National Sales Manager Drowns Under Structure

Sales manager up to neck in the sea, drowning.
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Is Your National Sales Manager Drowning along with your Revenue Line?

You are faced with the following scenario with your National Sales Manager and what do you do?

The sales numbers are becoming unreliable, and as CEO it’s becoming all too common each month. You are starting to take a closer look at your national sales manager to understand the problem of why you are not achieving business growth.

What is he/she doing to address the lacklustre top-line revenue and fading pipeline? Why is the sales performance of the team hitting its numbers? You start asking questions to gain insights into their world. Where do you begin to look and what do you need to be asking?

Here are some go-to points to ascertain why your national sales manager (NSM) could be operating below the line.

Firstly, are they time-starved?

Do they have too much to focus on, so they end up doing less? The onset of technology has enabled connection but also increased the noise level. Their inbox is filling and managing the day to day becomes overwhelming. It takes just a bad few hours of unexpected happenings, and they are behind for the week. Customer issues, operational issues that affect customers, sales-related challenges, human resources, and technology barriers.

They may lead a small team but the noise created from all areas of the business can be problematic. They have effectively shifted their role from sales manager to general manager without you realising it.

Sustaining any progress to achieve sales is hard, particularly in fast-paced industries. So sales managers end up doing nothing. They react to the market vs. outpace it. The result of this is your sales numbers drop below the line.

Is there a technology challenge?

The rollout of technology or poorly configured technology continues to paralyse sales forces and demotivate all users. A poorly configured CRM with average to low adoption rates can be frustrating as inaccurate reports are drawn. Time is wasted cross-checking data, blending reports, and analysis of what the team’s performance really is. Bad technology, not only in a CRM, can reduce the performance of any sales manager, national or regional.

Endless time in sales pipeline meetings

Considered by many a necessity to understand the pipeline is fundamentally flawed and a waste of time. Discussing opportunities within a pipeline report is the function of a regional manager and not the NSM. Their regional sales managers are responsible for clean pipeline reports. If the NSM cannot rely on the reporting from the CRM and accuracy of the forecast, then either the CRM is configured wrong, or the pipeline lacks enough filtering to ensure only good deals move through. The engaging in the endless discussion for explanations of why or why not things are included or excluded is the bane of any NSM. Pipeline meetings can create opportunities for excuses when the issue is to have salespeople selling.

Are they involved in big deals?

NSMs need to be out in the market involved in big deals. They need to be persuading potential buyers at a high level while others are selling to their direct reports. These major interactions are pivotal meetings to winning business and that business can resolve a lot of pain in the revenue line. Each quarter will typically come down to a couple of big deals being signed, and you need to see they are involved to push the deal through.

Lack of sales enablement

Are the sales team taking new products to market without the proper training and tools? These new products are central to increasing the revenue line, and teams must be enabled appropriately. Considerable time is lost with ‘on the fly’ resolutions of prospective customer queries, explanations, and discussions on product capability and market offerings.

Lack of sales operations

Many NSMs and their companies do not understand the value of good sales operations. A person responsible for analysis of trends, report generation for remuneration, customer and product spend, sales effectiveness and productivity, and adherence to prescribed management practices. Sales operations can save exhaustive hours of work for NSMs opening their calendars for time to be out with customers.

Lack of alignment with marketing

Today sales and marketing must work harmoniously in the pursuit of lead generation. Sales managers can spend excessive time with the marketing team and drive their performance. This usually occurs where there is no sales plan in place to support the marketing team’s development of their plan. It also occurs where there is a lack of leadership in marketing or disagreements between the two leaders. When sales managers lead marketing, the focus of sales has shifted well away from their responsibilities for sales performance.

It can sound justifiable to manage marketing, but the skill sets are so broadly different today, it creates more problems in the short and long term.

Changing directions or stagnation

When NSMs are struggling to deliver the revenue line, they often embark on sporadic campaigns and ideas in an attempt to find the way forward. They can engage in marketing to contribute or may just package ideas together for the teams to use. This is the most concerning next to stagnation where no changes are made to what is already a failing process or strategy.

Work harder syndrome

If everyone in the teams works harder, the results will come in. In principle that can be the case but there is a reason they are not working to start with. Is it management, is it the product, the customers or the journey is just too hard to get the required results, and they have sat down.

As you work through each of these questions, the answers will start to paint a picture of why your revenue line is stalling. The National Sales Manager has reached a point of drowning, and the reasons can be easily categorised into the following:

  1. Lack of technology to support the business requirements
  2. Lack of required systems and processes to manage a larger size team, particularly if some are decentralised.
  3. Lack of knowledge in the management of high-performance teams
  4. Lack of desire to change and believes the job is about managing noise.

People are good at continuing existing habits and even when drowning those people don’t ask for help. There are a number of reasons they don’t put up their hand, but as CEO you need to be taking the initiative to intervene and assist them. You need to invest in your leadership team to bring about the necessary change. Only then will you see improvement in the revenue line.

Next Steps:

Please contact Adele directly and discuss your specific situation and how you can up-skill your National Sales Manager and achieve business improvement.

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About the Author: Adele Crane

A leader in Implementation Consulting.
2020 – Top 100 Magazine – Australian Business Professional. CEOs and Managing Directors have relied on Adele Crane to solve challenges with the performance of their sales and marketing since 1990. Her consulting experience in delivering results in 90-120 days is unprecedented by any other known sales and marketing consulting professional in the world. As an author of 3 acclaimed books, appearances on major media, and publications in USA, NZ and Australia, Adele’s experience brings fresh thinking and contemporary practices to business.