In sales organization after sales organization, I hear similar stories when I ask sales managers what they do to support, motivate and manage the salespeople who report to them.  The answers are – more often than not – sickeningly vague.

After the usually (BS) disclaimer about how their industry / company / country is not typical from the sales perspective (i.e., we are unique, just like everybody else), they describe two basic categories of engagement between the manager and the salespeople:

First, setting targets for the end of the term (week, month, quarter, year, etc.).  There is, of course, nothing wrong with this.  But if improving sales efforts is the goal, then it can’t be the only substantive element of a sales management program.

Those who grew up in America may remember the breakfast cereal commercials that were shown during the Saturday morning cartoons.  After a fun presentation of “Super Sugar Flakes” or some other clearly unhealthy cereal, the closing shot for the benefit of the moms watching was of a nicely laid out breakfast, and the announcement that “Super Sugar Flakes are an important part of this healthy breakfast” (which includes juice, toast and milk).

So of course the breakfast would be healthy without the cereal – and while the sugary cereal might be what it takes to get junior to the table, the other stuff is what will get him through his morning.  In the same way, a revenue target is important, but alone, it is not enough.

So what is the second category that I usually hear from sales managers?  Sadly, nothing as substantial as juice, toast and milk!

Rather, the second category is some variation on story telling.  The managers will go through the accounts or opportunities of the salespeople one by one for a “status report”.  While this sounds pretty normal, it is nothing more than random story telling.

The reason it is random is because there is no expectation of what is supposed to be happening within each account or opportunity before the conversation starts, so there is no context for the conversation.

What do I mean by that?  Let me illustrate from the sales perspective:

Let’s say that a salesperson goes to a meeting determined to finalize the negotiation of a contract or to close a sale.  When the meeting ends, the salesperson can evaluate the outcome of the meeting against the goal that was stated before the meeting started.

On the other hand, if the sales person had no goal, he will look back on the event of the meeting in hindsight and decide after the fact that it was positive, since there was a nice conversation, or whatever, and it was surely the kind of relationship building that will lead to business in the future.

That might (might!) be true, but it is a reactive rationalization rather than proactive salesmanship.

The same is true of our sales manager.  If the salesperson is asked “so how’s it going”, pretty much any answer will do.  If the conversation is about why the revenue target was not reached at the end of the quarter, there is still no baked in expectation about how the salesperson was supposed to get there, and the conversation is by definition subjective.

So what is the alternative?  Stay tuned – I’ll post that next week…..

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Authors note (AKA shameless plugs)

So, this 7-step sales process and associated topics…. Yup, I write about that a lot. I’ve been working with it since I developed it about 25 years ago – in my own diverse work experiences, with my teams when I had them, and with clients ever since.

If you would like to develop you own personalized and customized, highly effective and efficient B2B selling system, here are some further steps you can take:

The Salesman’s Guide to Dating is a free or very cheap (depending on Amazon) Kindle book that walks you through the sales process using the familiar analogy of dating. It’s a good, fun and quick way to get your mind around the whole process and how the pieces fit together.

Building Your Sales Process (BYSP) is a free and very thorough exploration of the same 7-step process that will walk you through the development of your own customized, personal B2B selling system. When you are done, you will know exactly what to do to get new business.

The Momentum Selling System® is an inexpensive but very robust online sales training course that is similar to BYSP, but goes deeper into the concepts behind each of the steps, and also helps you develop a plan not only for the 7-step process but also addresses mindset, repeat business and client base management.

If none of that sounds right, I do personal coaching and offer a free 30-minute intake session so that we can both learn if it makes sense to work together 1-on-1. If this sounds interesting, click over to the coaching page on this site and sign up for the free session.

Here’s to your success!

-David