Herding Cats – The Art of Sales Management

Sales people are often competitive, highly strung, egotistical, outspoken and arrogant. This short list of qualities may just scratch the surface of many sales people and as such they can be notoriously difficult to manage. Control them too much and they will revolt, give them too much rope and they will exploit you. Mastering this art form really is a massive challenge and as such is regularly overlooked. So, I thought I would tackle it head on and give a few short tips that may just help in your situation.

You never get a second chance to make a first impression

Setting the rules when you take on a new member of sales staff is vital if you want to get the best out of them. Cover everything from company culture, to dress code, personal grooming, time keeping, and expectation of performance, but also share with them the outcome of underperformance.

Creatures of Habit

Sales people are creatures of habit. Show them what success looks like and they will follow it. However, please remember that people do two things in business: what they enjoy doing and what they get checked on. As such, my advice is to keep the job fun. Creating a routine that generates activity but also creates a sense of team and puts a smile on your face is essential in well-managed teams. If meeting weekly is important then consider timing and location wisely. Some of my most successful sales teams met every Friday at 3 pm in the pub for a review of the week and at 8 am every Tuesday for breakfast. Our results where double that of our competitors. Consider what you can do to improve the routine?

Give them a fine reputation to live up to

Sales people are competitive, and although they are often employed by your business, they are typically managed by the most demanding boss in the world – themselves. This information is priceless when motivating your team. Use questions when asking more of your team, as opposed to giving orders. Challenging them on the results of others, either past or present, can be very effective. Equally get them to set their own targets, but only when in front of others. Use language like “Rob has sold 4 this week …..I thought that you were better than Rob” and “ If we started a new sales person next week, how many orders should they get in their first 6 weeks? ….. So why have you only got….?”

However, please remember that although sales staff may seem thick skinned, they are often emotional and nearly always fragile. As such it is essential that praise is loud, lavish and in public, yet any genuine criticism must happen behind closed doors. Protect their ego, it’s valuable to you.

Manage results but measure activity

We are all in business for results, yet often the results can be out of our control. With this in mind, simply recording the results of your team’s efforts can be misleading. I would encourage you to measure not just the outcome from your team’s efforts but also the input. This allows you to reward effort, manage complacency and idleness and most importantly identify development opportunities.

If you start to apply these simple tips to your sales team then I am certain of improved results.

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