I spoke to a group of CEOs recently who asked me to identify what main things they need to focus on to improve sales performance. These are mostly in the form of how to manage your sales manager more effectively as CEO, though I do provide some resources at the end that are specific to those wearing both hats. I’m sharing this because I realize it will likely be useful to other CEOs as well.
- At the most basic level, do you have fair and realistic expectations for the sales manager’s role? Are you expecting the sales manager to sell and manage? Having them do both on an ongoing basis could be a problem. For one thing, time spent selling means less time spent coaching, which is where the bulk of your sales manager’s time should be spent. Keep in mind, the sales manager’s job is to grow salespeople, not sales. They should be growing salespeople both in quality and quantity for an exponential impact. Give your sales manager the space to do their job properly and improve your sales team.
- Division of time. To expand on the point above, 75% of your sales manager’s time should be spent engaging and interacting with the sales team (coaching, motivating, holding individuals accountable). But often, the division of time ends up being all wrong. Ask your sales manager to track how their time is being spent so you can both understand what (if anything) is keeping them from devoting 75% of their time to sales engagement and interaction (coaching). I explained how to implement a color-coded activity breakdown for this purpose here. Revisit the activity breakdown with your manager periodically to hold them accountable to the 75% coaching.
- As mentioned, the sales manager’s proper role is to grow the sales team, both in quality and in quantity. That means hiring. Every hire must be made to count; the costs of a mis-hire are great (and mostly avoidable). When it is time to hire, employ a strategic hiring and onboarding program designed to get you the right new hires, and get them acclimated, onboarded, productive and profitable as quickly as possible.
- Have you done a skills evaluation for your sales manager? If they show sales management deficiencies, better for you — and them — to know sooner than later, and address it. Are you using a screening tool for all of your new sales hires to weed out those who are unlikely to perform? Our OMG candidate assessment has 96% predictive validity. 92% of the candidates it identifies as recommended to hire rise to the top 50% of their sales force within 12 months, effectively taking the gamble out of hiring for sales.
- Underlying issues. If you appreciate the proven science behind OMG’s assessments, don’t overlook the more comprehensive sales team evaluations. A blog post from our OMG counterpart in Australia explains how an ideal sales hire “went bad” after absorbing a company’s toxic sales culture. The entire process of selecting the best new sales candidate and getting them onboarded was wasted, because he never stood a chance in a broken sales system. The answer to a broken sales team isn’t a new superstar salesperson; it’s fixing your sales team. The sales team evaluation will identify what’s not working. There may be underlying issues that are negatively impacting your sales performance. For example:
- Lack of a formalized, repeatable selling system.
- Lack of a fully integrated, functional CRM.
- Common patterns of sales deficiencies that appear throughout the organization because they are encouraged by the sales culture.
- Just as the sales manager’s job is to hold individual salespeople accountable, someone has to hold the sales manager accountable. But more than that, there must be a clear line of communication between you and your sales manager about the state of your sales force and the potential impact to the bottom line. This is something that should take place regularly at frequent, recurring intervals.
Another of our OMG affiliates has done an excellent job of identifying which questions CEOs should be asking their sales managers, and at what intervals, here. It boils down to one conversation per week with each sales manager, consisting of seven questions. Then another monthly meeting to focus on emerging trends, which consists of six questions. There is also a quarterly meeting for medium-term planning which includes another four questions. Unfortunately, I realize that if you are both the CEO and the sales manager, this last task, in particular, may present a bit of a problem.
For those of you CEOs who are also the sales manager, you may have variable success holding yourself accountable, but there is a bonus item for you to tend to, and that is: coaching. If that situation applies to you, be sure to download our CEO as Sales Manager Leadership Toolkit here.
Do you agree with this list of top six sales performance-impacting items for CEOs to monitor? Please share your thoughts in the comments.
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