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As a sales manager, are you in the “do as I say” mode?

I recently met with a sales manager who said, “I don’t want to baby sit and hold hands. I need my people to be independent and stand on their own two feet.”

It’s a great theory and it certainly takes the responsibility off the manager’s shoulders. Does it however, help the salespeople get to their goals? You absolutely want independent self-starters on your team, but the sales manager must have a daily leading contribution.

You’ve got to inspect, not expect. Management is leadership and leadership is not defined by position, it’s about what you do to make your people successful.

What is expected of you as the sales manager? At the very least, in should include working with the sales team on a continuing and consistent basis to communicate the expectations and working to make it so.

When managers talk about accountability they usually mean someone else’s. The key companies I work with have managers who take charge of their own. It’s not productive or motivating to set standards that you don’t intend to implement or ensure are being practiced. In fact it’s a huge waste of time and eventually no one takes anything you say, or try to implement, seriously. Everything becomes a joke. “Oh yeah, the manager’s on a rampage this week but that’ll go away.”

When you put a program or policy in place, that’s only the beginning of the process. You have to explain how it will affect the productivity of both the company and the individual. You must have a time and process for inspecting the progress and to give feedback.

For instance, is planning a priority? How does that importance manifest itself in what happens and in the accountability? We all agree planning is the key to success and we can determine that it’s a must to prospect and cold call. The manager is accountable for working with the salesperson to ensure they know how to do it effectively before they contact a prospect.

It’s the involvement of the sales manager that will either make or break the plan. Simply saying “do it” and expecting it to happen won’t get the desired results. We should not assume they can and will execute the techniques effectively or communicate the information correctly.

This is where the sales manager takes on one of their key roles: that of a coach. Try role-playing the technique. Typically no one wants to do this but if they can’t do it in front of their peers it’s unlikely they will do it in a competitive situation. It’s imperative the sales manager do it first. It’s the leader’s role. It’s about being prepared and being one step ahead of the competition.

Managers must motivate, mentor, coach and nurture the process. Cold calling is a high rejection activity. It is incumbent on the role of the sales manager to arm the salesperson with techniques that will make the process less threatening and as productive as possible.

You might note that cold calling is a function of the job and when people say ‘no’ to the salesperson, it’s not personal. If you have the right introduction and approach you will take the ‘sting’ out of the prospecting process and your sales people will soon learn to say: “some do, some don’t and move on.”

The sales manager must also hold the salesperson accountable. The up front plan will commit the salesperson to making not only a number of calls within a predetermined period of time (daily, weekly) but should also inspect the list of specific prospects to be called on. The inspection process will confirm what was accomplished.

The winners are not only the ones with the sales but those who made the calls and planted seeds for future harvest. Encouraging the behavior of making the calls within a proven system, regardless of the results is extremely important. It will ensure they do it again. The manager can always help develop the skills and make them more effective through scripting, role-playing and coaching but making the calls must be praised for continued behavior.

The biggest single resource we have as sales managers is our time. If you are constantly putting out fires, you may be working on the wrong end of the problem. Managing and leading a sales force takes total dedication to enhancing techniques that work, encouraging positive attitudes and encouraging superior behavior. If you were held accountable for this, how would you do?

The paradigm of the sales manager is changing rapidly. Many are back on the street with bag in hand which is giving them empathy for what their salespeople are dealing with. The fact is, it is more competitive and there are 40 other salespeople out selling a product or service that is very much the same as yours.

Most sales people all look, act and sound the same. The organization that is determined to be different in their approach and one step ahead of the pack will have an advantage but it will take some dedicated efforts to achieve this.

Leading your team to victory is within your grasp. What must YOU do to make it happen?

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