This year was tough; next year’s sales prospects look even tougher. Your boss comes to you and says how can you sustain the sales force? What can you do?
The typical response goes like this:
You devise several homemade remedies to ensure you do better next year. You develop a plan to do one or more of the following:
- Develop a new selling skills program
- Hire only top sales reps
- Focus on growing key customers
- Create a better incentive plan
However, these “quick fixes” only scratch the surface. The deeper response is to ask yourself some difficult questions. You need to understand why your team is not delivering. Here are a couple of questions I would ask:
- Are your sales reps making a difference?
- Do your sales reps make impact on each call?
- Do they actually make a difference in the sales in their territory?
- How often do your sales managers go out in the field?
- Do your sales managers actually make an impact on each sales reps performance?
If you have answered “no” to more than one of the questions, your team may be suffering from “failure to impact syndrome”. It is contagious and can spread throughout a sales force. I have seen it in many sales forces. I call it the daily sales charade: Sales reps make their calls and sales managers do their field visits. That works as long as the business grows. Everyone gets high fives and there is no need to dig any deeper. But when sales are off, senior management starts asking questions. Sales managers struggle to come up with the answers and reps get nervous.
If your sales force suffers from “failure to impact syndrome”, homemade remedies are not going to work. Unless….
Unless, you have strong front line sales managers, you stand little chance of making impact even with all the tactics outlined above. The front line sales manager is the unsung hero, a person with tremendous responsibility, but little support or development.
In today’s corporate environment, responsibilities are outpacing the time needed to perform the activities that drive revenue. The key to reversing “failure to impact syndrome” is to have your front line sales mangers physical presence in the field coaching/developing and inspiring reps. The question remains, why is this not a standard operation?
The problem is two- fold, firstly the activity that managers are least adept at is coaching/developing their reps. Secondly they spend less time in the field because of reason one and are too busy completing non revenue generating activities.
What you need to do as the head of sales is relentlessly develop a team of great front line sales managers. This is the building block to cure “failure to impact syndrome”. Top sales managers will develop their teams to their fullest potential. They reinforce sales training and help companies maximise their teaching efforts and deliver more sales.
The key to building a sales force that can dramatically impact and increase sales is directly related to the strength of the sales management team. Hire great sales managers and they will hire and develop sales superstars.