My previous article entitled: Ten Reasons I failed as a Sales Manager received an interesting question from one of Radio Inks readers. Before I respond to the question, let me state that I made all of those mistakes as a sales manager. The key is to learn from those mistakes. I had some outstanding mentors early in my career who allowed me to make the tough mistakes. They knew that those mistakes would pay big dividends down the road, and they did.
Dan Watts, a sales manager from Cincinnati responded with a question many managers are faced with every day you identified the problems. What are the solutions? Dan goes on to ask How do you discipline, especially when sales are pretty good, but basic simple rules like being on time, CRM , list maintenance, skipping staff and 1 on 1 meetings with iffy excuses are being abused? Dan continues, I certainly don't want to threaten to fire performers or even demotivate them, but there needs to be some level of expectation on simple rules. Reason number one in my last article was: Dont let the sales reps manage you. I want to discuss how to avoid that pitfall because most of Dans concerns center around that reason.
The key word Dan uses is simple rules. The simple rules apply to the sales staff regardless of whether they are above or below their sales goal. Since my sales staffs were mostly above budget, I attribute our success to some simple standards that were set. Confession: In a Sean Luce sales meeting, I locked the door at 8:00am. Outside of a medical emergency or natural disaster, the door remained locked. Locking the door was about respect. I had a three strike rule. If the rep was late to three sales meetings, they were fired. One might say that was a rather dramatic action for just missing sales meetings, right? If there are no standards for a sales force, then count on under performance in achieving sales goals. In my experience, a successful team expects a certain standard. By the way, I do not recall ever firing someone for breaking the sales meeting Team rules. The staff really set our team rules-much more than I ever set them.
Regarding timely paperwork, I used the three strikes rule once again. For example, our weekly sales planners were due by noon on Monday. The great performers turned the planners in on the preceding Friday. Not everyone is a great rep, so I allowed some planning time on Monday morning. However when a rep arrives on Monday morning without any preparation for the week, the manager has a bigger problem than timely paperwork. Once again, I do not recall ever firing a rep on our team for late paperwork. Yes, there was the instance or two where the paperwork was late, but never three times. My job as sales manager was to see that those standards or simple rules were being met and enforced.
Account list maintenance should be simple, also. The rep fills out a claim form for an account, and turns it in to the manager. If approved, the account was the property of the rep who claimed it. The formula is simple to follow. On sales meetings, my responsibility was to put together a sales meeting the team would want to be on time for! If a sales manager is driving to work thinking of that mornings sales meeting, then they need to cancel the meeting. It is not fair to the reps. My sales reps wanted to be at the meeting, and they wanted to be there on Lombardi time.
Vince Lombardi the legendary coach of the Green Bay Packers stated that you should show up 15 minutes early to meetings. Next to their paycheck, I wanted each weeks sales meetings to be the highlight of the week for my reps. I started working on our sales meetings two days before they occurred. Each rep always participated in the weekly meetings in some fashion. On some weeks, a rep could have a major part in the meeting if they were trying to advance in the company in a management position.
To answer the final part of Dans question about respect and expectations, I turned to Debbie Pantenburg, Former General Sales Manager at Horizon Broadcasting Groups Bend, Oregon property. She says, it starts at the top. Managers have to earn respect through their actions and coaching. A manager cannot play favorites, must work in the field, do the dirty work, plus the strategic high thinking, and coach professionally. When the sales manager is the example setter, only then is it fair to ask the salespeople to be on time, to turn off the cell phone in a meeting, and submit paperwork on time. Giving respect, earns and demands respect in return. Finally, my rule of thumb was to make sure that I never asked a rep to do something that I would not do or had not done. It was the simplest rule, but the most important one.
Sean Luce is the Head National Instructor for the Luce Performance Group in Houston, Texas and can be reached at Sean@luceperformancegroup.com