Sunday, December 21, 2008

Is Anyone Really Managing Sales In Your Organization

Writen by Bill Lee

Or, are your salespeople pretty much on their own to meet the company's sales and gross margin objectives?

In too many companies I observe, salespeople are hired, thrown to the wolves and pretty much left to their own devices to "make it or break it." When you think about it, this is a pretty nonchalant sales management philosophy, especially in relatively slow periods when your company really needs more business.

Sales is no different than inventory and accounts receivable in that someone must manage sales; that is, if you expect to achieve optimal results. Otherwise, the odds are really high that --- as a group --- the company's salespeople are not going to achieve their full potential. Salespeople are no different than any other employees, you probably have some salespeople who really don't need a lot of hands-on management, but then there are several others that will most certainly not make the cut in the absence of the guiding and nurturing influence of a committed manager.

Wouldn't it be nice if all salespeople did their homework before a prospect call, followed up on all of their customer commitments, planned their week's work, made effective use of their time, sold all product categories and were skilled at deflecting price objections from hard-bargaining customers? Only in our dreams are all salespeople this mature and disciplined, but most likely not in the real world.

So let's agree that salespeople stand a better chance of realizing their full potential when they are lucky enough to have a manager who systematically works with them on a scheduled basis. But how does a busy manager pull this off?

The secret is to schedule Monthly One on One Meetings with each salesperson. These monthly meetings are without a doubt the most effective sales management tools I have ever discovered. The following are a few of the items that are included on the agenda in these one on one monthly meetings:

• Managers follow up on commitments the salesperson made in the last monthly meeting.
• Coaching.
• Setting goals for the upcoming month.
• Corrective feedback.
• Positive feedback.
• Training.
• Developing strategies to accomplish specific goals.
• Prospective customer review and discussion of the next step.

Group sales meetings certainly have their place in every organization for information sharing, education, getting feedback from the sales force, discussing market conditions, etc., but group meetings severely limit the manager's ability to address individual issues that must be addressed with individual salespeople.

Here are some of the questions I find to be useful in one on one meetings:

• What do you believe is preventing you from covering your draw?
• What are the top three obstacles you are having the most difficulty overcoming?
• If these three obstacles that you have identified were to go away, expressed in dollars, how much do you believe your sales would improve?
• What are the key strengths you believe our company has to offer your customer base?
• In what areas do you believe our competitors have the upper hand?
• What are your income goals for 2007?
• What sales and gross profit will you need to produce in 2007 to achieve your income goals?

The answers your salespeople give you in response to each of these questions will open your eyes and give you the insight you're looking for to determine what is standing between each member of the sales force and a higher level of success.

Document Each Meeting: I recommend keeping good notes from each one on one meeting in a spiral binder that you keep in each salesperson's file. THE MOST CRITICAL KEY to success in management is following up, and perhaps just as important: that each salesperson knows that you will follow up.

When you and your salespeople agree on a particular course of action, jot down enough notes to remind you of each commitment so you are in a position to follow up at the next one on one meeting. Some managers call this holding their salespeople's feet to the fire, but I call it a Basic Management Principle: Effective Managers Inspect What They Expect.

If you want to see your sales organization become more professional and more productive, implement one on one meetings with each salesperson immediately.

Bill Lee is author of 30 Ways Managers Shoot Themselves in the Foot ($21.95) and Gross Margin: 26 Factors Affecting Your Bottom Line ($29.95) Plus $6 S&H for the first book and $1 S&H for each additional book. To order, See Shopping Cart at

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