and implement the necessary means to solve them.
WILL A GOOD SALESPERSON MAKE A GOOD SALES MANAGER?
Not necessarily! In reality, a good sales manager does not have to be an expert in sales, but must understand all the mechanisms of the business, which he or she must couple with his or her qualities as a manager (P+O), as a “coach” and as a good teacher (M+A). Just like a conductor who does not play all the instruments perfectly, the sales manager must be able to identify whether or not his salespeople are playing the right music, although he does not need to play it as well as they do.
The typical profiles that make good sales managers are former project managers, engineers or human resources professionals; in other words, professions where organization and structure are the key words.
If you are considering promoting your best salesperson to manager, keep in mind that not everyone has these capabilities and the team will immediately lose their best salesperson. The question of a sales career outside of management is critical to retaining the best.
THE RESULTS OBSERVED WITH OUR CLIENTS
A salesperson who is just starting out or who has average overall performance and who follows the best practices to the letter will certainly see a steady increase in results. From experience, he will surpass in less than 24 months the performance of the star salesperson who relies solely on his agility.
After dozens of interventions, our experts have proven that good results are not only achieved through the agility of sales people, but also through rigor, structure and organization, all supported by a rigorous, structured and organized manager with coaching skills.
This is why we have built a sales training program dedicated to managers to better manage the performance of their salespeople and coach their teams.
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