Category Archives: sales management

Proactive Growth…

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If you would like to grow your business or sales territory this year, try making a true commitment to the proactive components of your business development plan.

We all know that growing a business or sales territory is hard work, especially in more challenging economic times when referrals and leads are less plentiful, customers are spending less and the competition is tougher. A good start (see related newsletter article  ) is to create an annualized business development plan. But simply crafting the plan isn’t enough! We must commit to the plan as well as to the proactive components of the plan.

Honest Self Assessment
It’s important to realize that business development consists of both reactive and proactive elements.

Running advertisements, updating a web site, posting blog entries, distributing newsletters or attending networking events might all be parts of the plan, but once these action steps are taken we often find ourselves in a reactive position – that is, waiting for someone to call.

These reactive action steps are the “easy” components of business development. The more difficult aspects of business development include proactively working to make things happen. These activities include sending follow-up emails or letters suggesting next steps, leaving proactive voice-mail messages, making follow-up calls and scheduling meetings.

Research, pre-call planning and some imaginative thinking are also part of the mix, but the “hard” part of business development is staying the course. Statistics indicate that most things “happen” after someone (a seller) completes five or more contacts with a prospect. But most “sellers” make fewer than three approach calls – thus the challenge most of us face when trying to make things happen.

Setting goals and monitoring results are the best methods of ensuring success, and now is the time to get started for 2011.

The first step is to identify the number of new customers or clients you’d like to add each month or each quarter. Using a reverse funnel approach, the next step is to estimate the number of appointments, lunches or meetings you’ll need to conduct in order to achieve the new customer goal. Step three is to determine the number of prospects you’ll need to contact (and how many times) in order to schedule the desired number of meetings. Now the real work begins… make the calls and measure the results.

If appointments or meetings seem hard to come by, then review your metrics as well as your message.

Growing a business or sales territory is not easy work. If you are able to achieve sufficient growth in a primarily reactive way – advertising, referrals, and so on – then you’re among the fortunate. For the rest of us, committing to proactive business development is the best approach.

Lead v. Manage Part 2

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Our research has yielded the following list of characteristics associated with leadership:

  • Inspires

  • Follows the mission

  • Leads by example

  • Creates an environment where employees are motivated to succeed

  • Coaches, mentors, provides training

  • Communicates openly and honestly

  • Resolves conflict with collaboration

  • Builds trust

  • Looks to team members to take on the leadership role (specific projects)

  • Removes barriers

  • Supports the team

Similarly, the following list of characteristics are commonly associated with management:

  • Long term planning

  • Organize and allocate resources

  • Coordinate between people and groups

  • Budget

  • Control

  • Limit

  • Monitor

  • Direct

  • Meet deadlines

What have you experienced?

    Running a Sales Force: Lead V. Manage

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    “Leadership without management is chaos, but management without leadership is a slow death.”  ¾Unknown

    During sales management training and coaching sessions the concepts of leadership and management are frequently discussed. In addition to discussing the famous quote above, these sessions often include conversations about the concept of “leading people and managing processes” as well.

    Considering the differences between leadership and management and the impact each has on team productivity and morale, when have you found it most appropriate to use each approach, and how? 

    Time to Sell?

    Add a post! A mid-sized New England company that considered itself highly “sales-driven” recently discovered their sales people spent less than three-hours per day interacting with customers or prospects. They also discovered that nearly 25% of the average sales representative’s time was spent on company-required paper work.


    While this might seem surprising, research indicates that these results are typical across all industry lines. For example, in The New Rules of Sales Enablement  , Jeff Ernst, author and VP of Marketing at Kadient, states that, 65% of the average sales rep’s time is spent not selling. 


    In their handbook, Chasing the Waste out of Sales, process improvement experts at Conway Management Company indicate that, “In reality, the largest waste in most commercial and industrial organizations is lost gross margin that results from sales not made, sub-optimal pricing and excessive costs effecting the sales and marketing process.”


    Clearly, as business owners or sales managers, one thing we can all do to boost profits, productivity as well as longevity in our sales ranks is to get our sales people working on the right things – this will require some effort, as we must first study the work being done to determine where, in fact, their time is being spent. We cannot improve the process based on assumptions.


    Likely next steps might include:

    • Identify the categories of work on which the sales force is spending its time; share the data and seek input on how sales people can increase the amount of time spent on the key activities – i.e., meeting with or speaking with customers and / or prospects
    • Help sales people formulate the best territory management or routing plans
    • Provide appropriate administrative support
    • Set standards for call volume and frequency, and make sure the sales management team pays attention
    • Streamline order-input processes

    Selling is tough enough, even in a good economy. It can only become more difficult if we fail to keep the sales force “selling.”


    Possibly Jack Falvey, founder of  ,  summed it up nicely when he wrote, “Want more sales? Make more calls!” 

    Performance Management: Avoiding the “Rear View Mirror”

    A strategically balanced performance management plan is a key component of effective sales management.
    The most successful approach not only enables sales managers to identify opportunities for team improvement based on analyzing past activities and results, but to also identify preemptive action steps and strategies that can impact future results.

    Balancing the Rear View Mirror
    Managers who place all or too much focus on analyzing past performance analytics and then initiating improvement plans after-the-fact miss the opportunity to salvage what otherwise might be a sub-standard month, quarter or trimester.

    Circumstances and competitive offerings within the marketplace are constantly changing. While the practice of reviewing past performance and using the data as part of a performance improvement plan is necessary, this “rear-view-mirror” approach can be costly in terms of lost opportunities if it encompasses ones entire sales management approach.

    While there are different ways to accomplish a more balanced approach or sales management system, here’s a well-tested example consisting of five key components:

    1. Team meetings – for teambuilding and team motivation; best if scheduled regularly on a “same time same channel” basis. Must be well-planned with a group-level agenda</li><li>Individual strategy sessions – also scheduled regularly; based on your sales process and model, the same topics should be discussed each time, such as territory management plan, key-account plan, pipeline, activity plan, etc.

    2. Field support and team selling – regularly scheduled with each Rep; an ideal opportunity to lead by example, build relationships with key customers (key in times of transition!), stay current on market conditions and gather data or input for your team and individual meeting agendas

    3. Proactive “impromptu” interaction – similar to Hewlett Packard’s well-known practice of MBWA (Management by Walking Around); can be done in a variety of ways, such as email, voice mail, telephone, face-to-face (at the water cooler…) depending upon your logisitc structure. These interactions must be made in a spirit of being “interested” or “supportive” rather than “I’m checking up on you…”

    4. Proactive to-do list – on which each Rep has a slot every week, and the manager has a proactive reason to interact with each Rep based on issues of the day, plans made during strategy sessions or team selling days, etc.

    5. Finally, an organizational system – either electronic or in three-ring-binder style for field-based managers – must be created and maintained in order to implement this system.

    Leadership: Management’s Virtue

    Just as honesty, humility, patience, and kindness are virtues, so too is leadership.

    Many have defined it, others have eloquently described it, and much has been written about it, but only a few have exemplified it. And while most would agree that “leadership” is a major component of management, true leadership is rare.

    The following collection of quotes and excerpts paints a picture of leadership as described by the well and not-so-well known.

    “Every damn thing is your own fault,” Ernest Hemingway said. “If you’re any good.”

    Hemingway spoke these words after attempting, in vain, to shoot a lion. He was responding to gun-bearers and local tribesmen who were offering excuses as to why his shot had missed its target.

    As the safari leader, Hemingway’s point was that excuses don’t really matter – it serves no purpose to blame others. A strong leader offers solutions, not excuses. By assuming responsibility rather than assigning blame, the effective leader sets a strong example and inspires others to behave in kind.

    This excerpt from a Nightingale – Conant Management Report makes a similar point: “Another simple concept is that people reflect what you show them. If they see you as being indifferent, they will treat you indifferently. If they see you as expecting the worst, they will behave at their worst.”

    Unknown sources often shed light on the path to success, and at times, the answers to difficult questions are found in the least likely places. Consider the following words from sources unknown and how these thoughts might apply to being an effective leader (or manager):

    “Praise does wonders for the sense of hearing.”

    “The closest anyone comes to perfection is on a job application form.”

    “People have a way of becoming what you encourage them to be, not what you nag them to be.”

    Of course, more respected and familiar sources have had their say about leadership as well.

    Harvard Professor Rosabeth Ross Kanter: “The art of mastering change […] the ability to mobilize others’ efforts in new directions.”

    Wharton School Dean Tom Gerrity: “The ability to inspire and develop others… to bring forth their fullest potential and highest capabilities.”

    Strong leadership involves identifying goals, setting a direction, and having an understanding of, and an interest in, the people who are to be led – and having the ability to inspire people into action.

    If a leader is in fact one who is able to inspire and persuade, then he or she must also be one who inspires or instills a positive attitude in the hearts of his/her followers. Consider the point made, and the question posed, by author and speaker Jack Falvey in this excerpt from : “All great leaders are great sales people. Many in sales management think that they have been called to command. In reality, they have merely been called to a higher level of sales. Having the power of the podium doesn’t mean that people are listening to you. Use that power to give people good reason to listen to you and the message of value that you have to deliver will have a great chance of breaking through.

    “Great leaders sell ideas. ‘Friends, Romans, countrymen…’ is a great ‘Why listen?’ line [with which] Shakespeare’s Mark Anthony sold an angry mob… Winston Churchill sold [a country] the idea of fighting to the death, which is a tough sell in any territory. But he did it with appeals to history, duty, and honor. He also said that he personally would not head for Canada but rather would stay and take a few of the enemy with him to the hereafter – a partnering agreement!

    “Either way, the model that we use… is the same as those who have sold millions on following them have used throughout history. They were great communicators with a message that resonated with the people. They had a solution. They had ideas. They sold trust. That is what we do.

    “All great leaders are great sales people. Name ten. Now, when your [sales] people list their top ten, will you be one of them?”

    A strong leader sets a standard by example, and recognizes that the true authority to lead comes from those who are inspired to follow.

    Leadership is bringing out the best that others have to offer. It is letting others know that you respect them and have confidence in them; it is encouraging them to try, and it is helping them to achieve new and higher levels of success and fulfillment; leadership is making it possible for others to see their way in the pursuit of happiness.

    Leadership is a virtue.

    What do you think…?