A Sales Manager’s dilemma – stuck in the middle?

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The sales manager’s job is tough – squeezed between the CEO and the sales representatives – he or she walks a fine line. The dilemma is this:  The language of target-setting does not work for target achievement.  I talked with Peter Michie at Performax and found a kindred spirit in recognizing the sales manager’s dilemma. Performax focuses on sales performance improvement and sales management, and Peter has worked with very challenging customer situations (including some sales disaster turnarounds), and reached interesting conclusions.

Sales Manager’s Dilemma – In considering this dilemma, sales targets have a burning clarity that has to be transmitted to sales team members, yet target delegation does not solve the hard, hard problems of each prospect opportunity, where you often have to chip away for months to create buyer momentum, especially in B2B corporate sales. Targets cannot simply be delegated; some guidance and coaching is usually required.

Michie realized that sales results can be influenced in many ways by sales managers, and what they do all day. He based all his turnaround scenarios based upon the simple philosophy “You can’t actually manage results, you can only manage the actions and things that will create results”. In other words, you can’t leave the owner or CEOs office with a challenge to deliver $500K this quarter, walk down the hall and divvy it up $100K each among the 5 sales people. It just does not work.

What does work is building a culture that takes each unique opportunity, and looks at how to help that particular prospect become a buyer. A “buyer” has no concern for your quarterly targets, they have concern for solving their own problems and seizing their own opportunities. Even if they really like your product or service, they may have no idea how to get it funded, yet not admit that. A sales manager has to coach sales people on tactics to pull out the customer info on unique problems to solve, and ways to create urgency for your solution, for each deal in your funnel.

Also, sales resources have to be used with quality and quantity in mind. The successful tactics, it turns out, have a pattern – and Michie works with each sales team to discover that pattern, and design a sales and sales management process that fits that company and that product line. His experience is that solid sales process designs produce solid sales growth, and more accurate sales forecasting.

Results can be very impressive and this confirms our own choice in designing our SmartFunnel B2B sales system. We built it around a 1st class sales and management process, thus making it easier for sales managers to build process discipline into their team, crossing the chasm of the sales manager’s dilemma – and even more important, increasing sales results.


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