The Yin Yang of Success for Front Line Sales Managers
No we are not going to present “The Book of Ease” or “The Book of Changes” for sales managers, instead we want to look at two key component of success for sales managers. Like the sun and the moon they may seem like opposites, but in the right balance and executed the right way, they could make a difficult challenge a bit easier to achieve.
Creating the right balance between the dark and light energies involved in managing a sales team requires a lot of control, the ability to adopt, evolve, yet stay centered in the constant barrage that is sales management.
To manage effectively, sales managers must embrace two fundamentals:
1. You can only manage successfully if you are managing a clearly defined sales process not the individual sales reps.
2. Understanding the conflicting nature of the Sales Manager role – The “yin” (black) and “yang” (white).
1. Managing the process: The hardest part for many sales managers to do and accept is that their primary role is to manage the sales process. Two reasons for this, first many organization lack a sales process. Even when there is one, it is not always fully and clearly defined or documented. Second, when they were promoted to sales management from front line sales, they had no pre-training or preparation for the role. They were told “you know the drill Steve, and you know the team, just do what made you successful.” In addition, their role model was their manager, who is a product of the same system.
Managing the process makes things an objective exercise rather than subjective exercise. This in turn allows you take the emotion and personality out of things. Especially where there is no process and the manager is relying on his “knowledge” of the people on the team and his “relationship” with them. When they manage the people it’s hard to address certain issues because it becomes personal. “Steve you have to do it this way; Steve you have to stop doing this; Steve you have to do more of that. This is especially true when trying to correct or change something that Steve has not recognized or is willing to deal with yet.
By focusing on the process, you can work with Steve by focusing coaching on the execution of the process. It is easier to get agreement that in order to fully execute the process things need to be done differently. Rather than the issue being Steve’s, Steve can be the one to make suggestions as to what needs to be done to execute the process successfully. So rather than the manager saying “do this, don’t do that”, you both contribute to a course of action that deals with it. Once the course of action is agreed on, you can use the same flow to establish actions, timelines and measures. All of it is done in the context of executing an agreed on sales process, none of it dealing with “Steve’s problem” or issue. Both parties gain, neither is emotionally impacted.
2. Understanding the conflicting nature of the Sales Manager role – The “yin” and “yang” (white): The other advantage to having a sales process and managing that is it allows the sales manager to lead, and more specifically, lead their teams and individual members to success.
The reality is that the sales process is made up of a series of logical steps executed in a more or less sequential fashion. That by nature brings with it rules, and rules require communication and enforcements – the Yin – The Black. Beyond the rules wrapped in the process, organizations have a number of other rules relating to the job, role, and the company. There are also recommendations, which could be optional when it comes to adoption or adherence by individual reps, but rules, process related or other, are not, they are not negotiable. Account coverage, activity levels, CRM updating, pricing discretion, and a whole bunch of things vary greatly from organization to organization.
Managers need to articulate, manage and enforce the rules, again the Yin – the Black. Many stop at that, and continue to repeat it, and then fail, and scratch their head wondering what went wrong. “I communicated everything, in fact I had Steve sign that he read his comp plan and that he will follow the sales process, so I did my job.” Well only half the job. Once the rules are laid down, that’s the easy part, you now have to take off the “manager” hat, and don your COACHING hat, your second role, the Yang – The White. It is crucial that you coach and lead your team to success, to deliver against the goals and rules.
As a coach you need to be aware of the capabilities of the individuals on your team. Measure the gap between where they are now and where they need to be to succeed. With that in place you then implement an ongoing process of continuous improvement. Working with individual reps to identify areas of improvement (arrived at in an objective not subjective fashion), and then creating action steps to change. These need not be big steps, best to start with something simple and easy for the rep to accept and do; implement time lines, short is good especially if it is a simple thing, review and then celebrate success. These steps should be 4 to 8 weeks in length. Once you have done this a couple of times you will have two things. First you’ll have implemented a culture of continuous coaching and success, reps see their interactions as opportunities to improve, earn and grow, not corrective measures. This can go on as long as the rep works for you, because you will always have challenges, you will always need growth. The other thing is that you will now have some momentum and success under your belts, so you can now get the rep to stretch without fear, and accelerate the challenge and pace without scaring or discouraging the rep.
With the above fundamentals in place you not only have a solid platform for managing and coaching; but more importantly one that scales with the circumstances, challenging or economic boom periods like we had in the late 90’s or mid part of this decade. With the backdrop of a long term strategic plan, the Yin Yang will allows the sales manager lead and shape the success of his/her team.
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