Patrick Stakenas, President and CEO ForceLogix, www.forcelogix.com
The strongest houses are built on the strongest foundations. No matter how well-constructed and reinforced the basement, walls and roof are, none of it will stand under stress if the foundation is weak. As well, a strong foundation will help strengthen an imperfect structure.
The role of the sales manager is probably one of the most critical roles inside a company, yet executives rarely spend the appropriate amount of time and money on them to ensure they have the proper tools, training and focus to achieve the goals that are set upon them.
Recently there has been quite a bit of banter on blogs and in articles on how senior sales leaders, mid level sales management and sales people all do not want to be measured on anything except the end result at the end of the day. All that can be said on that is who is running the asylum, the doctors or the inmates? Of course no one wants to be measured: to be measured is to be held accountable, and who wants to be held accountable?
What we are seeing at ForceLogix is a fundamental shift in thinking among senior sales leaders and probably more importantly mid level sales management. Perhaps our customers are way ahead of the curve; they understand and appreciate sales process and the importance of tracking, measuring and monitoring both the objective and subjective elements of sales. They are looking to set a benchmark from which to grow and they are focusing on their sales management to make it happen. They are practicing what the marketplace is preaching and the results are irrefutable.
It is interesting, in the 20 plus years I have spent in senior sales executive roles, the best sales managers have always understood this. They do not sell for their sales people, they do not swoop down and take credit for the sale, but just the opposite, they relish the thought of the win by the salesperson, they support, they coach, they track, they measure, they monitor, and they coach some more. Even good or OK sales managers can be great managers, as long as they are given a path from which to learn, to understand and to perform the functions that are necessary to provide the leadership necessary to build a strong team.
There are countless articles from analysts and consultants that support this fact. Tracking, measuring, monitoring and coaching will drive 15% to 30%+ productivity improvement in your B and C players, will reduce your unplanned turnover in A players significantly, and will provide you with the documentation you need to support planned turnover of chronic under-performers.
CSO Insights, Accenture, Bain, The Corporate Executive Board, Ventana, Sirius and countless others have cited the importance of getting grounded with their sales management, and companies are beginning to wake up to this.
Everyday more and more senior sales executives are coming to terms with the fact that CRM and BI tools have helped with efficiency, but it is very hard to link it back to growth and optimization of the sales talent. It is only when companies decide to truly help their sales management team with effectiveness by providing the necessary data, in a simple and easy to use format, to do their job and provide a coaching process that is consistent and easy to do, will they see the impact as cited by the many analysts and consultants.
The funny thing about getting started is that Vice Presidents of Sales and Sales Operations have the notion that their managers are uninformed or the task is too overwhelming to tackle because their data is not clean or because we don't have sound process in place so there is no place to start.
The key is to just get started and to keep it simple. Remember what we are doing here is building the foundation from which to provide the information and the process necessary to have great managers. Pick a handful of attributes that you are sure are contributors to driving revenue and be sure to include leading indicators, not solely lagging. Then add the key lagging indicators to the mix. From there, isolate the attributes and break them down so your managers can coach on them and track, measure and monitor the process.
This may sound simple, and it is. The problem is, senior sales executive get caught up in perceived roadblocks that prevent them from taking action;
· We are in the middle of rolling out a new CRM system
· We have built a process and we need time for it to settle in
· We are training or have just trained our sales team and we need to see what happens
· Our data is bad, so we cannot measure or hold them accountable
· My managers do not know how to coach
These are among the many reasons that executives succumb to no action, when in fact if they saw the light, they would realize that by applying some basic measures to each of these they would get more out of their investments, clean up the data and begin a process for their managers to learn how to truly and effectively coach.
Take action! Start by asking a few questions about each of your sales managers;
· Was the sales manager one of your top reps. who was promoted or were they the person who demonstrated the ability to lead and coach?
· Was the sales manager promoted solely on individual sales performance or because they followed and completed a leadership development plan?
· What tools and training did you provide for your sales manager before they were turned lose?
· Does the sales manager really understand the key attributes and behaviors that drive revenue?
· Are you providing the sales manager with the necessary data on drivers and lagging indicators, or are you just giving them the end of the month sales report?
Effective sales management requires a substantial amount of personal leadership that is built on sound information and coaching. You can build and even rebuild the foundation of your sales organization through taking immediate steps that provide the manager with what is necessary to lead a team to greater heights.
Throw out the past notions and institutionalized thinking, forget about the perceived reasons to not take action, make a business decision to take action and begin building the foundation for your successful management team.
The sooner you begin, the greater chance of success you will have.
Patrick Stakenas, President and CEO ForceLogix, www.forcelogix.com
The Management Curve is a blog dedicated to discussion and debate about the impact sales metrics programs such as CRM, Sales Performance Management and Sales Force Automation Programs are having and will have on how the sales function is managed. Hosted by Paul McCord, the blog also features articles and commentary by other sales trainers, consultants, product developers, and the sales managers and salespeople who actually use the products.