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Where else can a person out earn his boss, or even his boss's boss? That situation alone, as you can imagine, can be unmanageable.Have you ever worked with wonderful sales managers as well as managers who drove what was a well-functioning organization into a tailspin? Let's explore various issues and aspects of the relationships between the rep and his or her manager with situation assessments and proven solutions to fix problems
Issue 1. Buffering Salesreps from Executive Pressures
The failure of the manager to buffer the rep from the pressures from the executives above is one potential obstacle preventing a good working relationship between manager and salesrep. I've seen salesreps literally driven to distraction by senior executives who micromanage, threaten, push, cajole, and overlook chain of command.
Most sales managers are caught in the danger zone between the downward pressures of senior management and the day-to-day activities of the salesrep. There are sales managers who handle this exceedingly well and others who become, in effect, transparent, allowing their reps to be the recipient of every message, concern, insult, and doubt that the senior executive is feeling at any given moment. The impact of this transparency can be dramatic. Reps can become distracted and demoralized, and even lose respect for their managers, delivering less rather than more in terms of revenue.
As an example,
I recently listened in on a weekly sales forecast review at the invitation of
the CEO of one of my client companies. It was a very critical quarter. During
the call the CEO said, "The board is expecting you to deliver your numbers
this quarter." I know the CEO to be a strong leader, very open to coaching and therefore this potential problem
required just a minor adjustment. When I pointed out what he had said--
that he was expecting the salesreps to do his job, not their job--he agreed and
promised to set things straight with the reps.
Here are some suggestions for effective sales management around this issue from the best-of-the-best sales managers and sales executives* from my client base:
The Salesrep's View
From the sales rep's perspective, here are some tips to keep your manager between you and their boss, where they belong:
Issue 2. Dealing with Underperformers
that can make or break the relationship between sales managers and their reps
is dealing with underperformers. A manager who allows a rep who
underperforms for more than two quarters to stay on as a member of the sales
team causes problems far and above those of that rep merely not delivering
The Performance Plan
When I am called in to assess a sales team, often I find that the underperforming rep doesn't have the personal traits required to get the job done. Perhaps the rep even succeeded for a while, but couldn't sustain an acceptable level of performance. In those cases there is little I or anyone else can do to make those reps sell more.
If you diagnose the problem and it is clear that there is a skills deficiency, you'll next need to create a 30-day plan for that rep to get up to speed in those areas where there are skill gaps, and to prove they are advancing deals toward a close. For example, if the rep isn't succeeding because he or she hasn't integrated your new product line into their solution portfolio (and the other reps have), work with the rep to figure out exactly how they will gain that knowledge. There has to be a metric assigned to the task. You might require them to do a product features/benefits/value presentation to you.
The other part
of the plan includes measurable progress toward winning mutually agreed upon
end of 30 days, either they reach the agreed upon goals or not. If not,
that rep needs to be redeployed into another position within or outside your
Salesreps have a responsibility to consistently achieve their targets. Managers don't want shortfalls or excuses. It puts them in an embarrassing, career-limiting situation.
It is the company's responsibility, among other things, to educate the reps on their customer's market, their products and services, and how those products or services can best be used by customers. It is the rep's job to educate themselves on general business trends, industry specific information, customer specific information, and to internalize and employ whatever is appropriate provided by their company to help them sell.
Many companies don't have an effective product marketing organization, so unfortunately all those responsibilities fall on the rep. Many reps are well-suited to figure this all out by themselves. Others are lost without specific guidance. (When you, as a rep, are looking for a job, make certain you look at the level of sales support that your prospective new employer provides. It should be a key decision criteria.)
If you are a
rep and not making your numbers, first admit to yourself that you have a
problem. Next attempt to figure out what it is. It's far better to put yourself
on a plan than to be put on one by your manager.
If you need help, go you your manager. If your manager can't help or they don't want to, it's probably time to start looking for a new job.
Dave Stein, after 25 years in sales leadership positions and delivering his own sales training and consulting worldwide, founded ES Research Inc. ESR offers independent, authoritative advice on Sales Training and Consulting and the Companies that provide it through weekly briefs, in-depth reports, online seminars and advisory services. For more information go to www.ESResearch.com or call 508.313.9585
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