Maximizing Sales Management Impact

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Sales management is one of the toughest jobs around—particularly that of the first line sales manager. Fundamentally, our job is to maximize the performance of our sales teams–both tactically and strategically. I read a post, How the VP of Sales can Inspire their Sales Team with 4 Simple Habits. It got me reflecting on how managers maximize their impact, and where managers should spend their time, not just the Vice President of Sales, but all levels of sales management.

The post offers some interesting suggestions, frankly a number of them I disagree with very strongly. Let’s start with the areas in which we are in real alignment.

The biggest impact a sales manager at any level can have is by being out with their people in front of customers. Yet too often, exactly the opposite thing happens–managers spend too much of their time internally focused. They are chained to their desks, conducting internal meetings, conducting internal reviews, spending time reporting on what’s going on. Some of this is necessary-we need to communicate to the rest of the organization, we need to get resources and support for our people, we need to get help for our customers. But too often, managers are consumed with this. They stop visiting customers, they stop visiting their people.

Being chained to the desk, being focused on reporting, staying internally focused on internal politics do not produce revenue or improve the capabilities of sales people.

Without a doubt, the number 1 and the number 1 priorities of sales managers are Customers and Your People! If the majority of your time isn’t spent in the field working with your people and visiting your customers, you are prioritizing things incorrectly. Nothing trumps spending your time here–period. A number of years ago, I was EVP of Sales for a large organization. I was scheduled to do a presentation at our Board of Directors. It was an “important” presentation. As the day approached, a critical customer situation arose. It was clear that my involvement was needed and, unfortunately, the only time available with the customer conflicted with my ability to present to the Board. The decision was easy for me–I conveyed my apologies to my boss, the CEO, and to the Board Members, saying Customers and this situation were more important. Fortunately, my boss and the board applauded that decision–and we did get the order.

So managers need to prioritize time with customers and with their people. We need to unchain ourselves from our desks and spend the majority of our time in the field. Take a moment right now and look at your calendar for the past 30 days. If you haven’t spent a minimum of 50 percent of your time in the field with your people and with customers, you’re not maximizing your impact.

Now once we’ve committed to spend our time in the field, where do we have the most impact? This is where I think the article is dead wrong. It suggests that managers spend the bulk of their time with A players and calling on their customers. I don’t want to ignore the A players, but this is not where the problems are, this is not where managers have the most impact—both in driving performance of sales people and in contributing to closing business. By definition, the A players really don’t need your help, so it’s irresponsible to focus the bulk of our time with them, unless all you want is “feel good” meetings.

Where we as managers have the greatest impact and leverage is with our B and even C players. Maximizing the performance of that huge middle range of our people—the B players has the highest return on a manager’s time. Working with them, we have so much more impact, so much greater room for helping them improve. Likewise, the impact we have working with them, on their deals, helping strengthen their competitive positioning and moving the deal through the customer’s buying cycle. (For a different perspective the value of focusing on your B players, look at what the authors of Challenger Selling have to say.)

It may be more fun hanging out with A players and their customers, but that’s not our job as sales managers. Our job is to maximize the performance of our organization. We have to invest our time where it has greatest impact, and frankly where we’re needed. By definition, it won’t be with our top performers.

This doesn’t say we ignore our C players either. Our job is to maximize performance, this includes dealing with performance problems. Coaching our C players–either getting them to be B’s or A’s, moving them into roles where they can be B’s or A’s (and that may be out of the company) is our responsibility as managers.

Whatever level of manager you are, spend your time where you have the greatest impact–it’s always with customers and sales people. Once you get out to the field, don’t hide out–head straight for the people and customers where you can bring the greatest value and impact, and where you are most needed. Don’t ignore your A players or your great customers, but they don’t really need you as much. It’s your B and C players that need you and your attention. It’s the tough customers where you can help both your people and the customers the most.

Serve your people, serve your customers, the rest takes care of itself.

Republished with author's permission from original post.

Dave Brock
Dave has spent his career developing high performance organizations. He worked in sales, marketing, and executive management capacities with IBM, Tektronix and Keithley Instruments. His consulting clients include companies in the semiconductor, aerospace, electronics, consumer products, computer, telecommunications, retailing, internet, software, professional and financial services industries.

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