I am consistently on record as saying that standards of professional selling have never been so bad: This is borne out by the startling statistic that around 50% of frontline salespeople, globally, are expected to be behind quota at the end of Q2.
I have also been quoted as saying “Show me an underperforming sales team and I‘ll show you an unqualified and ill-equipped sales manager”
If you are a manager, here are some words of advice you may want to digest as a matter of urgency –after all, the average tenure for someone in your position is now just 18 months!
The principle of working together with your team should underpin how you operate. Managing people doesn’t just mean acting as overseer, to see that they get their work done satisfactorily. It means involving people throughout the team in a creative role, to ensure that together you are all able to succeed: You need them as much as they need you, because whether you like it or not, your success depends entirely on their success.
Involving people on broad issues is motivational. Never underestimate people. Their views can enhance everything: methods, standards, processes and overall effectiveness.
Remember, managers are not paid to have all the ideas that are necessary to keep their section working well in a changing world, but they are paid to make sure that there are enough ideas to make things work and go on working.
Use your people and make it clear to them that you want and value their contributions.
Some matters are of particular importance to the way a manager and staff work together. This is not the place to review the whole management process, but the following four areas are critical and must be addressed correctly early on if results are to follow.
- Setting goals
- Project management
- Ongoing development
- Job performance appraisal
A quick look at each of these in turn…
“If you don’t know where you are going any road will do”
For all its familiarity and common sense this maxim is worth reiterating. No one and no organization works well without clear objectives. The responsibility for setting many of them may well be yours.
The objectives you set must condition and direct what your people do. Make sure everyone has clear goals and they are committed to achieving them.
Many of the tasks to be done involve the complex process of people working together in a co-ordinate way over time. When this is headed up by you or involves you, make sure that the project is:
- Carefully and systematically planned and organized.
- Effectively executed.
- Precisely monitored.
- Fine-tuned so that contingencies and changes are accommodated.
- Brought in on time, on spec and if appropriate, on budget
Your management of others will be jeopardized if the way you organize the work of the section in any way falters.
Nothing is more important to people than their success. Time and again you hear people say something like “Above all, I want to work with a manager from whom I can learn“. The development of your people is not something to ignore or leave to training departments. The responsibility is yours. Make sure people have the right knowledge, skills and attitudes to do the jobs you want and to do them well. Development is not only about correcting weaknesses, it is about upgrading and taking people forward, not least to keep up with change.
Tell your people that you:
- Recognize that their development is important
- Will help them gain experience and extend skills And…
- Create a visible system so to do
As the old saying goes you can either “have five years’ experience or one year’s experience multiplied by five”. People want the former. Show them you are the means to achieve it.
Use the development cycle:
- Analyze the job (what is needed to do it)
- Analyze the person (their competencies)
- Look ahead, anticipate what new skills, etc. the job might necessitate in the future
- Define the gap – what must be done to create a good fit between the person and the job
- Specify development activity, methods, budget and priorities
- Implement action and monitor results
This is a rolling cycle. Keep clear records, make sure everyone is reviewed in this way and create a culture in which people value development and what it brings. Part of your job is helping people to learn.
The culture of an organization in terms of its attitude to training and development is important to people. Their view of it is, in part, dependent on you. Send the right signals.
In many organisations appraisals are poorly conducted and rated unhelpful by those who are appraised
- Be constructive, helpful and motivational
- Focus on the future
- Be a genuine opportunity for both parties to ensure that the period ahead (year, quarter, etc.) goes well, perhaps better than the last
- Link to action plans for the future
Study your organization’s appraisal system and learn how to conduct an effective appraisal meeting. This is good use of management time. Apart from helping you achieve results in a practical sense; it will also position you as a competent manager and differentiate you from others.
Whatever processes you set up, will be seen as a sign of your style. If they meet with approval, trust is built. If not, they distance you from your staff.
You must ensure system and processes are:
- Time (& cost) effective
And are not:
- Out of touch with realities
- Over complex
- Incompatible with other systems/common sense
Everything you set up (or maintain if someone else instigated it) must aid the effectiveness and efficiency of the section. Those who do the work will quickly see inappropriate systems as you making their jobs more difficult; not a way you want to be seen.
As the advertising slogan of the Abbey National banks in the UK said, “Life’s complicated enough”