Rx: Start with Sales Management
The news is overflowing
with stories of failing businesses. A nearly 100-year-old company
has decided to close its doors. The current owners, fourth
generation brothers, blame “the economy.” However, their great
grandfather survived the crash of ’29 and the Great Depression.
Their grandfather survived ups and downs of the post-war era. And
dad survived the craziness of the ’60s. But, they decide to give
There is no question that
today’s economic times are tough. But why quit now? It may be that
business during the last eight to 10 years was just “too easy.”
For business owners who aren’t ready to throw in the towel,
it’s not too late to make necessary changes that will lead to
recession survival, and perhaps growth.
When times get tough, the
first place to seek answers is within the sales team. When looking
at the sales force, start at the management level. Begin by asking
yourself three questions, and then consider the methodology behind
Question #1: Is the Sales
Manager managing the sales force aggressively?
Having an aggressive
sales manager is important because aggressive, smart leadership
motivates and inspires sales people in tough times.
If your sales manager has not been acknowledged as a really
aggressive personality who manages every element related to the
sales force, how can your business survive in this tough
The first step to
aggressive management is to itemize what needs to be managed; this
can be done in a variety of ways. Planning sales calls and travel
are a good starting point. Sales people need to be highly organized
before, during and after the sales call. In a tough economy, there
is a real premium on efficiency. Whether you have your own people
or reps, your sales manager must impact the way your field
salespeople work with customers; every face-to-face opportunity must
be as effective as possible. In most cases, call reports are more
fiction than fact. The key is to get your salespeople to create a
“Call Guide” to organize, drive and support their sales efforts.
Question #2: Is the sales manager
working with a well-developed sales and marketing plan to drive his
team's efforts into "crash mode"?
Moving into “crash mode” is the first step to surviving the
recession, and the key here is to identify ways to find and close
business quickly and effectively. Organization is critical. When
you are in “crash mode,” every detail must be spelled out in
writing; therefore, a written marketing and sales plan is vital.
Without a well-conceived and well-supported plan, the sales force is
working with one hand tied behind their backs. And remember,
effective marketing eliminates excuses by sales people.
The sales manager should
create a “book” for every territory. The salespeople cannot be left
to do it on their own. The sales manager must proactively drive the
development of individual customer plans to achieve the sales
goals. Salespeople have to be trained to use their sales tools.
Are your sales tools
really the best they can be? Have you looked objectively at the
image your materials present to current and prospective customers?
Does your company stand out above the competition? Do you really
know? When was the last time you did an objective study of your
company and brand awareness?
Benchmark now for future
growth and success.
We have been through very
prosperous, high-growth times. In good times, it is too easy to
overestimate the strength of our marketing, sales planning and
programs. Now, times are much tougher and marketing and sales
success is much more difficult to come by.
Top management and
in-the-trenches marketing and sales management need benchmarks.
However, most small and mid-size companies cannot afford big,
sophisticated, expensive studies. The good news is that these big,
expensive and slow-to-obtain studies are useless, and simple, fast,
benchmark analysis is available.
A simple survey conducted
by your own sales force can reveal vital information. But even
better, a survey done by a professional interviewing company by
phone or in person will reveal even more.
Get your information from
the people who count.
In most businesses the
number of customers who actually make a difference is very small.
If you have 20 sales territories, there are probably fewer than 20
customers in each territory who contribute the bulk of that
territory’s sales. Why not survey the top five in each territory?
You will be surprised how much you learn and how fast.
Question #3: Would you bet your
life on your sales manager? (You are!)
manager is often times your point person for recession survival, so
it’s important you trust them with your life – and your income! Now
is the time to review the sales manager's performance, in writing
and in-depth. This is not an exercise tied to a compensation review;
in fact, compensation should not be a part of this review at all.
This review is about your
company’s future. In times like these, the company is carried on
the backs of the sales personnel. The person who manages, drives
and controls the producers must be up to the task. The best way to
assure that he or she is with you through thick and thin is to
analyze skills, organization and results now and every 30 days from
This may sound like
micro-management, and to be honest, it is! Salespeople hate
paperwork. Salespeople hate accountability. Salespeople hate to be
criticized. Salespeople hate to be managed. Micro management is the
only way to guarantee your company’s success.
To succeed you have to
manage, manage, manage!
If you are a leader of
your company, the Rx to survive the recession is to get yourself
into the middle of the sales and marketing situation now, and stay
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