So, you need to hire a new sales manager? You are looking for the person with the magic skill who will deliver consistently over sales quota results, month on month, quarter on quarter — a person who will be a great contributor to your sales organisation talent and growth of your company.
As most CEOs know, sales managers are hard work, but not for the reasons you may think. They often disappoint in sales results, and the churn rate can be extremely high with many not even lasting six months. Here are some distressing statistics that might make you think twice about your expectations when hiring a sales manager and the criteria you apply to the role.
- 78% of sales managers do not enforce CRM compliance including pipeline management and accurate forecasting
- More than two-thirds of salespeople miss quota without consequences
- Most new sales manager hires fail within six months of hire
- More than half of all salespeople close at less than 30%
- Almost 70% of all sales teams don’t have a playbook
- Only 32% of salespeople can access key players
- 34% of sales managers will not adopt change
- Over 84% of sales managers are unable to write a sales strategy and measurable execution plan
It is a grim view of what is happening in sales forces today in Australasia and why so many CEOs report disappointment when hiring and the results delivered by existing incumbents.
These are things that CEOs have learned and work to avoid now when hiring.
- Richard says: ‘Metrics often won’t improve sales managers.’
In an attempt to arrest the behaviour of sales managers and drive sales results, CEOs apply more metrics as a measure of performance. Unfortunately, those managers cannot control 83% of the metrics, they are being asked to be held accountable for, and the critical metrics are missing.
- Andrew queries: ‘How did they even become a sales manager?’
The issues are grounded in the sparse development available for people stepping up from business development roles to become sales managers. A lack of systems and processes, and, importantly, the lack of quality mentoring from high-performing sales managers. You could count on your left hand the number of true high performers in the ranks of sales management today.
Most sales managers stepped into the role on the belief they could do better than the previous incumbent they reported to. They are promoted from within a company as a feeling of comfort for the CEO and senior executive team, a seemingly known entity. There is the belief that a good salesperson will automatically make a great sales manager and clone the team to be just like them.
- Jeanne wonders about ‘Old school hiring practices.’
Old school hiring was seeking out those who have worked within competitor companies, and the focus is product knowledge and personal networks. This does not provide a competitive advantage and often leads to disappointment when the network of people doesn’t spring doors open for your company. These are the wrong reasons to hire any sales manager.
- Peter says, ‘They don’t seem to understand the role.’
Sales managers often have expectations that their role is to sustain the existing customer base and achieve growth from within those customers. They were responsible for that function in their selling life and will take that through to their management thinking. The sales managers have little to no experience in new business development in today’s tougher markets. Establishing the requirements and guiding their direct reports to success is outside their skill set. Sales training is not the band-aid or cure for these problems.
The biggest lesson to be learned is a success in hiring sales managers comes from mentoring them. Applying your skills and knowledge as a CEO to develop their thinking to become the individual you require in your organisation.
- Paul queries, ‘What are the minimum requirements you need.’
Hire an individual with the core requirements in selling in your environment that will assist your sales team to improve as a minimum. Five of the eight challenges relate to selling capability in the team. If the sales manager cannot directly impact and improve the skills of all the individuals within the team, then you are challenged to make any progress. You can teach them business thinking and how to make money for the company, but selling takes time and hard lessons to learn.
- Frank asks, ‘What are the priorities for hiring a sales manager that is effective?’
Essentially, a sales manager must work on exceeding in two areas.
- Ensure the right salespeople are on the bus with the right attitude. It is important not to carry salespeople in a team. If that means having only part of the sales force for a period of time, then consider the financial savings and time saved by not focusing on underperformers. Invest the time in recruiting individuals that will improve your company outputs.
- Manage accurate pipelines and instil a culture of horizon management where you are asking about 12 or even 24 to 36 months ahead. Sales managers are famously focused on the next month or the next quarter. Your interactions with the sales manager must be horizon-based and not draw them down to just next month.
- John asks, ‘What number should a sales manager carry?’
The vital point is to understand that sales managers are there to make money through those individuals reporting to them and should not carry a number themselves. Their function is not to be the ‘heavy hitter’ that closes deals for under-performing sellers nor the brand ambassador opening doors for sellers to get started. Their function is purely to ensure the salespeople are connecting with the right people in the right way. To have sellers fill the pipeline with qualified opportunities and close deals – consistently.
- Janice’s concern is, ‘I need to hire a sales manager like myself – one that is driven for sales.’
Your sales manager is not a “mini-me.” For some unknown reason, many CEOs enjoy a close relationship with sales managers. Maybe they envy them, or they enjoy hearing the stories of the chase for new deals and the excitement of the win. We often see a degree of emulation between the CEO and their sales manager, bonding them in such a way that management demands take second place in the relationship. Neither wants to have hard conversations when they are needed and in sales, those conversations cannot be avoided.
- Michael enquires, ‘What conversations should I be having with them.’
As CEO, your sales manager’s performance is a reflection of your own. When they miss the numbers, you need to consider what conversations you were having with them and the focus of those conversations. Were you asking for financial opinions on the forecast accuracy or simultaneously looking at how they were managing their direct reports? What were they doing to ensure the team was set to be successful? Were they holding them accountable to sales plans? Was there sufficient activity occurring with the right customers to deliver the outcomes? The questions a CEO asks a sales manager will directly impact what questions the sales manager asks of their team.
You need to face the reality that systemic problems in the sales manager were probably caused by your mentoring … or lack of it.
- Anna asks, ‘How involved should I be in decision-making so I know the decisions are solid for the business?’
You’re not the “Chief Problem Solver.” As CEO, you need to enable your sales managers to think for themselves and learn key decision-making skills on their own, or else they will always be dependent on you. They must learn to think critically and come to the answer with me rather than immediately jumping to give it to them.
We know that hiring a sales manager who can deliver is a problem, as much as onboarding takes a lot of time and is key to long-term success.
Once you have a new hire, there are two things you need to consider:
- Firstly, make sure you clearly set out expectations for your new sales manager, what milestones they should be hitting by when. Those milestones should be weekly and monthly, then quarterly. Put it in writing so you can review it again with them!
- Secondly, be careful not to hand the reins over too quickly! Keep a tight rein and focus on the critical elements and then build the role out from there. The critical elements are the quality of the pipeline forecast and guiding the sales team to perform the right tasks that grow the business.
Your role as CEO is now not to expect it to be done but rather to mentor them and make sure it is done. Don’t just leave them to it or give them the licence to take their own roads. Often those roads are paved with lessons of things you learned not to do previously as you grew the business.
We can assist you in hiring an effective sales manager to deliver results and establish them successfully in your company through our consulting framework for recruitment. We are so confident in the outcomes we provide you with a 12-month guarantee on new hires.
Please reach out to Adele for a discussion on your specific situation.
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