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October 2, 2009
Sales Managers

I have a confession to make...although I’m a fairly decent sales person...I am a horrible sales manager...there I said it!!

Sales is a very difficult profession.  In my case, sales management is even more difficult to master...especially for a sales person...

A very good friend of mine is Jack Daly.  Like myself, Jack is a serial entrepreneur.  He has build several Inc. 500 companies and sold them off over time.  For the last 14 years, Jack has turned his attention away from running a large scale business to become a sales trainer, world renown speaker, and business coach.  I’ve heard Jack speak several times and I am totally blown away with the understanding that he has of sales and sales management.

Those who know me, consider me a very good sales person...I try to do all the things necessary to find new customers, uncover those customers’ needs and create solutions to fulfill those needs in a timely, professional and cost effective manner.

I’ve been relatively successful in sales ever since I was 6 years old.  While still in the first grade, I remember winning an award for selling the most candy, door-to-door, in the entire school.  Some 40 years later, I continue to peddle my wares...although I’m not nearly as cute as I was when I was six...

In order to grow a business, a company needs sales.    Sales people drive sales in almost all organizations.  In the 20 or so years that I have been an entrepreneur, I have hired approximately 40 field sales people to drive sales.  All but one of these field sales people have been summarily let go because they were unable to sell our products effectively.  Was this due to their skills or my lack of sales management?...Personally, I think it was mostly due to the the latter...bad sales management by me.

So what did I go wrong?  Were they bad hires to begin with?  Were they mismanaged?  Were they lazy?  Did they forget how to sell?

I was recently discussing my dilemma with my friend Jack not too long ago...he summed it up best when he explained to me that...The job of a sales manager is NOT to create and grow SALES but rather to create and grow SALES PEOPLE...

I was somewhat defensive at first..."but wait...ultimately the sales manager IS responsible for sales" I retorted. 

Jack explained the idea to me in a way I finally understood...

"Jim, you’re a very good sales person but you are not allowing your sales people to grow.  When you work with your sales people, it is your very nature to take over the sales process...this means the sales person never learns for themselves how to do anything."

According Jack, here’s a brief list of some of the things that an effective sales manager MUST NEVER do:

  • Prospect for new customers
  • Set and organize sales appointments
  • Bring literature or other materials to the sales call
  • Talk very much (if at all) during the sales call
  • Try to "take-over" the sales call
  • Never try to "close" the deal
  • Debrief with the salesperson after each sales call

Now here’s a brief list of some of the things an effective  sales manager MUST ALWAYS do:
  • Create VERY clear and understandable goals, expectations. and objectives for all daily, weekly, and monthly sales person duties.
  • Require daily, weekly and monthly reporting from each sales people as to what they are doing.at all times
  • Set aside time (at least 8 hours per week) to train sales people on your products, services, organization and sales techniques.
  • Visit prospects, customers and clients with your sales people and observe the sales people in action...rarely talking during the sales call.
  • Debrief at the end of the day only, when making sales calls with the sales person.  Discuss no more than two areas of improvement by the sales person.  Remember to stress the positive things accomplished during the sales calls as well.

The sales manager should be constantly evaluating each sales person on their ability to growth and develop their skills and sales not necessarily based on their current sales performance but rather on the prospects for further growth.. 

Being a great sales manager requires a completely different skill set than being a great sales person.  It’s a shame that so many quality sale people get promoted to a sales management position that they are so very unqualified to hold.  Perhaps it’s the "manager" title that is the lure to most people. 

I have since stopped trying to be someone I’m not so now I leave the sales management to more qualified people in our organization.  I am very happy being a quality sales person rather than a mediocre sales manager.

Thank you very much for supporting OptiFuse as we attempt to help businesses run better...

Jim Kalb

PS:  to learn more about Jack Daly and his outstanding talents, please click here.  There’s a lot of cool free stuff that can be found on his website to help sales people and sales managers alike

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