The task of the Sales Leader is very different from traditional supervisory roles. The people being led usually are not on site; in fact many of them might be in remote locations with the Sales Leader seeing them sporadically throughout the year. Yet through all this distance or off site activity, certain behaviors are to be exhibited by sales people.
Historically, the way this task was performed was by managing the numbers ("looks like you had a good month"), reviewing monthly reports or with today's technology scoping out daily activity feedback. Once people with low numbers were discovered, the SWAT Team was sent out to solve the problems, with the prescription usually being turn up the gain on the number of calls you are making as more calls mean more sales. Sales people with good numbers were left alone and rewarded by having the manager not spend time with them as the Sales Leader's job was to fix problems in performance.
When I became a Sales Leader my mentor and coach told me: "Numbers are never a problem unless you don't have them." I later found that trying to manage numbers was like looking into a rearview mirror, the activity had already passed and there was nothing I could do to change the situation. I also found that some of my people with good numbers didn't really exhibit the behaviors that I knew it took to be successful in the long term; they simply had better territories or had a win streak based more on timing or luck. I also found myself spending an inordinate amount of time with low performers with whom I had little, if any, leverage to change their performance. Many of these reps were bad hires or hygiene people who just needed a paycheck and benefits.
Six months after floundering in my first sales management assignment my mentor had some additional feedback:
The second time I heard this advice I understood its' meaning. You will always be judged on your numbers by people who are far away from the field, but you as a manager are closer to the situation and the behaviors involved. I also understood that the only leverage with numbers I had was fear - produce or get out. If I was able to teach my people how to execute when I was not there, I had huge leverage.
Interestingly, I found with my super stars (yes, I had a few) that they were doing things differently than my mediocre performers. I mean they executed a different level of skills. I also found that many of these skills could be transferred to better than half of my other people. The rest of my sales force would probably fail or leave no matter what I did. I needed to hire better people and develop them in a more efficient manner.
Coaching is the key to guaranteeing correct skill execution, but some how this activity is perceived to be geared toward low performers. Actually, it is just the opposite.
Why leverage sales leadership? -- To develop behavior that produces consistent numbers that beat expectations.
WARNING: Sales Leaders better know what those behaviors are, because if they do not, this simply becomes another attempt that will fail…there will be no leverage! Our leadership workshops prepare field managers to instill the correct behaviors through coaching, developing and hiring based upon the business objectives set for their organization.
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