Psst! Want to know the secret to successful sales management? After 20 years of coaching, training and interacting with more than 100,000 sales executives or managers worldwide, William Brooks can tell you. Brooks, founder of The Brooks Group and author of The New Science of Selling and Persuasion (John Wiley & Sons, 2004), says his dealings with sales professionals have helped him identify a set of universal sales management truths that transcend product, price and geography. Here are four of the most fundamental truths he has observed in successful sales managers.
1. Invest your time where it counts. Too many managers spend most of their time on issues created by subpar performers, such as calming upset customers, traveling to assist failed sales efforts and correcting errors, says Brooks. Instead, successful managers invest their time with the top performing salespeople and those who hold the greatest potential for superior performance. When one organization decided its managers would invest 80% of their time with the top performers, the results were startling: Managers became invigorated working with upbeat people who appreciated their time and expertise, good salespeople became great, average ones got better and sales improved.
2. You can’t lead a sales organization from behind a desk. Sure, it’s easier to stay in the office, but reps won’t get any better unless they are observed, coached, corrected and managed in the field. Any information a manager receives without going into the field is just secondhand information. It is not experiential evidence.
3. To be a top manager you need the skill to judge talent and place the right people in the right place. Top managers, says Brooks, have a process for determining someone’s potential that is well conceived, finely developed, in-depth and carefully orchestrated. These managers consider everything, including a person’s performance over time, psychological components, skills, attitude, manners, character, experience related to previous sales results in their category of sales and more. Ultimately, he says, it’s about how people fit with the job and how well they are managed and coached.
4. Performance counts, but it is accountability that really pays. Successful managers create a culture that says people must be willing and freely accepting of the premise that they alone are answerable for their own successes and failures. Finger pointing and shifting blame to someone else is not allowed.