Sales Management: The Great Under-used, Under-rated and Under-invested Business Resource

Sales management and sales managers are one of the most under-used, under-rated and under-invested company resources. Companies (and senior management) often hope to land “killer”, A-player salespeople, instead of investing in building sales capability through effective and resourced sales management. And the main reason it’s so difficult to hire the A-Player salespeople is that there simply is not enough of them to go around. So “growing your own” is a fact of life when it comes to having very effective salespeople on your team – especially if you are an SME (SMB) company.

There is also a new pressure facing sales management. Traditionally, if you built a team of relationship-style salespeople, (roughly translated as people who got on well with anyone) even with a second league product or service, enough buyers would give you business. Today, buyers want a lot more from your salespeople, assuming they haven’t already found alternate ways to buy or solve their problems. They want to deal with experts, get sound advice and achieve faster success by using you – and they want to pay less. The type of salesperson who survives in this environment doesn’t walk in off the street or off a jobs board. They have to “produced” by the company – by sales management. Effectively, today’s sales manager is developing salespeople, who are “customised” for your business, irrespective of previous experience or talent.

The traditional perception of an “effective” sales manager is that the manager will have some magic-like effect on individual salespeople that will extract a high level of sales performance. Maybe the odd sales manager has that effect, but it’s a poor formula for delivering predictable and consistent performance, even in a small sales team.

The sales managers who are excelling in their role are increasingly adopting a more scientific, process-driven approach to building sales capability and have let go of the “born-to-sell” nonsense that has plagued the sales profession for decades.

The really effective sales manager starts with this belief: that process, tools, training, feedback and support are what build great sales teams, given some supply of capable people willing to be coached. He or she does not depend on the hope that some combination of experience, talent and “x-factor” leads to people suddenly knowing how to deliver a sales number. If you want to test this theory, the next time you are conducting a new hire sales interview, ask this type of question: how would you go about delivering a million in sales? You’ll be shocked at the answers!

Effective sales managers go to their bosses and look for proper investment in tools, systems, training and supports. Equally, they put strong forecasting and early-warning reporting systems in place and set clear expectations for each salesperson. They run a transparent weekly review routine and don’t try to extract sales performance using embarrassment or public humiliation. Above all, they value the desire for improvement and that old idea of hard work and working on the few important things that deliver sales success – like prospecting for example!

This is not to say, that for the individual sales manager, you don’t have to manage the personalities on the sales team. But managing personalities is just a a hazard of sales management; it’s not sales management.

If you’re looking for ways to accelerate sales growth in 2017, don’t overlook your investment in effective sales management and effective selling systems and practices. It’s much easier and better for your career than waiting for the magic to happen or for that “killer” salesperson to turn up!