Sales Manager – “Hey Bob, what’s the status on the Techform opportunity?”
BOB – “It looks good, we’re waiting on the results of the demo and for the CIO to approve the solution.
Sales Manager – “Are we going to close it?”
BOB – “Yes, things are coming along. I should hear about it next week.”
Sales Manager – “Is there anything we can do to move things along?”
BOB – “No, we’re good. I spoke with them last week and they told me everything is good.”
Sales Manager – “Great, keep me in the loop.”
Unfortunately this is often a realistic depiction of what happens. I can really appreciate the pre-programmed response from the sales manager that I’ve heard throughout my career. In many businesses, mid-level management is stuck in a process oriented reporting box where he or she is required to format, edit, and review potential sales, both pipelines and forecasts, and send them up the chain. I have worked for great sales managers and not so great managers over the years. Unfortunately, some managers have never sold or haven’t sold in years, but I’ll give them credit, most managers have to deal with similar pressures from management above them and are forced to answer much like the salespeople below them.
Interestingly though, sometimes an MBA and a great resume is just not enough of a pre-requisite to managing talented salespeople in an aggressive results driven environment. The best salespeople, the ones that close the biggest deals, need to be left alone to do what they do. The sales manager, as discussed in Kira Moore’s blog, needs to ask the right questions.
- Is there a chance the results of the demo won’t be favorable?
- If so, what happens?
- What is the customer looking for in the demo?
- Will the demo provide the results they want?
- How will they be measuring “success?”
- When’s the last time you spoke with the CIO?
- What does she need to approve the deal?
- What evidence do you have that even if we get approval it will close next week?
- You said you are waiting on the results, what exactly are you waiting on?
- What evidence do you have that is going happen?
- Could the results divide the customer into two camps?
- If so, what will we do?
- What is our backup strategy?
- What can we do now, that can influence the decision?
- What is OUR next step, besides waiting? Why?
I have to laugh when I hear the question “is there anything you need to help move things along?” This is a polite rhetorical question because the manager doesn’t really expect a response other than “no” and if they do that salesperson might be considered difficult or needy. So, posing the question is sheer courtesy or lazy habit rather than anything else.
Salespeople do need to be educated, trained, and coached by talented leaders. If management is pinning them on a conference call or in a room once a week asking status on their pipelines, and only talking to their salespeople during this time, this is problematic. Management should be looking at creative strategies to drive sales like aligning better resources; finding the best trainers and coaches to make their salesforce better. Also, focusing on what is going on in the territories in order to gauge what the competition is doing and ensuring that quotas are realistic and attainable.
If the sales force within your organization isn’t making their quotas, it’s time to set appropriate expectations to senior management, align realistic quotas, get better resources for salespeople, potentially find better salespeople, train and make the good salespeople even better, and revaluate your services or product offering to ensure that it is unique and strong enough to sell in a competitive marketplace.