Why is it that the general counsel of a company is always a lawyer and the head of engineering is always an engineer, yet the top sales manager isn’t always a sales person? Sales is the engine that drives a company. No sales = no company.
I recently discussed this quandary with my friend Tom Hopkins, who is a sales management rock star. More than four million people have attended Tom’s lively sales seminars. He leads 30 seminars each year throughout the United States and many foreign countries. More than 35,000 corporations and millions of professional salespeople use his sales training materials daily. He’s also the author of 17 books, including the sales classic, “How to Master the Art of Selling.”
Tom hit hard on these areas of improvement for sales managers:
Preplan sales meetings. Too many sales managers just show up and go through the motions. Tom led the country’s top Coldwell Banker real estate office, and he constantly had an agenda to pass out so sales reps knew exactly what would be covered. He always had some exciting new things because “You have to really sell salespeople on selling each and every meeting.”
Catch people doing something right and praise them. At every sales meeting Tom recognized people who were doing something right. He would try to praise 25 percent of the attendees at every meeting.
Serve as a role model. “Sales managers need to be a shining example of what they want their salespeople to be like,” Tom said. “They need to be truly respected as human beings – the way they live, their honesty, integrity and work ethic. Sales managers need to work harder on themselves than they do on the job of management to become the type of person that their salespeople want to become.”
Emphasize time management. Tom said: “Sales managers need to work harder on time planning and organization than most people do. We all have 86,400 seconds in a day. No one has any more or any less. The most successful sales managers are eloquent time planners.”
Strive to motivate and train people. Tom told me that the biggest mistake sales managers make is to not get their sales people productive fast enough. He stressed the need for up-to-date training and having a top-notch library in the office.
For example, Tom said when he was in management, he would give a favorite sales book to each new hire with a two-week assignment to highlight the best ideas on each page. On the last page he wrote that he would treat the person to a nice lunch. Then after two weeks, he would call them into his office and ask if they finished the book. If they said, “Oh, yeah. I finished it all,” and they didn’t mention the lunch, then Tom knew his new hire had a character flaw.
I also use books for training, asking reps to share their insights with the rest of the staff. And when we send our sales people to conventions, their assignment is to come back and teach everyone about the concepts at our next sales meeting.
Fire unproductive sales reps. “A good sales manager can’t be afraid to change their people if they can’t change their people,” Tom said. “If you can’t change a person after a 90-day period to where they get their attitude back and are productive, then you have to make a change. Too many sales managers just don’t want to rock the boat.”
I always say, it’s not the people you fire who make your life miserable; it’s the people you don’t fire who make your life miserable.
Tom added: “If you are not periodically bringing in good, highly enthusiastic new people as needed, your office will plateau as to productivity, which is not what any company wants.”
Be proactive. Tom told me that following a recession, too many companies wait until things are much better before they really get active and go out and take advantage of the market. The top companies start gearing up their sales activities before the cycle turns, so they’re ahead of the competition.
Tom said: “When the economy is coming back, the story sales people should be telling their customers is that all indicators by major economists are showing that your market is not only picking up, but it’s getting hot. And we want your company to be ahead of your competition.”
Mackay’s Moral: A great sales manager sells his staff on the importance of managing their sales skills.