I like having smart friends - the kind of person whom I learn from every time I sit with them. One of my smart friends is Jim Stoos, a Senior Marketing Consultant on the JDA team. Jim has an extensive management background, including running an ad sales region for a national cable company. This article really can help you look at your sales management and see where your opportunities are to improve. -Jim Doyle
7 Key Standards of Performance for Sales Managers
The sales manager position is a critical piece of any sales operation. Measuring a sales manager’s impact on the organization can be difficult because there are so many variables. It’s easy to just use percent-to-budget as the benchmark. However, I believe that there are a number of key standards that go into measuring, monitoring, and coaching a sales manager to higher levels of performance. In my many years of managing sales managers, I have reduced it down to 7 Key Standards of Performance.
1. Performance – Making budget matters. A sales manager must be able to make a budget. There are always special circumstances that can explain why a sales manager wasn't able to hit the goal for a quarter or a year. Nevertheless, consistently missing revenue numbers is a huge red flag. This indicates that there are other issues going on in that sales department and with the sales leader. We get paid on performance, and if the team isn't hitting numbers, then it's up to the sales manager to do more within each month to get extra revenue. This means selling all of the sports and prime inventory at optimum rates. Creating and selling sponsorship packages. Developing and implementing a seasonal sales blitz. Utilize other non-traditional selling opportunities for quick revenue hits. In other words, make it happen.
2. Motivation – Can the sales manager get the team excited to sell their products? Is the manager personally excited about the products? Managing is like coaching and sometimes the coach has to motivate and inspire the team to perform at levels they didn’t think possible. When the manager steps on the gas pedal, does the team do what he or she asked them to do? Or, do they go off and do their own thing? Does the sales team listen when the manager is talking in a sales meeting? Is the team excited to come to work? Do they come in early and stay late or do they drag in at 8:20 AM and leave at 4:59 PM?
3. Activity – The sales manager should be the organization’s best salesperson - the closer, the deal-maker, the difference-maker! All sales managers should be required to be in the field, in front of the customer, as much as possible. Sales is a contact sport. The sales manager should make between 8-12 sales calls a week. The calls need to be with everyone on the staff, not just the superstars. Going on calls with the superstar is easy, going on cold calls all day with a rookie is hard work and desperately needed. It's critical that the calls the sales manager goes on are worthwhile. At least half the calls should be “money calls” or calls where the goal is to make a sale and close a deal. Customer service calls are important, but we get paid when we sell something.
4. Support – Is the manager available to the team? Does the team ask the sales manager for advice on a daily basis? Is their door open or shut during the early mornings and late afternoons? Do they conduct effective one-on-one meetings each week with every team member? Are they prepared ahead of time? Does the manager provide leads during the weekly one-on-one? Are they meeting weekly? If not, that may also be a problem. Finally, does the manager answer their phone, emails, and texts in a timely manner? Two days is not timely.
5. Ideas – A great sales manager needs to be able to come up with great ideas for their clients and their AE's. Anyone can have an idea, but do the sales manager’s ideas work? The world is full of ideas, but the AE only wants the idea that will work for their client and make a sale for them. Bad ideas don’t sell. Conducting brainstorming sessions in sales meetings about specific customer issues and needs is a great way to build a culture of idea generators.
6. Is the manager Relevant? Do AE's go to the sales manager to ask for his or her opinion? Does the manager offer up their opinion prior to being asked? A sales manager who gives unsolicited advice runs the risk of being labeled a “know it all.” Most people don’t like to engage in conversation with “know it alls.” It's fatiguing. Being forced to listen to someone go on and on about a subject that they only know half the story is tiresome. Asking a simple question like, “Do you need my help with this?” is a sign of a great communicator and leader. “Let me tell you what you should do” is a sign of a Buttinsky. Giving relevant advice that works in the field is a critical component of a strong leader.
7. Is the manager Effective? The first place to see if a sales manager is effective is to pose a simple question to the sales staff. “Does your manager help you make sales?” If the answer isn't “absolutely” within seconds, there may be a problem. If a salesperson asks, “Which hill should I attack?” a good leader needs to know the answer and should be able to lead the charge into battle. They will prove their effectiveness by waving the victory flag on top of the hill when the battle is over. A manager’s effectiveness can also be measured monthly in their budget performance of the overall team and the individual AE's. They also need to be an effective communicator, recruiter, trainer, teacher, closer, etc. In the end, effectiveness is the culmination of the other traits. The bottom line is this - if the sales manager is doing the basics at a very high level, the results will follow.
Relevancy and effectiveness go hand-in-hand. Ask yourself this question: Is my manager working on things that are relevant to the team today and is it having a positive effect on individual and team goals?
If you're an RVP, GM, GSM, DOS, take a few minutes and go through this checklist for your team. If you're an LSM, perhaps it’s time for an honest self-review. In the areas where there are deficiencies, come up with specific, measurable action items that will nudge the struggling manager down the right path.
Some managers may not realize that all these standards are part of their daily duties. Once you develop a group of standards, coaching towards achieving the standards is much easier.