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Taking on Today’s Unique Sales Management Challenge

By: Linda Maxwell, Business Efficacy CEO and Co-Founder

We are all new to the unique situation the coronavirus has put upon us. None of us can say we’ve “been there, done that.” However, there are learnings from the not so distant past that provide significant insight into what sales management needs to do well now. During and immediately after September 11 and the Great Recession, I observed what sales managers and sales executives did or didn’t do. It was remarkable to see the impact of their actions. Those lessons are directly applicable to the challenge sales organizations face today and provide clear direction on what needs to be done.

The basics are obvious. Salespeople need to 1) know specifically what they are to be doing that is vitally important, 2) be strongly and positively encouraged to execute those activities and 3) get prepared and be supported to ensure maximum impact from their efforts. If you look at what’s behind these three requirements, you will notice that in doing all three mandates we lead, manage and coach.

The “wrong way” examples I witnessed were caused by management’s lack of understanding, knowledge and/or courage to provide the salespeople what they needed. Many left their salespeople unclear on what to do differently given the unusual circumstances. Many failed to increase the amount of encouragement and inspirational support provided. And even more did not recognize or address the challenges salespeople were encountering as they attempted to deliver on organizational expectations.

In many cases management would “double down” on a single discipline (lead, manage or coach in isolation) that they most relied upon or felt most comfortable with. If they were a strong sales “manager,” they would clarify expectations but not provide the inspiration or support required. If they were a strong sales “leader,” they would share inspiring messages about the value salespeople could provide during difficult times, but not provide clarity on what was to be done well to make that happen or even help the salespeople get it done. If they were a strong sales “coach” they would be working side by side with their salespeople providing just in time problem solving or insights but miss the mark when it comes to providing clear direction on what was to be done or getting sales people motivated to do the tasks.

Challenging times require we be all three; sales leaders who inspire performance, sales managers who provide focus and accountability, and sales coaches who support execution. This fusion of all three leads to maximum impact and results.

All of us can step up the value we add to our salespeople and our customers. It requires we push ourselves to be the best sales leader, sales manager and sales coach we can be.

This is a simple challenge that is attainable and provides the best option available to move sales teams forward. Choose to take on the challenge of…

  • Sales Management: Clarify execution expectations answering questions about what is similar and what is different today versus last week, last month or last quarter. Make sure the salespeople know the revised measures of success. Example: Sales calls can be done on the phone versus in person (versus assuming sales calls can’t be done).
  • Sales Coach: Support execution through frequent check-ins addressing challenges and enabling performance of prioritized expectations.
  • Sales Leadership: Inspire execution on what matters most, explaining why and building within each salesperson the required confidence and courage to do what needs to be done.

The lessons learned from September 11 and the Great Recession not only illuminated what needed to be done by sales management, it also demonstrated it can be done by sales managers who consider themselves ordinary. All sales managers can choose to step up today and provide the value their salespeople require. Jimmy Johnson said it perfectly, “the difference between ordinary and extraordinary is that little extra.”

To learn more about how to lead, manage and coach through challenging times, watch our recent webcast.

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