The first few months for any one entering a new management position is daunting at the best of times. Even those lucky enough to be supported with management training will find it challenging. This is particularly true for sales people being promoted to sales managers. How they manage and what they do in their initial three months is critical to their future success as it will determine how the Sales Manager copes with your new employees, colleagues and superiors later on.
You should not fall into the trap of assuming that everyone will welcome you with open arms. Indeed, it is likely that you will be looked at in a critical way by some people. You are likely to have to manage anxiety from your sales team, colleague envy from those who attended the same management training as you but who were passed over for promotion, as well as resentment from people in other departments. Everything you do and every decision you make will be subject to scrutiny. Rumours will be rife. The following advice will help you make the transition more easily.
Whilst it is important that you quickly aquire an overview of the sales situation, it is equally important that you do not rush into things. You should move forward instead in a systematic way. To do this we suggest you divide your first three months into an “orientation”, a “concept” and a “profiling” phase. What to focus on in these phases is described below.
The orientation pahase is the initial phase in your new position. It will probably last about four weeks. Aim to spend much of these first four weeks as possible away from your office and not in the company building. Arrange to accompany your new team on client visits for half days or longer. Have a personal chat with each of your sales people to get to know them.
In this first phase you should set the following goal for yourself: to listen, take on board the problems encountered by your salespeople and gain impressions of the market and your clients.
Never give your point of view on decissions your predecessor may have made as doing so will damage your credibility. If such matters are raised you should appear interested, but remain reserved.
During your first few months, avoid making any decisions that go beyond your day-to-day responsibilities. Defer making far-reaching decisions.
The next month in the job should be considered as the concept phase. You should spend most of this second month at your desk drawing up a list outlining the problems you noticed during your first four weeks.
Start by writing a rough draft of your future selling strategy and selling policy. This would include, for example, the competitive situation, sales routes, condition policy, offer programme, area structure, management of the external sales department and sales promotion.
To round off your information, have discussions with representative customers, large-scale buyers and colleagues – such as the Head of Marketing, the Production Manager, the Head of Logistics, etc. Limit your contact with the sales force during this phase to telephone conversations. Remember to constantly discuss your thoughts and ideas with the company management.
Your third month in the job should be considered as the Profiling phase. Now is the right time to publish your “profile” and discuss the concept phase and explain your objectives in detail with your organisation’s management. It is important that you set priorities jointly and secure moral support. Inform your colleagues in the department of your plans and intentions. Agree the “ground rules” for future co-operation. reassure your department colleagues of your own aim of cooperating with them.
You should also arrange a team meeting with your sales team. You will need to inform your salespeople of your conclusions from observations made during client visits and tell the sales force about the goals you have set and the expectations you have of them. Ensure you take time to respond to any questions they may have. Also, let them know about any pending decisions or any decisions you have already made.
If you apply the above three month action plan you are more likely to be successful. If, however, you feel you need more support – as many new sales managers do – you can always attend a specialist sales force management training course which will help you build the specialist skills needed to do one of the toughest management jobs around – managing a sales force.
Richard Stone is a Director for Spearhead Training Limited that specialises in running management training courses to improve business performance. Richard provides consultancy advice for numerous world leading companies. View more details by clicking on the link.
Sales Managers who are faced with the common dilemma described below are given the following advice by management training experts.
Suppose on your sales team you have on your a very talented sales person that you can’t do without. The problem is that as a result of their negative effect on other team members, they also represent a danger to the internal peace of your sales force. How would you manage this challenging sales management dilema?
The following list of nine characteristics are those often seen in the “difficult” salesperson. These behaviours result in someone who is likely to not get on with, and offend, their colleagues as well as being difficult for the sales manager to manage.
1. They have the distinct need to be perfect; pressurising themselves into being perfect and punctual.
2. They are usually exceptionally intelligent and tend to be extreme.
3. They are very good at fulfilling their responsibilities, strive to improve their performance and want to see themselves as someone exceptional.
4. They tend to solve problems on their own and do not like having to rely on others.
5. They have low self-esteem.
6. They seek out attention and praise.
7. They think self control is extremely important.
8. They are not very diplomatic.
9. They have poor social skills.
So, with a difficult salesperson like this what problems can arise? The following five issues were identified on a recent sales management training course:
1. They give the impression that they can contribute nothing of value to solving a problem.
2. If others do not accept their decisions and logic they often get angry.
3. They over-control and over-organise others. As a result, other salespeople often feel inferior.
4. They are quick to complain of unfair treatment if superiors try to put a stop to some of their activities.
5. They are not willing to compromise because they view this as a complete loss of control.
Sometimes, the difficult person is actually ourselves. You should check out your own behaviour too! Are you difficult to get on with? The more questions set out below that you answer with a ‘yes’, the more likely it is that your your colleagues and your team find you are the difficult person to work with.
Do you come across as condescending to employees?
Do you have to be in total charge of everything? Do you ask everyone to check everything they do with you first?
Do you need to discuss each and every point?
Do your discussions quickly turn into arguments?
Are you fast to attack others?
Are other people reluctant to discuss problems with you?
Do you de-value what others say?
Is it very important to you to acquire a position of power and status?
Do you avoid giving others the privileges you yourself enjoy?
Do other people see you as “cold” and “distanced”?
Do you want other people to like you?
Do you let some sales people believe that they are more competent than others?
Do you like speaking about yourself and what you are doing?
Do you use the word “I” often when talking to others?
If you have a difficult salesperson then the following will give some advice on the best way to deal with them:
Do provoke regular discussions with them. Without pronouncing any judgement, tell them about your observations. Ask them how they believe their behaviour affects others.
Do stress the fact that you whilst you appreciate the standard of their work, they must be careful if they want to advance their career in selling.
Don’t allow yourself to be irritated by them.
If they challenge you, do not counter attack. Explain that you are not interested in arguing with them. In no uncertain terms tell them the extent to which they have misinterpreted a given situation.
Do point out how their actions are destroying their career prospects.
Do give them feedback on any progress.
Tell them that you are not satisfied and explain why if they do not react to your efforts.
Managing people, particularly sales people, can be challenging. The skills and confidence to tackle your difficult people in an appropriate way to get the best out of them can be aquired from attending management training courses.
Richard Stone is a Director for Spearhead Training Limited that runs management training programmes aimed at improving business performance.
In roughly 30% of business relationships between sales people and sales managers the two parties fall out every year and is a reason why mangers want management training. This has spurred the Business Psychology Institute to carry out an extensive survey to interpret points of friction and concealed potential opposition areas between salespeople and sales managers.
The survey carried out intensive interviews with representatives and sales managers concerning their experiences of working together. The assessment was carried out both as a group comparison and pair-specific.
What do those asked imagine the focus of the company partnership is? The proposition showed that there are large differences in way of thinking. Only three pairs were in concurrence about corporate goals. Just a half of all salespeople believed that increasing turnover is the most prominent corporate target. A third of sales managers said that the essential corporate target is increasing market share.
These differing points of view are quite surprising, in view of both work for the same Firm. This essentially serves to demonstrate the insufficiency of communication within the relationship.
The theme about the salespersons goals confirms this inadequacy of communication: only two pairs were in concurrence. 40% of all salespeople said increasing turnover was their predominant target, 40% said creating a livelihood was their predominant ambition.
On the other hand, only a third of the sales managers believed that increasing turnover was the salespersons paramount ambition. Not one mentioned creating a livelihood as a target and a third did not even identify what their individual team goals were.
Genre and distinction of support. The greater part of sales people asked said that they felt supported by their preceding Firm. The genre of support was assessed differently, though. Sales managers essentially said that they had supported representatives through training sessions or meetings.
Almost all representatives, on the other hand, thought that they had been supported mainly through catalogues and prospectuses. Some felt that they had received no support from their former company or did not agree on the impersonal type of support the company had given.
What typical problems are there in the partnership? Half of those asked said that the main conflict point is turnover difficulties, followed by corporate policy. A quarter of those asked said that co-operation with their former partner floundered primarily because of information and communication problems, but only a very few of those asked saw management as a problem.
Sales turnover difficulties are based, on the one hand, on declining turnover and, on the other, arguments about commission payments.
The majority of sales managers thought that salespeople were lacking in commitment.
Problems relating to corporate strategy arise from differences in the company’s payment strategy, the procedure that complaints are dealt with and in delivery capacity. In addition, some salespeople thought that positive opportunities were being denied. The problems of communication are based predominantly on a deficit of information feedback, which was complained about by many sales managers.
A typical management problem surfaced in the following salesperson’s statement: “I was called up almost every day (by the sales manager) to see whether I had done any business” The salespeople often felt that they were being controlled and therefore that their free time was being infringed.
Whereas sales managers continually bemoan on management training courses that salespeople contribute not enough feedback about what is happening in the market, salespeople disapprove of the instructive or even demanding attitude of their sales managers. Salespeople emphasise their autonomy, whereas sales managers demand that their requirement to control is fulfilled
Which decisive experience is as a rule the motive to split? The sales managers saw the most prominent pretext for breaking up the firm relationship as being a declining turnover or inefficient work quality on the interest of their salespeople, which led to impaired services and/or client complaints.
Sales people, for their side, attributed the causes of declining turnover figures to the company’s poor sales method or to market changes.
How does the break up take place? The break up itself was viewed by most as completely unspectacular. Sales people who had a valid contract were sacked in accordance with the rules. A lot of companies have, in spite of that, tried to fill the leaving persons place before the expiry of the notice term.
Most of those asked said that the break left them feeling discontented by their former employee/employer, mainly immediately after.
Business-wise the break led to turnover losses both for the salesperson asked and for the company. Whereas sales managers or their companies had to find a suitable replacement, the salesperson had to find a new position in order to compensate for the income gap.
Most “partners” reveal subtle differences in the relationship from an early stage. It is critical for both sides to act upon possible signals of disagreement. The study showed that innumerable managers do not present enough work into caring for salespeople.
The differences in perceptions of goals and the variety of issues that in the long run led to the break revealed that managers take too little notice in their sales people and their view of things. Techniques for successfully implementing these prominent points are covered on appropriate management training courses.
Richard Stone (richard.) is a Director for Spearhead Training Limited that specialises in running management training courses to improve business performance.