Over the last 9 years of running the Churchill Club I noticed that every time we have an event with a sales and marketing focus, someone asks me that question afterwards. They sidle up beside me and pretty much use these exact words every time “So, do you know any good sales managers?”
The person asking the question is normally the founder / CEO of a small but growing innovative business. They wanted to grow faster by professionalising their sales and marketing activity or address at plateauing of sales. First stop is that they employ a Sales Manager who is very impressive. Around 6 months later they fire them for having no impact. They then repeat this cycle a couple of times hiring and firing, until they eventually ask me the questions “So…..”
So why does this pattern repeat itself? Lets set the scene……
- The CEO has traditionally generated business out of his/her own networks. Normally they have a strong background on the tools (whether it be tech, science, serving ice cream whatever)…They are well respected for being good at their job and consequently get plenty of business referred.
- Its easy for them to sell, because they are “the man” the person who can make a decision immediately, answer any question and fix a price or discount on the spot.
- They don’t particularly need professionalism of their sales and marketing activity, because new business effortlessly and regularly arrives.
- Their business booms for a while (normally for around two years) before they start to run out of opportunity in their own network, which is when they decide to employ a Sales Manager.
Here’s what happens next…
- The Sales Manager gets the job because he or she is good at selling (themeslves to you). They have probably worked in the industry before and somehow connect with the CEO. They have previously held roles as a “Sales Manager” which you don’t yet realize is meaningless, because pretty much every salesman in existence has held the title “Sales Manager” but not done the job. The difference between selling and managing sales is vast, but its confused by the fact that Sales Managers are usually a senior salesperson as well.
- Turns out that they are also poor pick for the job – because of you. You don’t know what should be in their job description other than “sell stuff”, so you can’t recruit effectively. Secondly if they are currently working for a competitor or similar business, you probably don’t uncover the real reason they want to join your business (which won’t be a payrise for them). Hint – they are probably about to get fired!
- The new Sales Manager is not completely incompetent though – but then they find there is pretty much no sales and marketing infrastructure in place and your “hundreds of customers” is usually just a debtors ledger listing of 50 businesses that may or may not exist anymore. Lots of hard work ahead for them.
- The Sales Manager is out of their depth because they just know how to sell but the job requires more. There is no guidance from you, because it’s the blind leading the blind. They then spend a lot of their time out of the office “building a pipeline”. You don’t have formal sales meeting because you don’t know what to do and what to measure. You just occasionally ask “What’s going on?”
- You gradually become more and more nervous that you have picked badly. You barely see the Sales Manager because they are always out and your suspicion is that they may be going to Job interviews.
- You start undermining them by handling incoming requests yourself, as you no longer trust them to build your business.
- They then quit just before you sack them and blame you, bad mouthing your company as being “about to fail”.
- The cycle then repeats a couple of times because you think the problem was caused by you recruiting badly.
You then whisper in my ear “So……………”.
The real question you should ask though “is how do I get out of this cycle?”
Firstly you need to accept you don’t need to recruit a Sales Manager yet because you are it and will be it for a while (don’t abdicate this role). You do however need a system, then a salesman you can manage, then replace yourself as sales manager when you validate your arrangements work. The system for selling could include:
A simple Strategic Marketing Plan – i.e. What you selling, who do you sell to, and why do they buy it? You will also know the way to find, sell and deliver (channels) to these people and what the market looks like you operate in. This however can start as a single paragraph that you improve and expand every time you revisit it. It is your compass.
A simple Tactical Marketing plan. – ie. How you will generate leads, generate prospects, close customers, fulfill orders and account manage each of your solutions listed in the Strategic Marketing plan. This will hopefully have some nice measurable metrics and a budget attached (even if the budget is simply an apportioning of someone’s time ). Its the framework for managing salesperson activity to deliver sales (the core of sales management).
Some Sales & Marketing Infrastructure should be put in place– Sales Collateral, contracts, website, reports, perhaps even a CRM system that actually has customer information. The tools your sales people use to do their job.
A simple Job Description for a Salesperson detailing what you want the Salesperson to do. You should combine this with the metrics you will measure and judge them on. Eg. Perhaps they need to do 10 new business meetings a week.
You are then ready to recruit your first salesperson. Once you have a sales person, setup a weekly meeting with them because you are “The Sales Manager”. Don’t abdicate this role. You need to manage your sales person by gaining regular insight their performance (against the metrics), problem solve and innovate to ensure their success. When the sales person is successful, split the work and employ another.
Write up what you are doing as the Sales Manager as a Job Description. You will need it for when you are ready to employ your replacement Sales Manager. The one that will be a highly effective and valued member of the team because; they know what to do, they are the right person for the job, and have the right resources.
Not that hard I think, but not much fun to learn the hard way. If you can’t do it, help from someone who can.