Advice For New Sales Managers


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A drawing of an envelope

Here’s some interesting advice for the new sales manager – another story from the Sales Front Line.

My friend Jack had been a hot shot sales professional for almost 10 years. He’d enjoyed consistent success, over achieving on his target every year. Naturally he been paid handsomely for his efforts, with commission accelerators and even year end bonuses.

Jack’s wife looked after everything at home, including the family finances. Three times they’d moved to a bigger house. Three times they chosen new kitchens. Three times they bought new cars. The kids were doing well in great schools. Everything was just peachy.

One morning Jack answered the phone, expecting another ‘phone in’ order. That happened all the time. But this time it wasn’t a customer. It was one of those headhunter people.

“Forgive me Jack” said the woman on the line “for interrupting your morning”. ” I have a client who’s noticed your success. Apparently his sales team consistently lose out to you in the field. He’d like to talk to you about a sales leadership position in his company”.

Cutting a long story short, Jack met with the headhunter and was excited, being valued so highly. He met with the client, and learned of the company’s great plans for expansion. He accepted the job as sales manager. Jack had never been interested in a leadership role until now. Having fun making money was enough. But his opportunity was too good to pass by. Getting older, and wiser, maybe it was time to move up the corporate ladder. That’s what professionals do, isn’t it.

His first morning in the new job was frenetic. A tour of the offices, a meeting with the entire C Suite, introductions all around. Jack was happy he’d made the right decision.

Sitting at his new desk, in his new office, with his new administrator seated close by, Jack spotted a hand written note attached to a brown envelope. The note said “Welcome and congratulations on the promotion”. “I know you’ll be successful, but just in case things are tougher than you expected I’ve left you some advice, in this envelope. The first quarter you miss the number, open the envelope to find my suggestion”. It was signed Your Predecessor.

Cutting the long story even shorter, thinks didn’t work out quite the way Jack expected. The sales team didn’t meet the forecast. There were all sorts of problems he could fix, but his new job hadn’t gone quite the way he’d hoped. The CEO wasn’t happy, because Jack had missed the number.

Jack opened the envelope and found a note and another brown envelope. The note said “Bad luck, blame the customers. Next time you miss the number open the brown envelope”.

The CEO didn’t like it, but accepted my friend’s explanation. He was new after all. Jack would straighten out the customers, and recover the deficit next quarter.

Things didn’t get much better in the next quarter. Jack tried everything he knew, but the sales guys hadn’t qualified their deals properly. There were problems apparently with the prices. There was even a suggestion in the market about poor customer service.

Jack’s team missed the number for the second quarter. At this point he was behind now for two quarters, and feeling kind of vulnerable. The third quarter would be better. But just to be sure, he opened the second brown envelope. In it was a note and another brown envelope. The note said “Blame your sales people, and hopefully you won’t need to, but next time you miss a number, open the brown envelope”.

In the third quarter, things went from bad to worse. It turned out the product didn’t work. Customers were buying from the competition, and the sales people weren’t trying. The job was a complete mess.

The team missed the number again. Jack felt really under pressure. The CEO was going to want a silver bullet this time. Maybe that was in the third envelope?

In desperation, Jack opened the third envelope to find another note which simply said:

“Write out three brown envelopes, and good luck with finding another job”.

And that was the end of Jack.

He’d made the understandable mistake. He’d assumed his past success in sales qualified him for sales management. He’d been seduced by the headhunter, and by the company. He’d been simply the next fall guy.

Maybe if he’d read Succeeding in Sales Management things would have turned out differently. But he didn’t.

Now he’s looking for work and hoping his old company will take him back.

Republished with author's permission from original post.

Steven Reeves
Consultant, author, software entrepreneur, business development professional, aspiring saxophonist, busy publishing insight and ideas. Boomer turned Zoomer - thirty year sales professional with experience selling everything from debt collection to outsourcing and milking machines to mainframes. Blogger at Successful Sales Management. Head cook and bottle washer at Front Office Box.


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