Sales and Sales Management Blog

August 3, 2009

Boost Your Sales: “Managing in a Changing Sales Environment,” by Tibor Shanto

Filed under: management,sales,Sales Management,selling — Paul McCord @ 6:56 am
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Managing in a Changing Sales Environment
by Tibor Shanto

Managing a sales team is a handful and a challenge at the best of times. These challenges are amplified and accentuated in rapidly changing times; changes in client demand and expectations, the economy, resources and other factors just contribute to the scale of the challenge. This is not to say that things become impossible and you just make due or surrender; on the contrary you adopt and evolve your management skills to meet the times and stay ahead of the wave.

First to keep in mind is that changing times do not necessarily demand wholesale changes in approach or process. Yes one needs to adopt, evolve, but at the core a valid and solid approach to managing should be as good in challenging times as it is in “normal?” times; let’s face it when was there not a challenge or three to deal with in sales?

Let’s look at the fundamentals of what I believe make for an effective and versatile sales management approach. For me it is built on two fundamentals (in no particular order): 

  1. Managing the process not the individuals.
  2. Understanding the nature of the Sales Manager role.

1.  Managing the process: The hardest part for many sales managers to do and accept is that their primary role is to manage the sales process. Two reasons for this, first many organization lack a sales process. Even when there is one, it is not always fully and clearly defined or documented.  Second, when they were promoted to sales management from front line sales, they had no pre-training or preparation for the role. They were told “you know the drill Steve, and you know the team, just do what made you successful.”  In addition, their role model was their manager, who is a product of the same system.

Managing the process makes things an objective exercise rather than subjective exercise.  This in turn allows you take the emotion and personality out of things.  Especially where there is no process and the manager is relying on his “knowledge” of the people on the team and his “relationship” with them.  When they manage the people it’s hard to address certain issues because it becomes personal.  “Steve you have to do it this way; Steve you have to stop doing this; Steve you have to do more of that.  This is especially true when trying to correct or change something that Steve has not recognized or is willing to deal with yet.

By focusing on the process, you can work with Steve by focusing coaching on the execution of the process.  It is easier to get agreement that in order to fully execute the process things need to be done differently.  Rather than the issue being Steve’s, Steve can be the one to make suggestions as to what needs to be done to execute the process successfully.  So rather than the manager saying “do this, don’t do that”, you both contribute to a course of action that deals with it.  Once the course of action is agreed on, you can use the same flow to establish actions, timelines and measures.  All of it is done in the context of executing an agreed on sales process, none of it dealing with “Steve’s problem” or issue.  Both parties gain, neither is emotionally impacted.

2.   Understanding the nature of the Sales Manager role:  The other advantage to having a process and managing that is it allows the sales manager to lead, and more specifically, lead their teams and individual members to success.

The reality is that the sales process is made up of a series of logical steps executed in a more or less sequential fashion.  That by nature brings with it rules, and rules require communication and enforcements.  Beyond the rule wrapped in the process, organizations have a number of other rules relating to the job, role, and the company.  There are also recommendations, which could be optional when it comes to adoption or adherence by individual reps, but rules, process related or other, are not, they are not negotiable.  Account coverage, activity levels, CRM updating, pricing discretion, and a whole bunch of things vary greatly from organization to organization.

What managers need to understand is that they have a dual role.  The first role is to manage the rules, processes and the things described above.  Many stop at that, and continue to repeat it, and then fail, and scratch their head wondering what went wrong.  “I communicated everything, in fact I had Steve sign that he read his comp plan and that he will follow the sales process, so I did my job.”  Well only half the job.  Once the rules are laid down, that’s the easy part, you now have to take off the “manager” hat, and don your COACHING hat, your second role.  It is crucial that you coach and lead your team to success, to deliver against the goals and rules. 

As a coach you need to be aware of the capabilities of the individuals on your team.  Measure the gap between where they are now and where they need to be to succeed.  With that in place you then implement an ongoing process of continuous improvement.  Working with individual reps to identify areas of improvement (arrived at in an objective not subjective fashion), and then creating action steps to change.  These need not be big steps, best to start with something simple and easy for the rep to accept and do; implement time lines, short is good especially if it is a simple thing, review and then celebrate success.  These steps should be 4 to 8 weeks in length.  Once you have done this a couple of times you will have two things.  First you’ll have implemented a culture of continuous coaching and success, reps see their interactions as opportunities to improve, earn and grow, not corrective measures.  This can go on as long as the rep works for you, because you will always have challenges, you will always need growth.  The other thing is that you will now have some momentum and success under your belts, so you can now get the rep to stretch without fear, and accelerate the challenge and pace without scaring or discouraging the rep.

With the above fundamentals in place you not only have a solid platform for managing and coaching; but more importantly one that scales with the circumstances, challenging or economic boom periods like we had in the late 90’s or mid part of this decade. With the backdrop of a long term strategic plan, you are dealing with the here and now, no matter what it’s like outside.

Tibor Shanto brings over 20 years of sales experience to Renbor Sales Solutions Inc., from telemarketing to leading a global sales team focused on providing top end solutions. Tibor has helped to improve performance for sales professionals in a wide variety of fields, from financial services to on-line B2B specialists.



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  3. As an ex-sales manager, part-time salesperson, and a permanent “Steve” I take great offense at…


    Good article.

    Will be providing a sales management role to a current client shortly – even with reasonable experience, this concise article has help clear blurry lines, which in turn has me thinking about not just project 1, but 2 & 3 as well.

    Great thoughts (again) Tibor!

    Comment by Steve Bent — August 4, 2009 @ 9:59 am | Reply

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