Here’s an ideal way to manage sales people

One of the most common questions we hear is, “What’s the best way to manage sales people?” The dilemma is understandable. Unlike other functions, sales is often done out of sight. You may not always know how your sales people spend their time. Sales people also have different styles and approaches to building trusting relationships with your customers. That’s hard to quantify. But there is a very logical solution.

When I ask sales people how they would like to be managed, their answer is almost always: “I don’t want to be micro-managed. I’m a professional and I want to be allowed to run my territory like a business.”

There’s your answer!

You are the investor in their businesses

When you run a business, the bank/investors require a business plan. They also want to see regular reporting against that plan. Are you doing what you said you would do? Are you getting the intended results? Is it working? 

Discuss this concept with your sales team: By paying their salaries/commissions, providing them with benefits and giving them other job-related tools, you are investing in their businesses. Now you will begin managing accordingly. Start by instituting scheduled business review sessions.

  • Annually: Each sales person will need a business plan. At the start of every year, they should commit to actions they will take and how much they will sell. As their business investor, you get to accept the plan or ask for changes. You should both believe that if the sales person does these actions, they will result in sales at some point in the future. You also should come to agreement on how progress will be communicated and measured.
  • Bi-weekly or monthly (depending on the business): Review how well the sales person is executing the plan. Is he doing everything he said he was going to do?
  • Quarterly: Review progress against the plan to see if the plan is working. Is the sales person getting results? Do you need to make adjustments or try something different?

Note: If the results aren’t matching what the sales person is telling you, it may be time to get out and observe their work.  They may be doing the right things but not doing them effectively.  There’s no substitute for tried and true, observation, feedback and coaching to help them improve their skills.

Throughout this process, you’ll also want to look for actions that you can leverage across the company. If a sales person in California is doing something really smart and it is working great, you’ll want to tell the people in New York about it. This will improve efficiencies and ultimately your bottom line.

What about CRM?

Even if you are using a CRM, you still need to discuss the business plan and related activities. Otherwise the CRM is just information in, not information used. The only way to really know if you have an effective sales force is to be clear on what they are going to do, and then following up to see if they are doing it. If that doesn’t bring in the sales, then you can challenge the plan or the product. But if the sales people are doing what they set out to do, then they are holding up their end of the deal.

One last thought: Accountability is based on commitments to which you both agree up front. Is that micro-management or is it just good business sense?

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