It sounds like a court case, but it's about sales management and common sense. Several years ago, I was fortunate to spend time on a flight to California with sales rep Denise Bianco, 2002 Luce Performance Group Rising Star of the Year and finalist for Radio Ink's Radio Wayne Streetfighter of the Year. Three hours of uninterrupted discussion revealed her exceptional insight about great sales managers vs. mediocre ones. Her sales-rep perspective might help you evaluate yourself as a manager.
DENISE'S THINGS TO CONSIDER:
- Favoritism: Some years ago, a new sales manager gave writing pens as a way of introducing himself. It backfired.The SM gave Waterman pens to the two top-billing reps, and the "other" sales reps received less-expensive Parker pens. Denise never forgot feeling like a rookie, despite working there for four years, because the newly hired rep also got a Parker. Differentiating your sales reps that way sends them home feeling under-appreciated. Be careful how you use recognition.
- Availability: Denise got a new sales manager a few months ago, and his first action was to distribute his cell phone number, sending the message that reps could call him anytime. That's why sales managers are there, even if it's just to answer a quick question on inventory, or listen to a rep talk about a great closing call.
- Preparation: There's something to be said for having a prepared sales meeting with an agenda. Her new sales manager also changed production forms; spec spots come back better than ever, giving reps a better chance of selling the prospect.
- Attitude: According to Denise's new SM, there are never problems, only opportunities.Also, Denise says, the new SM builds up staff members, instead of tearing them down.
- Recognition: One of Denise's peers broke a personal sales record, and the new SM recognized this with a jewelry-store gift certificate. A previous SM gave no recognition when Denise was having the best year of her five-year career in sales. Recognize top performers constantly.
- Sales Rep Opinions: A sales manager's follow-through on what reps say is a big deal. Listen to your sales reps - they will tell you what motivates them.
- Improvement: From his own money, the new SM bought each rep a book called How To Become A Rainmaker, signaling that he cared about making his salespeople better.
- Sales Contests: Denise says her new SM's monthly sales contests keep her motivated. She also says a sales contest that includes new business from an agency levels the playing field. In one instance, calling on the direct account and the agency - as instructed - meant taking a long time to get the account on the air. Though most sales contests are aggressive with new direct business, her new manager included new business from agencies, something not usually recognized in contests.
- Written Sales Presentations:The new SM looks at every written sales presentation, but only to help the reps improve presentations and sell more. Denise wants to put in an extra five minutes on the presentation when she knows her manager cares about it. In the past, she seldom received feedback.
- Riding With Reps: "I want him to ride with me." This five-year sales rep wants her sales manager to ride with her, even though previous sales managers surprised reps and acted as "sheriff." Give advance notice. If your reps aren't prepared, help them plan their days - you're the coach. Post a monthly calendar with reps- names on ride-along days. The reps will have a full day for you, and they will learn good planning.
THINGS TO AVOID:
Denise thinks that a sales manager should avoid:
- Lateness: Never be late for your own meeting, especially a sales meeting.
- Lack of preparation: This is perturbing for subordinates.
- Lack of ideas: Sales managers were hired to solve problems and improve sales.
- Not driving: Sales managers should always drive to appointments.
One of "Luce's Laws":You (the sales manager) should pay for lunch when you take a rep in the field with a client.
- Overtime meetings: Respect your reps' time. Tell them the expected length of a meeting, and stick to it.
Sit down with a rep and really pay attention.As Denise says, "If you really like us and care about us, we will do anything to make the team sales goals." By the way, Denise's new sales manager at KOLA is Doug Fleniken.