Dear Sales Manager,
I get it. These are very tough jobs, and they’re not likely to get easier in the future.
That’s your opportunity. The great sales managers of today will likely be the leaders of our industry in the next 15 years. So, if you’re a sales manager, this is your chance. Cream does rise to the top. Today’s great sales managers will have almost unlimited opportunities.
How do you seize this opportunity for your career? It starts by taking responsibility for yourself. If you’re blaming bosses, corporate or the market for your situation, you’ll start behaving like a victim. That never fixes anything because there are things YOU can do to make your station and your billing better.
That effort starts by putting the best team on the field. You’ll never take the hill with people hanging onto your leg. Identify your underperformers and have a plan to fix them or lose them by a certain date. The AE on your team to whom you’d give a C- grade today will probably be graded a D- in 3 years, as the business gets harder. You’ll never get where you need to go with an average team. For sales managers, this is critical.
To make that work, you have to always be recruiting. Every week. No exceptions. That’s what great leaders do. At our recent Sales Manager’s High Performance Boot Camp, we talked about the hiring mistakes we make when we wait until we have an opening to start looking. That’s a mistake that star sales managers seldom make. Take out your smartphone calendar and schedule one hour per week for recruiting. Then make it a recurring event on your calendar. This is so critical. Twenty years ago, everyone wanted to work in TV. Today, we have to work to find better people. Twenty years ago, few had non-competes. I could steal great people, almost at will, when we had an opening. Now, making this a schedule priority is essential to win the most important fight for any sales manager… getting a great team on the streets. Since the quality of your team is so important, recruiting has to be Job #1.
After you start getting a great team together, make sure you’re mindful of your culture. Peter Drucker said, “Culture eats strategy for breakfast.” It’s essential today to create a place where the best people in the market LOVE to work. We spent a fair amount of time on this at Boot Camp. Seventy percent of your team are in the same personality quadrant (Expressives or Socializers). The things that motivate them are… applause, excitement, and FUN. Great sales managers marry RIGID accountability with a ton of applause, excitement, and fun. Determine how you can build that into your sales meetings and the atmosphere in your department. Having more fun and more applause meets their needs, and if you provide that, it increases the odds they’ll meet yours.
Speaking of accountability… one mistake we see a lot is sales managers making every single thing important. That’s a prescription for disaster. Whether or not we sell the “Taste of Our Town” promotion won’t likely determine our success for the year. When everything is important, nothing is important.
Most of us have 4-5 big fights we must win to be successful:
• We must have a hugely effective new business effort
• We should have an annual effort to UPGRADE existing accounts
• We must maximize the tent pole opportunities like Olympics, Football, Super Bowl
• Exceeding digital budgets is a must
Prioritize everything around those fights. Take a step back and look at how you organize your year to maximize your efforts. Don’t let the year just happen to you.
And finally, get out with customers. The best sales managers spend one morning per week coaching and observing an AE on their team. (Not taking over the call, even when you think they’re blowing it.) That’s one way to be out on the street. Besides that, we also need managers at all levels to be deeply engaged with clients—asking in meeting after meeting, “What else can we do to help you?”
And one final thought. Never forget that energy creates energy. As my friend, the late Keith Harrell, said, “You can’t jump a dead battery with a dead battery.” So, be mindful of how much energy and enthusiasm you bring to work every day.
A short letter to my sales manager friends. Probably not even a full list—I’m sure we could add a lot more. But I’m pretty sure if you did the things on this list and then did them again, you’d have a strong shot at being successful. Lather, rinse, repeat.
Our industry really needs great sales leaders right now. Like many things in life, the difference between average and great really isn’t all that much. Great leaders just execute at a slightly higher level and do it consistently. Or, more consistently anyway.
Want to be a great sales manager? I salute you for that. I promise you that while it’s a hard job, it will also be one of the most rewarding ones you’ll ever have.
I wish you all the best.
With deep respect,
Have a GSM or GM meeting in your future? Why not have Jim Doyle or John Hannon speak to your meeting about how to turn your sales staff into a Sales Force? We promise powerful, thought-provoking content customized to your company’s needs. Contact Jim Doyle at firstname.lastname@example.org or call 941-926-SELL.