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Sales Strategy
May 4, 2012 | Colleen Stanley lock

It’s the second quarter of the year and revenues are running behind.  Sure, it’s easy to point the finger and blame poor results on the sales team.   But take an objective step back and ask the question.  Is it you, the sales manager, or your sales team that is falling short?  There is an old saying, “The pace of the leader is the pace of the pack.”  What kind of sales leader are you and where could you improve in order to create more sustainable and predictable revenues.  

Here are three areas to examine your leadership skills and how they might be affecting sales results.  

Are you…

…recruiting ‘A’ sales players? 
The first question we ask prospects is:  “Do you have the right people on the sales bus?”  If you want to make your life easier and more profitable, examine your hiring practices.   This is not a new idea or concept.  So why do so many sales managers settle for ‘B’ players, not ‘A’?  There are two basic mistakes made in hiring and recruiting sales professionals.   

  • Sales manager recruits only if there is an open territory. 
    This is the kiss of death because an open territory means there is an unmet quota hanging over your head and a CEO breathing down your neck.  Desperation sets in and all the sales frogs you interview are not starting to look like sales princes.   Practice what you preach to your sales team---prospecting is a process, not an event.  As a sales manager, your prospecting activity is now prospecting for top sales professionals, not deals.  Make recruiting a continuous process, not an event, at your sales organization.  Interview candidates each month, even if you are not actively looking.   The wise sales manager follows the best practices of top athletic coaches:  He builds a sales bench before it is needed.  
  • No formalized hiring process.  
    When you look back on a bad hire, you’ve probably said something like, “He just didn’t fit into our culture.  She had a bad attitude.  He didn’t have a work ethic.”  Bad hires often happen because the sales professional’s values don’t align with the company’s core values.  So how many questions do you ask during your interview process that uncover whether this candidate fits into your company culture?  For example, if teamwork is a core value at your company, weed out the lone rangers by asking these questions.  “Tell me about a time when you helped a colleague close a piece of business?  Give me an example of how you’ve worked with other departments to solve a customer service issue.”  Interview for soft skills as well as hard selling skills.      

…leading by example? 
In Daniel Goleman’s book, ‘Emotional Intelligence,’ he notes that empathy is a fundamental people skill for sales and management.  Empathy is the ability to read people and understand where they are coming from.  It is the ability to identify a change in tonality, an irritated gesture and other non-verbal cues.   One of the things I have noticed in this age of technology is that people are not present in conversations or meetings.  For example, the sales manager holds the weekly sales meeting.  She is there physically but not mentally.  She looks like a fishing line with her head bobbing up and down, trying to maintain eye contact with the sales team while checking email.   

The sales team observes this behavior and models it in their daily business life.  At networking events, they check their electronics while talking to a potential referral partner.  (Now that’s a real plus for building a relationship and making people feel important!)  Or they have their smart phone on “vibrate” during a sales call.  When a new message comes in, they break eye contact with the prospect and check their phone telling the prospect that the incoming message is more important than the current meeting.  Lead by example and teach your sales team to be present.  Focus is the new selling and leadership skill needed in today’s high-tech business environment.  

…naming the game? 
Political correctness exists everywhere.  In an attempt to gain everyone’s approval, people rename things to soften the impact of the behavior observed.  I’ve heard more than one sales manager complain that sales professionals “fudge” on the data they are entering into the CRM tool.  Call fudging what it is:   Lying.  Others give the excuse that a sales professional isn’t learning new selling skills because she is so busy.  No, she is uncommitted and chooses to be average.  Start naming things for what they are and you will see a dramatic shift in behavior. 

One of our sales managers shares this truth-telling conversation that changed behavior from one of his direct reports.  The sales professional was always late to meetings with a variety of excuses.  The sales manager stopped the excuses and told him that the next time he was late to a meeting, he needed to share one of two reasons with the group for his tardiness.  He was arrogant and felt his schedule was more important than the others in the room, or he simply didn’t care about keeping others waiting.  The sales professional started showing up on time to meetings because the manager named the game.  

The pace of the leader is the pace of the pack.  Recruit ‘A’ players, lead by example, and name the game.  You will enjoy sustainable and predictable sales results. 

About the Author:
Colleen Stanley is president of SalesLeadership, Inc., a business development firm specializing in sales and sales management training. Colleen is a monthly columnist for Business Journals across the country, author of 'Growing Great Sales Teams' and co-author of 'Motivational Selling.'  Her new book, ‘Emotional Intelligence and Sales Success’ will be released in fall of 2012.  

Disclaimer: The views and opinions expressed in this article are strictly those of the author. CPSA does not endorse any of the companies, products and services mentioned within this article.

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