6 Ways to Help CEOs Struggling to Manage their Sales Teams

Originally published on the Sales Management Blog on Thursday, Jan 22, 2015

If you own your own company and also manage the sales team, this article is for you. I have written before that it is not the optimal situation when the CEO also directly manages the salespeople, but I recognize that it is sometimes a requirement until sales support a different structure. It is not ideal because you as the company leader have to pay attention to numerous other activities and cannot devote the attention necessary to drive sales. You may have been the driver of sales earlier in the company’s history (and you may still be) so you may be comfortable with that side of the business. Unfortunately, selling and driving sales through other people are not the same skill set.

We frequently get asked to coach business owners to help them be more effective in leading their sales teams. The downfall is typically not their lack of skill. Typically it is their lack of consistency and time

commitment that makes them ineffective. The most common problem we see is the following vicious cycle.

Vicious 6-Step Cycle of Downfall with CEO as Sales Manager

1) Intending to spend time and then letting other matters interfere.

2) Allowing salespeople to go off without guidance.

3) Feeling guilty about not providing adequate guidance.

4) Accepting mediocre or poor performance because of the guilt associated with not providing adequate guidance.

5) Allowing under-performers to stay longer than they should because of the guilt and the perceived hassle of replacing them.

6) Frustration and despair.

If any of this sounds familiar, then make the commitment to follow six basic rules to make your life easier and help your team succeed at a higher level.

The Remedy: 6 Basic Rules to Make Life Easier & Help Sales Team Succeed

1) Make sure to articulate goals and expected behaviors and outcomes on an individual basis.

2) Calculate the math associated with achieving those goals with each salesperson (how many closed pieces of business and therefore how many opportunities are needed).

3) Have the salesperson create an action plan or business plan of how they will get the adequate number of opportunities to close enough business to meet the goal (you get veto power, by the way). Hold them to a deadline to create the plan and set the meeting to go through it.

4) Schedule a weekly (preferable) or bi-weekly (acceptable) one-on-one meeting with each salesperson. Make this a scheduled recurring meeting that NOTHING interferes with. This has to be a top priority.

5) In the meeting review the following:

  1. Their action plan. Did they do what they promised and if not, what are they going to do differently going forward?
    b. Their success YTD and what behavior change needs to occur if they are doing enough activity but not getting results. Debrief and prebrief sales meetings/calls to help coach them. Determine whether you need to accompany them on sales calls for coaching purposes.
    c. The state of their pipeline. Make sure they can articulate an “agreed to next step” for each deal in the pipeline. Encourage the mentality of move it or blow it up.
  2. Keep the meetings to a condensed 30 to 45 minutes apiece. That way you will be less likely to reschedule them if you know they are fairly quick.

    6) As you follow this routine you will make determinations about those individuals that get to stay and those that are not deserving of your time and effort. Make decisions to replace as necessary.

    If you are committed to guiding your team to higher levels of success and want to break out of the rut of guilt, frustration and accepting mediocrity commit to following this six step plan.

    If you want a sample template of how to put this all together,
    download our 
    CEO as Sales Leadership Toolkit here.

    About the author: Gretchen Gordon is owner of Braveheart Sales Performance, a consulting firm that guarantees improvement in profitable sales for its clients. With data-driven sales team evaluations, sales effectiveness training, salesperson recruitment and sales management outsourcing, Braveheart helps businesses increase revenue and the bottom line. @BraveheartSales

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