Have you noticed over the last few years how the role of the sales manager has changed? In the good old days, the sales manager’s mantra would be “how can I help you win the business”, “what resources do you need to win the business”; “can I speak to your contact’s boss to develop the relationship”.
Today’s mantra, which seems to happen about 3 times a day, is “where’s your number?”, “where’s your number?”, “where’s your number?” Does this ring true in your organization? So what has changed, why have the sales manger moved from business enabler to someone who reports on the business booked?
I would welcome your views on this question as I believe it is a key issue for organization’s that want to develop and sustain their businesses. For me, it seems that all of the systems we now have in place e.g. pipeline tools, CRM and various excel reports mean that many parts of the business can now chase sales managers constantly with regard to their own department’s agendas. So, for instance, the Sales Director and Finance will chase on revenue and margin, product management will chase on product mix (we need you to sell laptops not desktops) and even HR now get involved in call time (for internals) and number of visits (for externals).
What this means is that the sales manager focuses totally on the end of the process – can you close the business today. Whereas, the place they should be working is much earlier in the sale – do we understand the customer’s business needs, do they have a budget, have we contacted all the key decision makers, have does our solution beat the competition, etc.
There is a good analogy with playing a par 4 hole at golf. The sales manager has no real interest in the drive or second shot, a passing interest in the approach shot and then fully interested in the putt. The problem in the sales context is that many of the sales people have gone in the water off the tee and the sales manager has no knowledge of this until they 3-putt and take 8!
To overcome this problem, in a recent sales development program, we used the sales managers as an integral part of the sustaining of the sales work by getting them to coach the sales people on 5 targeted accounts. To keep them honest they in turn had to report their progress to the Sales Director. The actual results from the program were amazing, with massive revenue being generated from the chosen (dormant) accounts. But interestingly both the sales people and sales managers said that they enjoyed their jobs far more and felt like they were working as a team rather than “us and them”.
Although I have made this sound easy, there is a lot of work to do to achieve this, both in training the sales managers as real coaches and changing the culture of the company. The second part is the more difficult, and means that a wider span of management has to understand the new coaching culture and asking for product mix switches at the close just isn’t feasible (just think of the customer’s view).
Let me know what you think about this – what is the role of a sales manager.