May 18th, 2015
Are You the Maestro of Your Sales Team?
This was a musical weekend. Friday evening we went to the Knoxville Symphony, it was the final program by Lucas Richman who has lead the symphony for the past 12 years and Sunday was Music Sunday at our church, with Bell Choirs, guest musicians, the adult and children’s choir and many ensembles it was a festival morning. In both situations there was no doubt as to who was in charge and who knew the details-the Maestro/conductors.
As I listened and felt the music I was intrigued as how two lead their teams; they anticipated the next movement or group to contribute and keep the pace that was required to succeed-always just ahead or anticipating the next phase. Obviously I am drawing the analogy back to you as the sales leader. I see many times where the executive or sales manager are caught off guard; missed forecasts, someone leaves the team unexpectedly, marketing programs are unsuccessful or salespeople cannot accurately sell products/services or your company.
The role of sales leadership must incorporate levels of management, strategic vision and tactical programs as well as the emotional aspect of creating an environment for success. We have covered many of those elements in past blogs and my monthly newsletter; Why Sales Managers Succeed! In each concert the Maestro/conductor had to assume the same role with the sales responsibilities.
What can you do to become a better conductor or even a Maestro of your sales team? It is not easy, that is why most sales managers fail in the first 18 months. I have listed below a few of the actions that we see missing when sales managers are struggling:
- Take time to ponder; find your own private time to think about your team, the direction it is heading, what’s working, what’s not and the next six month plan. I use to do this at least once a week or at times when I was flying frequently I would shut down the work and simply take a blank tablet (paper), and write notes to myself as issues popped into my mind. In the concert both conductors discussed why and they picked the music for each concert, they had taken the time to make sure that the music fit the event.
- Schedule formal one on ones; these monthly meetings are not about the forecast, they are designed for you to have a conversation with your team members about: How is everything going? A good leader has insights into the personal and professional lives of each person on their team, they learn what motivates them and what doesn’t, this meeting allows for open communication and a building of trust. This level of trust is crucial in high performance sales teams when personality’s and tensions sometimes cause conflict. Learn to read your team. In an orchestra, each group of musicians i.e. violins to horns meet with the conductor to ensure they understand the piece of music and what is expected.
- Study and learn accountability; in a research study we did several years ago, we showed that most entrepreneurs failed at holding their direct reports accountable, we see the same with most sales managers. Dashboard and CRM reports are one thing but does your team as individuals and together feel accountable to achieving the organizations goals? This is not micro-management regarding doing the numbers… but rather an understanding that the team must achieve its goals as it is their responsibility to the rest of the members of the organization who are not in sales. The sales leader must reinforce this whenever possible, especially during the monthly company meeting with all the employees. The Maestro I am sure reinforced to each musician their individual contribution and importance to the overall concert.
- Focus on continuous training; in the field or in the office. The Maestro congratulated the #1 chair with a handshake but recognized the entire orchestra whenever the audience responded. He made sure that everyone knew their music but set a standard in recognizing those that had taken the time to master their craft. I am sure there were many rehearsals before the main event! It is the sales manager’s job to evaluate each salesperson’s talent and skill level and to develop team and individual sales training programs. Increase the level of professionalism at all times. In June we will be release a 5 set series of online video training for sales managers.
- Put systems in place; when we go onsite to consult with organizations it is not unusual to find no New Hire On-Boarding programs in place, limited sales training or sales meeting templates/agendas being used or solid sales process or interviewing/recruiting systems implemented. Struggling organizations thrash back and forth as if they were putting fingers into the dikes to stop the flooding-it’s a continual circus of confusion and frustration-nothing seems to work. This breeds ineffective teams. Leadership must act on a continuous quest for quality improvement. One of the reason our Sales Managers Tool Kit is one of most popular resources is there are over 40 tools/documents and best practices included, take a look at it before you consider re-inventing a process or sales management tool. Each conductor had their music sheets ready, each musician knew when to change chairs, the microphone worked and the lights went down or came up at the appropriate time. There was a system in place. Even the ushers knew when and how to escort us to our seats!
These are just five ideas, what ideas do you have to increase your level of success? I encourage you to share them with our community. Have a fun time and dance to the music.
Ken Thoreson “operationalizes” sales management systems and processes that pull revenue out of the doldrums into the fresh zone. During the past 17 years, our consulting, advisory, and platform services have illuminated, motivated, and rejuvenated the sales efforts for organizations throughout the world.
He was recently ranked for the third year in a row by Top Sales World magazine as one of the Top 50 Sales & Marketing Influencers for 2014.
Ken has written 5 books, his latest book is: SLAMMED! for First Time Sales Managers, Ken provides Keynotes, consulting services and products designed to improve business performance. Need more sales management resources? Check out his Sales Management Tool Kit or the Acumen Project.