I was privileged to speak recently to a group of business owners at ESX, a conference for the security industry. My topic had to do with understanding and developing the ultimate sales professional. There are many components to the “ultimate” sales professional including competencies, the “will to sell”, and sales DNA, but one of the most important factors is what I call the secret weapon. The secret weapon is their manager. Too often we find that the problem within a sales team is the sales manager. Now that isn’t to say that salespeople are blameless for not executing, not closing, and for being complacent. However, more often than not, the effectiveness of the sales manager can make or break the sales team. And, unfortunately, there are fewer excellent sales managers than we would prefer.
Are you Asking Your Salespeople the Right Questions?
One of the elements of a highly successful sales manager is their willingness to actually coach their people not just tell their people what to do in a given situation, rather actually help their salespeople figure it out for themselves. They do this by asking appropriate questions about what they did, what they would do differently, and how they will approach an upcoming sales meeting. They cause the salespeople to use their own brains to ascend to higher levels of execution. It is far easier for a sales manager to just tell salespeople what to do, or worse, just do it for them, by joining them on all the important sales meetings, but it is far more effective to the future growth of the company if they cause the salesperson to become more independently proficient.
But even before executing as a great coach, they need to be holding their salespeople accountable to the right behaviors. If the salespeople aren’t focused on the right activities and behaviors, with the right intent, then it is hard to even know where to start coaching. Managers can coach all they want, but if the individual isn’t doing enough of the right activities, the needle won’t move. As I have said many times, there are only two reasons why salespeople fail:
- They don’t do enough of the right activities
- They aren’t very good at them when they do them.
Get the first one right, first, then focus on number two.
Focus on the Right Activities
So let’s talk about the right activities. I know many managers who keep track of every little activity. Now if you know me, I am a big proponent of what I call the Math of Success. This is the
calculation that every manager needs to go through with each salesperson to help them understand the critical activities to produce results. As a refresher, you start with the goal in mind and work backward to figure out how many opportunities one needs to find to produce that goal based on current closing ratios. Then you go one step further backward and figure out how many initial meetings or appointments it takes to produce enough opportunities to produce enough closed business. In most cases the initial meeting with the decision maker is a critical activity or “tipping point activity”. Managers need to know what those tipping point activities are for their business, and therefore, salespeople need to know it too. The tipping point activity is where the focus needs to reside.
Too many managers focus on calls, attempts, emails sent, webinars conducted, blah, blah, blah. Before long, salespeople are just checking the box on doing the activity and not focusing on the tipping point activities. Too frequently the attention is taken off of the intent and placed on the quantity of the activities. Now I have said it before and I will say it again here, we cannot control whether or not anybody buys from us. We cannot even control whether or not they will have a tipping point meeting with us. We can only control what we do each and every day. However, when the manager just imposes a quota of various activities, then the salesperson may not connect the activity with the true intent, which is to close business. I know, it sounds dumb, but trust me, many salespeople are inefficient and will just as readily go through the motions of checking the box of activities, as opposed to spending the energy on the most critical activities – those tipping point activities. Allow the salesperson to determine which activities they are going to do to produce enough tipping point activities. Hold them accountable to their action plan and ask them to adjust if it isn’t producing enough tipping point activities. Have the salesperson own their action plan to produce those first meetings and you will see a transformation in efficiency and ultimately effectiveness. It will also allow sales managers to spend more energy focused on productive coaching rather than tracking of every ticky-tack item.
So yes, managers need to hold people accountable to behaviors. But, you will see much greater success if we reduce down the number of measures to those that actually matter. Determine what those tipping point activities are and how many are needed to produce enough opportunities to reach sales goals. Then hold salespeople accountable to their action plan.