I once sat with a group of sales managers all within the same company. They were skeptical that “the consultant” was brought in to talk to them. (We often get called “the Bobs” for all you Office Space fans out there.) I described for them what we see as the typical sales leader. Sales leaders are extremely busy people – always working deals with one of their sales people or putting out a fire. They constantly had things thrown at them and they worked long hours. They were keenly aware of their numbers at all times. They got out of the way for their top reps and spent time addressing performance for their underachievers. When they saw skills issues, they addressed them. Most of them said they talk to all their sales people several times a week so they don’t need to sit down and do things like 1 on 1s. Why? They have an open door policy and anybody can talk to them whenever they want. Sound familiar? If it does, you may want to keep reading because there is a better way.
Let’s contrast this to the highest performing managers. These people have a rhythm or cadence to how they manage their team. They are rarely in “reactive mode” and instead very “proactive” in their management. They have weekly or bi-weekly meetings to share information, celebrate successes and set direction. They sit down and discuss performance with their team members during 1 on 1s on a regular basis and rarely miss them. They spend almost half of their time in the field observing and coaching and developing skills of ALL team members. And they use systems and processes to drive consistency in their approach.
Why does the 2nd scenario work better than the first? Why do these people outperform their peers? We call it a Sales Operating System. When you have a regular cadence to the business, the number of fires and urgent issues goes down significantly. People save them up for their 1 on 1s. Questions that many team members may have get answered at team meetings. People are constantly reminded about the things they should focus on so everybody is clear on direction at all times. And communication becomes much clearer. Believe it or not, these meetings and 1 on 1s actually free up time for the sales leader so they can focus on the things that are most impactful.
If you are still not buying into this concept, let me ask you this about your open door policy – how often does your bottom performer walk into your office and tell you that they are struggling and need help. If you are like most leaders, that almost never happens. Now what if you had a weekly meeting with that person to review their activity levels vs. goal and found that they were trying hard but not making progress? As a good leader, you are going to spot a coaching opportunity and can work with that sales person on their issues. This is a proactive way to manage your team and one small part of the Sales Operating System.
If you feel like you are not in control of the performance of your team and constantly in “reactive mode,” try a system and see how it works. You will be pleasantly surprised.