By Andy Paul
A sales manager at the helm of a sales team has the responsibility not only to manage the definition and implementation of effective sales processes but must also provide the leadership and coaching his or her sales team requires to effectively utilize the sales processes to achieve and exceed their goals. This blend of strategic and tactical skills is not easy to achieve. Sales Managers often are more comfortable with one aspect of their sales process leaving them to neglect others. That is human nature.
Being aware of the five classic pitfalls nearly all sales managers experience at one time or another will help you avoid unnecessary setbacks and smooth your path to sales growth.
1. Protecting the Status Quo
As important as a sales process is, a slavish adherence to the status quo is the first step on the road to failure. Generally, as a sales team is developing, a great deal of attention is focused on creating the structure for sales activity and sales growth. Managers make the mistake of assuming that once their sales process is in place that they can solely focus their efforts on tactical sales management. The problem is that elements of your sales process may not be a perfect match for your target market or for the individuals you have on your sales team. As a sales manager you must pay constant attention to your sales process to ensure that it is always supporting and not impeding, your sales efforts and take immediate steps to revitalize it when it has become outdated or stale.
2. Losing the Urgency
A second pitfall sales managers have to confront is losing their sense of urgency. This is not to say they become complacent. Rather they don’t act and manage with the requisite responsiveness. Prospects and customers have questions and want answers in Zero-Time in order to make informed purchase decisions in the shortest time possible. Neglecting to reinforce this urgency within your sales process and your sales team will inevitably lead to a decrease in responsiveness and, ultimately, orders. In sales, everything is urgent or needs to be. As a sales manager, if you aren’t maintaining this attitude of immediacy in all that you do, you risk failure.
3. Failing to Measure
Neglecting to establish metrics for key processes and overlooking the necessity of regularly measuring how the processes are performing is a common oversight that negatively affects sales productivity. A sales process is not an abstract concept but a discrete set of required steps to achieve a certain goal within a certain period of time. As a sales manager you must continuously measure the outcomes of your core sales processes and take the necessary steps to refine them and make them even more productive.
4. Providing Incomplete Training
Sales managers often fall into the habit of providing limited training for their sales team. They focus on isolated skills and product training to the exclusion of integrated sales training that teaches how to deploy their skills and knowledge within their sales processes to win customer orders. Sales people have to be trained on their processes as deeply as on their sales skills and product knowledge. Ignoring this training is akin to putting 11 football players on the playing field and telling them to just improvise plays and do whatever they please.
5. Swimming with Minnows
Too many sales managers keep chronically underperforming sales people onboard well past their expiration date. You don’t want to keep swimming with minnows when you need to be cruising with orcas to make your numbers. If you have salespeople who aren’t suited to sell your product or service then every minute you keep them is a minute too long. It is a myth that good salespeople can sell anything. To ensure the growth of your company, salespeople must have experience and skills that will enable them to be completely responsive to the information requirements of their prospects in Zero-Time. If they don’t, they must go. Period.
It has never been easy to be a sales manager. However, if you can avoid these common missteps then you, your team, and your company will all benefit.
Andy Paul is author of the award-winning book, Zero-Time Selling: 10 Essential Steps to Accelerate Every Company’s Sales. A sought-after speaker and business coach, Andy conducts workshops and consults with sales teams of all sizes to teach them how to use responsiveness, speed and intelligent processes to increase sales. Enjoy what you just read? Sign up for our regular digest of valuable Zero-Time Selling sales tips and strategies, “Selling with Maximum Impact.”
© Andy Paul 2013