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Is Your Sales Manager Asleep At The Wheel?

With 2012 off and running, many small businesses are looking to make their return on investment (ROI) more productive than the last 12 months. In the event your company’s sales are lagging behind where they should be, it never hurts to stop and look at the head of sales and see if he or she is properly managing the team.

First let it be known, no one is out to criticize the head of sales; just help them to be more productive, not only for individual benefit, but also the team.

If your company feels like sales needs a little kick in the pants, here are some things to consider:

  • Just don’t plan meetings, execute them – It is easy to get together for sales meetings once or several times a week. Stop and think, however, is anything truly getting done with them? It isn’t how many meetings you have, but what gets done at them that matters most;
  • Encourage participation – We have all sat through countless meetings (sales or not) and seen the active and the inactive. The active are doers who participate and make suggestions as to how to improve the bottom line. The inactive, on the other hand, will often just show up, take in the information, and then move on to the next thing. That is not to say all quiet people at meetings are not good workers, but participation is certainly a step in the right direction;
  • Use time wisely – One issue that meetings bring up is they can be too long, leading to people tuning out after a while. As the sales manager, make your meetings timely and productive. Don’t go on and on with long-winded speeches and presentations. Get in and get out so that your sales team accomplishes something and doesn’t feel like they just sat through traffic school;
  • Make the meetings fun – One way to get more out of your sales team is to challenge them. If you have a half-dozen or more on your team, break the group up and have a competition from time to time, with the winning team being rewarded. Not only does this get your sales team to employ their thinking and sales skills, but it gives them incentive to be productive at the meeting. Any worker who tells you that incentives are not of interest to them is more than likely lying;
  • Don’t be a numbers freakYes, we all know the bottom line is the company’s return on investment (ROI). That being said, sales managers can go overboard with hammering home numbers, numbers, numbers. While you don’t have to sugarcoat things, don’t always come across as negative Nancy in your meetings if the numbers are down. Think about constructive ways to bring those numbers up. Most importantly, do not try to single anyone out who is struggling among their peers. Not only will you likely lose that person, but others will see that such tactics could be coming their way, something they will likely not stand for. Numbers are important, but don’t let them become an obsession.

So, as someone who has either managed a sales team and/or been part of one, what advice do you have for today’s sales managers?

If you could change one thing about your sales manager or how your sales team does business, what would it be?

Image: “Tired businessman sleeping/Shutterstock

With 23 years of experience as a writer, Dave covers a wide array of financial topics, including discussing SafeAuto and its auto insurance offerings, along with internet reputation management and payroll companies.

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  • Hi Dave, I like your first point about executing meetings well. Buyers are busy people and if you manage to secure a meeting, it’s critical that you don’t waste their time. Research is key here so that you can discuss their business, not yours. Too many salespeople focus on selling their solution or product, rather than really understanding the challenges their customers are facing. 

  • I think it’s very important to ensure that call to actions are accounted for and by whom – and then followed up and reviewed. Certain meetings I attend; anything left undone stays on the agenda, others seem to just allow them to drop off as if they are not relevant at next meeting.

    As Niall says, selling should be about the client/customers’ needs, not what is being “sold” and this needs to be emphasized in the meetings. I always view sales people as almost self-employed as they have to manage their clients and their day. The difference is they have a Manager to answer to and that Manager should be as supportive and encouraging as possible.

    I have sat in Sales meetings where agents numbers have been projected on the wall for everyone to see – that can be degrading, and I always felt a 1-1 with the Manager would serve better to empower the agent and encourage them to change direction and be pro-active in trying new tactics.
    A little competition is healthy and I agree to perhaps split a group into 2, thereby not singling out one person and helps to forge camaraderie and healthier relationships amongst the team.

    Nice post Dave, thanks

  • Dave Thomas

    Thanks for the feedback. I have always believed no matter whether it is sales, editorial, technology etc…. that meetings should be about results and not frequency. I have seen too many companies hold meeting after meeting just for the sake of meeting. Find a way to make meetings work, make them informative, and make them something workers want and not have to attend.

  • Very pertinent points made around meetings. In a company I worked in previously, some novel approaches were to have everyone stand instead of sit during a meeting – focuses the mind and also has the inevitable effect of shortening meeting time! This can be especially effective when some meetings are held as much out of habit as anything else, or as an excuse to ‘catch up’, without a real need or benefit to actually having a meeting. 

  • Warren Rutherford

    Dave, great insights. As one who has sat in many meetings as a participant and a facilitator your suggestions brought several memorable smiles to my face.  In sales meetings I would expect a need to address the topics, pace, and agenda to the behavioral preferences of the sales people to help them become more engaged, i.e. your suggestion about making meetings fun and not being preoccupied with numbers. Great team management starts with understanding the what, why, and how of motivating your team.  Thanks for the great tips.

  • This is something I have come across in the past where a business sales manager is looking for work, but the wrong work and generating the incorrect level of sufficient business. I think a sales manager should also re-asses how the business he is representing can be found on the internet!

  • Great post Aileen. Accounts are there to be used and analysed, not just trotted out for the tax man or bank. Thanks for pointing out how simple it can be for owners to do their own regular checks

  • Thanks, it’s true a little understanding and attention can avoid this kind of situation: 

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