To say that the relationship between a team of sales professionals and their sales manager is extremely important is a gross understatement. As in most relationships, the element of trust is absolutely necessary if each is to do their job effectively.
The sales manager is caught between “managing up” by providing data necessary for higher-ups to participate in sales forecasting, and “managing down” to meet the needs of a diverse stable of producers. These producers often range between inexperienced rookies to veterans, some of which are truly effective in their job and others who have simply been around a long time and are nominally effective at best. The manager’s role in these varied cases can be complex. For some, they have a heavy teaching load; for others, none is required. For all, motivation is a key element. The factor that assists the manager in doing the job well is that element of trust…can the manager rely on information obtained from each producer?
The common link between manager and producers, and the area where a truthful interchange is critical, is pipeline management. The manager needs accurate information to satisfy his/her boss and to make sure sales goals are being met. The numbers provided by the salespeople to the manager can be suspect for three key reasons.
First, some producers cannot accurately determine whether a person/company is a prospect or not. If this is not accurately understood or portrayed, revenue projections, as well as time frame and probability for closure, will be inaccurate.
Second, people have widely varying degrees of optimism based on their outlook on life. A pessimist is pessimistic about most everything, including the viability of a prospect. The opposite is true of an optimist. The pipeline expectations will reflect this outlook.
Third, many producers will not be entirely truthful about the reality of a prospect, closing potential, and size of a deal because they know that a miscalculation will possibly be used against them in the future. Too high an estimate will raise expectations and too low might bring intense pressure and scrutiny upon them without the accompanying assistance.
Now, to answer the question posed last week …”What do you think most sales professionals manage best?” The answer is…THEIR MANAGER! The data provided by each producer for pipeline use often reflects the desire to control the perception of the manager about the efforts and potential success of the producer.
If salespeople believe that the information they provide to their manager can assist them…the producers…they will more likely than not to be forthcoming about specific sales calls and information. Further, a leadership process that is mutually beneficial to both is the only type that will work over time. This type of process requires that the producers see their manager as a mentor who understands all aspects of sales and can, therefore, assist them both in developing skills and successfully working through deals.
The questions then become, “What are the components of the process that will put the producers and the manager on the same side of the table where an exchange of truthful, timely, and specific information benefits both, and what are the requisite skills for a manager to be effective in this LEADERSHIP role?” Over the next few weeks, we will explore specific strategies and tactics to successfully fill this role.