“Look,” said Ernie, more than a little annoyed but trying to keep the annoyance out of his voice, “since you became sales manager you seem to have completely forgotten how it is out there.” He gestured out the window toward downtown.
Heather, the newly appointed sales manager, had been suggesting to Ernie another approach he might want to consider for prospecting. Of course, thought Heather, he’s either threatened that I’m a woman or that I used to be the top salesperson with the desk right next to him and now I’ve been promoted.
“Ernie, all I’m trying to suggest is that instead of the 12 of us running off in 12 directions with prospecting, we at least all approach it the same way . . .”
“Heather, I’m no good at just calling people up cold and trying to get an appointment. I’ve never been good at that. But I’m real good at popping in on people and worming my way into seeing them.”
“How many do you actually get in to see?”
“What’s the difference, my numbers are always good . . . on average. I have good months and bad, just like most of us in sales. Leaving out Melinda and Jake, I perform at least as well as everyone else.”
“Ernie, I’ve got 12 people working 12 different ways. Most of them, you included, don’t make the numbers on a consistent basis. I really need your support to implement a standard prospecting method. I’m sure it will produce if we all work at it.”
“We tried that last year, remember? You were the one who convinced our illustrious past sales manager that everyone had his own sales style and, I quote you, “What’s wrong with the numbers I make?’”
“That was last year, Ernie; he’s gone, I’m here. We all have to work together!”
“Tell you what,” responded Ernie, “you get Melinda and Jake cold calling for appointments right next to me, and then maybe I’ll believe you’re serious.”
“Those two don’t need to cold call for appointments, and you know it.”
“See, this ‘we all have to pull together’ stuff is already falling apart. Case in point: those two suddenly get excused from cold calling because they have important appointments to go on?”
Instead of Ernie pulling together, he’s pulling apart and using Heather’s past actions as justification.
Either the sales manager defines and proceeds to implement a common approach to selling for her sales staff, or the sales staff is left to their own devices.
It’s not uncommon for a sales manager to let the sales staff have their way. After all, in most organizations, the effectiveness of the manager is usually measured in monthly and yearly sales totals. The manager, seeing that about 10 percent of the salespeople routinely produce the target numbers, leaves them alone and concentrates on the others.
“If only I could get Jim to be more consistent, I could . . .”
“Why Alice stays here is beyond me, eight months out of the year her target number is never hit. And the other four months she just ekes by.”
So now you are trying to help 80 to 90 percent of the sales force, each with his own method of sales. How can anyone be expected to have success in this situation?
Consider for a moment that everyone in the sales department follows one selling path. What are the advantages?
First, if the department’s goal is not being met, it’s much simpler to define what the problem is. Assuming it’s not the sales approach, then the problem becomes one of determining where the breakdown is occurring on an individual basis. Once you determine what those problems are, you can manage them.
Second, it’s a given that some salespeople will rise to the top with any sales method. If everyone is following the same approach, determine how the successful ones are being successful and then transfer that information to the ones who aren’t.
Third, salespeople who aren’t consistently at the top have a million reasons why not. “She has a gift for gab.” “He’s just lucky.” “She’s been here longer.” “He just got hired and came with a stack of referrals.” The list is endless. If everyone is following the same path, the only reason for non-performance is not following the path that works for the top performers.
You can’t reach goals if everyone is allowed to decide for himself how to reach them. The only result of such a management practice is chaos.
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