Being a sales manager or anyone who is accountable for the results of your sales team is one of the hardest jobs in the world. It requires a thorough knowledge of marketing, sales techniques, pricing and above all profit. In the end, the manager or owner is ALWAYS to blame when results are poor and never get credit for success.
Who would take this job? I thought it might be helpful to provide some advice for sales managers that I have learned in my travels.
Here is the list of the biggest mistakes that sales manager make when trying to get and maintain good or great results from their team:
MISTAKE #1: The Customer Is Always Right — This long standing myth is completely untrue. I know the customer IS important but can they always be right? A manager can overlook when their employees are right to NOT take a job from a customer when the situation is not favorable to the company.
After all, the employee is the contact with the customer and is responsible for maintaining the customer relationship. When customers learn they can bypass the employee and get what they want by going to the manager, you will lose the credibility of your pricing structure with your employees. You can’t enter every negotiation starting from the point that the customer always gets everything they want before you even begin.
Managers must back up their team first. Never cut your employee off at the knees when dealing with customers. Remember that you must go to war with this employee after the smoke clears.
MISTAKE #2 — Everyone Will Be Happy When Sales Improve — A big mistake is the belief that increasing sales will result in happier employees. Sales do not improve morale. Instead, you must improve morale to increase sales. What results is a classic “chicken or egg” situation where everyone’s waiting for things to improve, with decreasing hope that they actually will.
Your people will be happy when they believe in your company and the value that it presents to your customers. To create a happier team:
- Present a clear vision of the future of the company and of the sales team.
- Make the vision work and show the benefit to each team member.
- Create an action plan that everyone agrees with.
- Chunk it down into small achievable behaviors that create results.
- Have ownership endorse the action plan and vision or it will die.
MISTAKE #3: The First Responsibility Is To Reach Goal — Okay, the numbers are important, they never lie and they are an indication of the past. However, trying to “work” on the number as your first priority leads to favoritism, manipulation of dates and statistics and in worst case to just “cooking the books.”.
A managers first responsibility is to manage behaviors and to “workout” the sales team. Ultimately a manager cannot manage the numbers at all. The numbers are just a result of activities, strategy and behaviors that have been executed well. If your priority is on what the sales team is doing, and measuring the effectiveness of your coaching and their behaviors, each day the numbers being good will just happen and do not need your attention.
MISTAKE #4: A Minimum Quota Sets the Bar — A Quota defines the minimum performance an organization will accept to stay employed at the company. Minimum performance of a sales person should not be rewarded or congratulated. When this minimum standard is used as an acceptable goal, we are placing maximum emphasis on minimum performance. The results will be completely predictable. The misguided sales team aims at the minimum standard and seldom if ever does any better.
The minimum quota is simply what we need to achieve in order to stay in business. These low grade goals do not produce a profit and will not result in happy employees. In fact, it will lead to employees mistakenly thinking they are doing good and in turn expecting a raise when none is deserved.
MISTAKE #5: The Manager Should Have All the Answers — Why should the manager answer an employee’s question? When they do, they are hurting their sales team by denying them the opportunity to think through the problem themselves. This robs employees of the creative thought process necessary to push through difficult challenges and ultimately the opportunity to improve their mental growth. While a manager’s knowledge has value, people don’t learn when that wisdom is given too easily. Worse yet, is when unwanted advice is thrust upon a struggling performer.
The right answer to tough questions is of course to ask the right questions of your employees. The idea is to ask a question to get your team to “discover” the answer to create improvement. Great managers know the questions to ask that help employees fix themselves.
MISTAKE #6: The Heavy Hitters Make Manager’s Look Good – A Manager who point’s to their top performers success and uses this as a measure of their effectiveness are just fooling themselves. While the manager may have hired, trained and managed that top performer, the success of that person is more likely to reflect that person’s drive and ability, rather than anything the manager did.
The truth is that the worst performers define a manager’s ability. The worst performing sales person embodies what the manager will accept at a minimum. Because that poor performer remains employed, the manager is showing their tolerance of bad behavior and drive.
What’s more, the poor performer kills the enthusiasm of the rest of the team who are left to wonder what it actually takes to get fired at this company. They also know that the propping up of the poor performer is costing them money and time as they work harder to cover the manager’s tolerance of the poor performance.
MISTAKE #7: Management Is Waiting For Change – When we view the solution to anything as waiting for something to happen, we tend not to do much of anything and become paralyzed. We think mistakenly that things will eventually change if we jus have patience. The result is that the same problems keep coming up day after day, month after month, year after year, because managers are blaming trends, luck or just about anything else other than the action they will take to make something positive happen.
Good management takes action and shows leadership in tough times. To get the best from your team you must know their dreams, thoughts and goals. A great manager will apply psychology, motivation and behavioral changes needed to improve.
Managers must analyze the numbers, ask the questions and coach their team to achieve maximum success. Do yourself a favor and avoid the mistakes shown above and you will go a long way to create a happy and profitable sales team.