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Sales Management or Sales Crisis Management

team meeting about Sales Crisis Management
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Have you ever scrutinised what your sales manager is actually doing throughout each day? You may be surprised when you do.

The sales manager role has a direct influence on your company’s profitability, although, for many businesses, the sales manager is consistently involved in tasks that do not contribute to increased revenue and growth. There are many contributing factors, including a lack of skill, culture, or uncertainty.

Many sales managers have been mentored by people who did not understand the requirements of sales management relevant to today’s competitive markets. Often from operational backgrounds, customer service, or product specialists with no exposure to professional sales forces. Others have been guided by former managers who lacked any real training and succeeded in a different era through relationships with a limited number of existing customers. Their sales strategies were focused on customer relationships and organic growth.

When considering the history of sales in your company, it may become apparent that the product and technical knowledge has been the focus. Reliance on a few key customers to deliver growth through their own expansion. Inadvertently, selling capability has been a low priority, and your sales manager has been operating in a way that corrodes growth, with an operational focus on customer management as its centrepiece.

As a simple exercise, let us consider what your sales manager focuses on daily. Discretely over the next two weeks, note what they are doing and place time ratios against each.

  • Coaching
  • Motivating
  • Recruiting
  • Holding salespeople accountable
  • Reviewing performance and pipelines
  • Crisis management
  • Internal company issues
  • Operational meetings
  • Managing compensation plans
  • Organisation/reorganisation
  • Strategy implementation measurement
  • Selling

Often when this exercise is performed with CEOs, as much as two-thirds to three-fourths, identify that their sales managers spend the majority of their time on crisis management and operational tasks. Minimal time is devoted to coaching, strategy implementation, and measurement.

What is sales crisis management?

When we think of crisis management, we immediately think of having a crisis management strategy or crisis management plan in place to manage an event such a product recall or safety issue on site. These types of crisis are prepared for and part of an overall company operational process.

Sales crisis management however is putting out fires related to the customer, operational, logistics, or pricing changes and issues. They are the in the moment ‘now’ situations with a very short term solution thinking. The sales manager is perceived as the company’s go-to person for team members seeking support, ensuring customer satisfaction, and protecting the patch. They are the authoritative voice that calms customers and the internal fear of customer attrition. Further, they are seen as the extension of the customer as operational people turn to them as the conduit of negative news.

Fundamentally these behaviours characterise a full-time person that spends their entire day managing crisis. Sales managers become drawn into these demanding situations due to their commitment as customer advocates and getting things done. Often, no other on the executive will show similar passion as the sales manager.

In large organisations, the behaviours outlined are less likely to occur, but in companies with 5-20 salespeople, you will be surprised how sales managers spend their day. As identified, being the go-to-person draws them into operational meetings, finance meetings, and always having input into how a specific subject, process, or activity will affect customers.

When you do the exercise, you will most likely find the results look like this:

The tasks being done the most:

  • Crisis management
  • Internal company issues
  • Operational meetings

The tasks were not being completed:

  • Coaching
  • Motivating
  • Recruiting
  • Reviewing performance and pipelines
  • Holding salespeople accountable
  • Managing compensation plans
  • Organisation/reorganisation
  • Strategy implementation measurement
  • Selling

Your company is just ticking along with the belief that all the problems are being solved, but growth is the price being paid.

The challenge CEO’s

The first challenge is that the traditional sales manager profile no longer produces the growth required. Sales managers can no longer be considered the go-to person to solve all issues. That is a sign of inadequate internal systems and a lack of clear lines of accountability within the sales team. As the checklist demonstrates, there are many other things they should be involved with that directly contribute to your company growth.

The second challenge is most sales managers are not measured against anything other than revenue and margin. Although these are two crucial outputs, they do not adequately measure and explain highly effective sales forces. These are lagger reports that once delivered cannot be changed or influenced, and their use has minimal impact on performance improvement.

Furthermore, revenue and margin are influenced by the sales cycle of your product and services. If you have a monthly or quarterly cycle, it can take months or extended reporting periods to see results. This exacerbated where long lead times occur.

We outlined in a previous article Ascertaining the Real Value of an Effective Sales Manager that considers the impact of coaching a team by the sales manager.

If sales management immediately switches to coaching and guiding and extract themselves from crisis management, they would achieve an improvement in sales results. As you know, that change will not occur without intervention.

To achieve the change, CEOs need tools that will become levers to change and assist their sales manager to evolve in their role. They require coaching that realigns the sales managers focus on areas that will influence the outcomes of sales growth.

Sales success is not an art; it is a science, and as within other areas of your organisation, there are metrics and mechanisms that drive performance that in turn deliver growth. Those calling it an art are typically managers who lack the delivery skills required. This characterisation of sales as an art is used as camouflage that demonstrates the sales manager’s lack of exposure to highly effective sales forces.

The sales management role must focus on measurement and coaching to drive sales success. Any crisis should be treated as a break in the company’s systems or how salespeople are operating in the field. The crisis needs to be dealt with through cause and effect. In many cases, the cause is a poorly sold product or misrepresented delivery time and similar scenarios.

The CEO’s role is to manage the risk of poor growth through a one-page statistical reporting that demonstrates sales implementation is occurring through key growth drivers.

If your sales manager’s time is focused on crisis management, then as CEO you need to know about it, so the change may occur with the realignment of their priorities. To achieve this change, your sales manager will require a methodology and tools that have a positive impact on the entire team. Tools that make salespeople smarter and when combined with appropriate coaching provide an understanding of how to deliver the growth required.

To achieve what has been discussed the sales manager will require mentoring and coaching in how professional sales management operate that will provide an understanding of how to successfully deliver growth in line with your company strategy. They need to learn how to hold salespeople accountable while retaining productivity and effectiveness.

As CEO, you must lead and support the initiative for the change is to occur in your organisation. You must be the initiator and supporter of the process. Our Money Ball measurement methodology has been specifically developed to assist CEOs to achieve the necessary change. The process provides tools, measurement, insight, and coaching to deliver planned sales goals.

To understand the impact Money Ball can have, a CEO of a company with revenues of $32m per annum was challenged to achieve growth. With the implementation of Money Ball, they have achieved a 28% growth in revenue in six months in comparison to the previous year. The company has the tools for accountability, and sales managers are focused on delivering growth now rather than crisis or other non-growth management activities.

If you are looking to hire an effective sales manager, we can assist you with our recruitment services

To discuss how we can assist your company in revenue improvement, please contact the office.

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About the Author: Adele Crane

A leader in Implementation Consulting.
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.