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Counsel your sales team regularly

July 28, 2003
Filed under Archives

In these next articles, you’ll find 12 points that define the sales manager’s job. Hopefully you already are performing at least half of these consistently well. Regardless, don’t try to do all of them well right away. Select two or three on which you need to improve and concentrate on those until they become habit. Then select two or three more, and so on until you are proficient in all 12.
1. Monthly Sales Objectives. At the beginning of every month, talk with each salesperson individually about their monthly sales objectives.
As a new manager, one of the most difficult things I ever experienced was coming up with an objective for the department. I would go to one of my salespeople and ask, “How many units are you going to sell this month?” And I’d hear, “All that I can, Boss.”
Or I would call a sales meeting and ask, “How many units are you going to sell?” The first salesperson would answer one amount. The second one was going to sell a little bit more than the first salesperson, and so on. By the time I got around to the last salesperson, it was a humongous amount. Egos get challenged and everybody tried to outdo each other.
It was about this time that our dealer would lean on us for a realistic objective. I didn’t have a clue. So I took last month, or this time last year and added 10% to it. Not very good, was it?
There is only one way to develop an effective, accurate, realistic objective. That is to sit down with each salesperson individually — not in front of a group, but individually. Find out what they think they are realistically going to sell.
The way you do that is you ask them for the pessimistic prediction (the worst that can happen), then the optimistic one (the best that can happen). You figure out something in between and you compare it with historical data because history does repeat itself!
If a particular salesperson was not with you last year, don’t worry. You know what’s realistic and what’s not based on the type of people you have hired. Then you take each salesperson’s realistic objective and add it up.
You need to go through this procedure each month or you’re operating in the dark. We can’t tell our salespeople they need direction or focus unless we have it ourselves. We get it and establish it by coming up with an objective for the department.
If your dealer doesn’t like the departmental unit objective and wants you to upgrade your forecast, you have two choices. You either have to go back, sit down with your salespeople and confirm that they haven’t underestimated their unit potential or, you have to hire more salespeople because if the forecast is accurate, you need to bridge the gap between it and the dealer’s demands.
2. Daily Sales Tracking. At the beginning of each day, talk with your people individually about yesterday’s results and today’s plan.
When I was a sales manager, I had a salesperson who was consistently the top producer. Once, about three weeks into the month, I noticed his sales were almost nonexistent. I went to him and asked, “What’s the problem?”
He was having domestic problems, and it was affecting him drastically. I explained the situation to the dealer, and he said he would pay half the fee if the couple would go to a marriage counselor.
Good news! They received counseling and soon after, the salesman was back on track.
The bad news is I lost three weeks of production from my number one performer. And in a small sales operation, that hurt.
That’s a great story, right? But why did it take me three weeks to figure this out? Shouldn’t I have seen it and acted on it earlier? If I had been talking with him every day, perhaps I would have noticed that his head wasn’t screwed on right.
If you start having a positive effect on your sales representatives early in the month by working with them daily, it’s amazing what both of you can achieve.

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