Archive for category Getting the most from your reps

Finding & Hiring The Right Sales Rep

dan-5Just think how much time and money you can save by choosing the right sales person for your sales force. If you take the time to do it right, if you develop and implement a hiring process that fully vets the candidate before you hire her, it will pay off exponentially. Hiring too fast is almost always disastrous. One of the poorer characteristics of being a sales person is shooting from the hip. We all believe in our gut instinct so much that the faster we can come to a decision, the better we feel about ourselves. This is not a good… actually, it is a pretty bad thing because we often make the wrong decision when it comes to choosing sales people. Sales people are good at selling themselves because, well because they are sales people. Combine that with our pride in making fast decisions and it’s no wonder that we consider finding and keeping the right sales people is one of our biggest challenges as sales managers.

There are many aspects to proper vetting and hiring of the right sales people and one of these is identifying and evaluating the right characteristics of a Peak Performer. From the soon to be published book called The Sales Manager’s Guide to Greatness: 10 Essential Strategies for Leading your team to the Top by Kevin Davis, here are some key skills of Peak Performers that you should look for in your Peak Performing sales person:

  • Good Communicator
  • Organized
  • Negotiates well
  • Great selling skills
  • Develops killer proposals
  • Great work ethic
  • Self-motivated
  • Positive attitude
  • Team player
  • Competitive
  • Honest
  • Creative
  • Problem solver
  • Notice the ones that are about attitude. These are the most important ones.

As Davis mentions, these are skills and as important as they are for a sales person to have even more important than these skills are characteristics the exemplify “Wills” or positive attitude and these are:

  • Prospects consistently
  • Enthusiasm for resolving customer problems/complaints
  • String work ethic (hardworking and diligent)
  • Strong initiative (can work efficiently without being told what to do)
  • Competitive drive
  • Results-oriented
  • A positive influence on co-workers
  • Learns quick and is coachable
  • Tenacious (keeps focused until an outcome is achieved)
  • Constantly looks for opportunities to learn and improve

And finally, again from the book, are three observable behaviors that you as the person hiring the candidate should be looking for in that candidate:

Competitive: Hates to lose. Constantly working on getting better

Good work ethic: High activity level. Determined to complete tasks. Hates to miss quotes

Problem solver: Accepts responsibility for solving problems. Can define the problem’s causes and solutions. Understands that their solutions can’t create more problems for co-workers.

Creating a success profile using these characteristics and then applying it to the hiring process will go a long way to assuring your selection of the best candidate for the job. But it is not the only thing you should be doing. There should be team synergy, the candidate must fit in well with the rest of the team. She has to comply with the company’s culture and most importantly, the candidate must be ready and willing to sell what the company produces. This last comment might seem obvious but it is not.

If you are a quick-turn prototype fabricator specializing in producing high-mix low-volume orders for your customers, then be careful if your sales candidate comes from a high-volume production background. Be especially on the lookout for the candidate who keeps talking about how much better it is to sell what he was selling before than what your company sells.

Make it clear to that candidate that you sell what you sell, that’s your product, your sweet spot and you are not going to change. Let the candidate know that he must make a decision, and then a commitment to sell your products when he comes on board. And, if he persists in talking about the benefits of what he sold at his former company then take the hint and invite him to return to his former company.

You, as a sales manager do not need to waste you time convincing your sales people to be selling what you produce.

Hiring the right sales people is like everything else you do in life. It starts with knowing exactly what you want and then going out and getting it. During the hiring process is the right time to make sure that the person in front of you is the right person, that she has all the characteristics and skill that you want in a member of your sales team. Vet that person carefully to make absolutely certain she is the right person for your team. And once you are convinced that she is, hire her. It’s only common sense.

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Questions To Ask Potential Sales Reps

dan-6The problem with finding and hiring the right sales person is that, well they are sales people, they know how to sell, they know how to talk a good game, in fact so good a game that it’s hard to figure out if they are in fact really good or just great talkers!

So you have to dig a little deeper when hiring sales than say, if you were hiring people for operations or engineering. Generally those folks know their stuff or they don’t and that doesn’t take long to figure out.

Sales people on the other hand, well…

So here are some interview questions that I like to ask when I am interviewing a sales person for one of my clients.

  1. How well do you know your customers? Give me a specific example.
  2. What would your customers say about you? Name a least three customers and tell me what you think they would say about you if I were to call them.
  3. Tell me about a time when you’re company really messed up and you had to go in and save the account. What did you do?
  4. It’s the third week of the month. A lot of product is due at the end of the month and your company’s plating line goes down and just about all of your boards are going to be delayed for at least five days. What’s your plan? What are you going to do?
  5. What process do you use to find a new customer? Take me through your entire process from lead generation to that first order.
  6. They say that you have sell a new customer twice. First you have to convince the customer and then you have to convince your own company. How do you do that?
  7. What is the biggest challenge you have ever faced as a sales person?
  8. What is the biggest success you have ever had as a sales person?
  9. We do not sell on price. How will you sell around the price issue? Please give me an example.
  10. How do you plan your day, your week, your month your year?
  11. How do you forecast? You do forecast right?
  12. We like our sales people to “own” their territories. What does that mean to you? How do you own your territory?

These are all very legitimate question designed to give you real insight into what kind of sales person you are hiring by the way she answers these questions.

For example if the candidate sales that she does not believe in forecasting and then gives you five reasons why forecasting does not work you’ve got a real problem and it’s a huge indicator that this person will not work out for you.

Here are some other possible answers that wills signal a red light to their hiring:

  • Listen carefully to the person’s answer to the question about selling on price. This is the ringer in all of these questions. A great sales person will answer this directly and clearly using all of your company’s assets to demonstrate how to make the sales (which means that he has completely checked out your company).
  • The answer to the question about lead generation and prospecting. There are a great many sales people today especially with the more “experienced” sales people who will claim that lead generation and prospecting is dead. This means that they hate cold calling always have and are not going to start doing it for your company. Sales is all about contacting someone you don’t know and convincing them to buy something from you. If your candidate is not willing to do that he is not a good candidate move on.
  • When you ask them about how they plan their day, week, month and year they’d better have a great answer. Sales is all about planning. It is all about the homework and this questions is designed to indicate whether or not the candidate is a professional.

Now here a few more bonus questions. This group is designed to really give you some insight into the true passion of the candidate for her profession:

  1. How to you keep up with your profession? What courses do you take? What seminars do you take part in?
  2. What is the last book you read about business? Tell what you thought of that book?
  3. Who is your favorite business writer?
  4. Do you watch any business shows on Television?

And finally the last group of questions; these are designed to discover how up to date and forward thinking your candidate is:

  1. Are you on LinkedIn? How many connections do you have?
  2. What are your thoughts on social media in general?

And that’s about it. Obviously these are recommended questions and certainly you can come up with some of your own that will be at least equally as good. But I would urge you to take these questions very seriously and then take the entire interview process even more seriously. Hiring a sales person is one of the most if not the most important decision you have to make as a sales manager so make sure you take all of the time it takes to find out everything you can about your candidate. An extra hour in the interview process could save you weeks if not months or even years later on…not to mention thousands if not hundreds of thousands or millions of dollars in lost sales in the future. It’s only common sense.

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8 Reasons To Fire Your Principal

dan-2Sometimes a rep has to do what a rep has do to.

Okay, so now it’s your turn. We have talked enough about making sure that you as a rep make yourself invaluable to your principal. We have gone on ad nausea about the various ways that reps disappoint the companies they represent. So now we are going to switch gears and put that proverbial shoe on the proverbial other foot and talk about when it’s time for you to check out; when it’s time for you to tell your principal that enough is enough and bade him a very pleasant adios amigo.

Sometimes you can pick these things up when you are going through the interview “getting to know you” phase of the relationship. If this is the case. If at any time in the initial stages of the relationship you even come within smelling distance of any of these problems, then get out, do not sign on the line that is dotted, just go away before anything becomes formal.

But as sometimes happens everything is great at the beginning of the relationship but begins to sour along the way don’t be afraid to call it a day.

Here are seven indications that the relationship with your principal is going bad and that you should get out before it gets rotten.

  1. No communications: When the principal, despite your best efforts stops communicating with you it’s time to start wondering what’s going on. This is especially true if at one time you had a great relationship with her. Try to find out what’s going on. Be suspicious, there must have been some sort of change at the company. Try to find out if you did something to offend the principal or if there is just something you don’t know about and should.
  2. Poor service: this is the worst of all things a principal can do to hurt you. When you start seeing Quality issues, late deliveries and worst of all a sort of malaise sets in where the principal really doesn’t seem to care that you are out there dodging bullets while he is back in his shop doing nothing about it, it’s time to start thinking about buying your exit ticket because often especially if the principal will not even listen to you when you try to tell her that things are going to hell in a handbasket, it’s time to exit stage left. Look you are supposed to be spending your time selling not apologizing. Do not hang around with a vendor who is not performing, it’s not worth your time an effort and it’s certainly not worth risking your good name, your reputation by hanging around with a loser.
  3. Losing customers: related to item two, when you start losing customers get out. If you are a multi-line rep, you cannot afford to lose a customer when you are selling other technologies of the same product to those customers. Get out and get out fast.
  4. Know when to fold them: This is a tricky one. Often reps are held hostage because they brought in a big account and are now in danger of losing a commission stream if they leave too soon. There isn’t much you can do about this. When you find yourself in this situation you obviously don’t have the latitude to leave right away if you ever want to see those commissions so all you can do is lay low, do the best you can and quietly make arrangements to leave. If this is a multi-year contract, then try to make the best of a bad thing. This is the one time you can try to reason with the principal. Try to help him get better. Point out to him that he stands to lose the big account you brought in if he doesn’t fix his company. If he listens to you and starts trying to make things better fine. If not, then start finding another company wo can take over your large account because eventually that poor performance is going to affect that account as well and you will lose it. Protect your reputation at all costs. This is not a good time to go down with the ship.
  5. You are being phased out: you can tell when this is happening, you’ll feel a sudden chill in the air. Your contact at the principal will no longer be that nice. You start hearing a lot of “what have you done for me lately”. If these things start to occur and you know you have been doing a good job then start looking for a rat to match with that smell because here is what is happening; either the principal has a new accountant who is pointing out that you are making “too much money”, or they have figured out that one of the customers you brought in is growing like crazy and they want you out of the picture before they start paying you a “small fortune”. Whether you like it or not you are going to be let go contract terminated a victim of your own success. First, remember this scenario when signing a contract because this is why you need to find for a longer termination clause. The second thing you can do is go to the owner of the company and negotiate a fair termination that will give you some kind of parting gift or if all else fails call your lawyer. Sorry there is no good and satisfying end to this situation, this is why you need to choose your principals carefully…very carefully
  6. You’re in shackles: the principal thinks that his company can do everything, every technology, every service every kind of printed circuit boards that money can buy (and he cannot) so that he will not let you have any other lines. Do not ever sign a contract that dictates that you cannot have any other lines of similar but non-competing products, you have to have the latitude to have other non-competing lines that offer different technologies services. Or if you already are in an agreement with a company and they invest in a new technology and now they want you to dump your other line in the same technology, don’t do it. That’s why you have a contract. You should stick to your guns and say you already have someone building that new technology and you are not going to change.
  7. Non-Payment: when the commission checks stop coming be careful. Call the company immediately and find out what is going on. If you get a reasonable answer from the people you have had a long-time relationship with then maybe you can cut them some slack for s little while. But if you get the sense that the ship is sinking then get out, cut your loses you are now officially working for nothing and you cannot afford to do that. Remember you are an unsecured creditor and if that companies goes under you will get next to nothing if anything at all.
  8. And yes, one more always under promise and over deliver; most of these issues can be resolved if you have maintained a close relationship with your principals. Try to keep close to the owner. Make sure you have a great working relationship at all times. One more bit of advice you might consider adding a single clause to the contract that demands that before any termination by either part occurs both parties must meet face to face and have a discussion about the issues on the table. I had a contact like this once and it really worked. We sat down, had a talk, and resolved our differences.

Like everything else if you maintain a good working relationship with your principals, if you stay in touch with them, if your talk frequently these kinds of situations are much less likely to occur. Its only common sense.

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Why PCB Shops Can’t Get Good Reps

dan-6For the past couple of years now I’ve noticed that it is much more difficult to get independent sales reps interested in selling for board shops. One of my offerings, one that is becoming my least favorite by the way, is trying to find reps for shops. My fee for this is getting higher every year because this task is getting more and more challenging.

Just a few years ago I could put together an entire national sales force of independent reps for a client in six to eight months, now I’m lucky to find two reps in that amount of time. Just a few weeks ago I sent out an offering to over three hundred reps for one of my clients and I did not get a single response, nary a won and this was for a great board shop.

One of my friends, who is a national sales manager for one of the country’s leading PCB companies was so discouraged after trying to find and work with the few reps that he did manage to sign that he told me after he had parted ways with the latest disappointing rep, “The next time I sign a rep will be one who has been calling me for three months begging to represent my company.”

I once worked with a company that wanted reps so badly they made them an offer they couldn’t refuse; ten percent commissions paid upon making the sale if you can imagine…they had no takers.

So obviously I have been spending a lot of time thinking about this and I have pretty much come to the conclusion that maybe the rep/ PCB shop relationship is a thing of the past. Surely there are some exceptions, I personally know of some, but for the most part I’ll stick to this statement; and here are a few reasons why I think this is true. Here are some reasons why reps hate board shops:

  1. Board shops have a history of treating their reps very poorly. They often treat them as a necessary evil, like they are greedy middle men rather than independent sales professionals.
  2. They don’t often perform well in terms of Quality and Delivery causing their reps to spend more time apologizing rather than selling.
  3. They don’t pay their reps, for some reason a rep’s commissions are not treated as seriously as any other payable the shop has. This fact is so true that those shops who do have a successful relationship with their reps do so because they pay on time all the time. Some of them even pay early to guarantee loyalty which of course they get.
  4. They don’t communicate well with their reps; sometimes from the very beginning when they cannot even define to their reps what type of business they want and then are furious when the reps brings them opportunities they can’t build.
  5. They don’t communicate well at all. Reps are out there selling all day and they depend on their principals to keep them abreast of any information about their mutual customers. If the customer places an order the rep should be told about it. How many times have you heard, “well if he really knew what was going on he would know that the customer placed the order” Nope, not true. The rep probably knows about when the customer is going to place the order but not exactly when it is placed, so stop snickering about that.
  6. They don’t communicate well: In order to do his job right a rep needs the right documentation. She needs: copies of the quotes when they go out, copies of the P.O.’s when they are placed, regular status reports and then the invoice when the board is shipped. They especially need to know when a board is going to be late, or if it has a Quality problem.
  7. They don’t communicate well: Your rep need to be kept in the loop at all times. She needs to be part on contract negotiations during annual buys. He needs to be a part of the meetings when there are issues and problems. A good rep, one who is a true partner can be a critical asset during these times.
  8. In times of trouble the rep is the first to go. He will be told that the shop can no longer afford to pay his commissions and be profitable.
  9. The rep is the last person to get credit when credit is due. This usually happens when he brings in a very big account that continues to grow year after year to the point that after a few years much of the daily issues are being handled by inside people who start resenting the rep, saying things like, “why are we paying him? We’re doing all the work?” Always remember this. You did not have that account before you hired that reps, she came in and won that account. You would not have the account without the rep. Is that clear? Why is that so hard to understand?

And finally the last but certainly the most important reason that reps hate board shops is… the board shops screw them when they get too successful! I have heard this story over and over again. The rep finds a huge account and great opportunity for both him and the principal. It is worth millions of dollars to the principal and hundreds of thousands of dollars to the rep. This is going to be a big win for all. And then the rep gets canned, right out of the blue because the company just cannot justify paying him or anyone that amount of money. “Why it makes no sense,” the company president says, “You could make more than I make for crying out loud!” And so the rep is out. All his hopes and dreams are shattered. Oh he can sue them of course, but we all know that this is a long drawn out not to mention expensive process and a gamble, one he can ill afford to take. So he walks away. He gets nothing but a bad taste in his mouth for board shops. And the company well the lets the dust settle and then goes out to find a good rep, all the while complaining that it’s almost impossible to find one.

Look it’s very simple, treat your reps like partners, communicate with them, and yes pay them and you will have a great relationship. But treat them the way you have been treating them and you will get what you’ve always got which I would have to say is what you deserve. It’s only common sense.

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So You Have Signed A New PCB Rep Firm. Now What?

dan 24Finding them is one thing. Keeping them is another. Here’s how.

Look we all know that this is one of our industry’s greatest challenges. For a number of reasons not the least being that many board shops have screwed many reps over the years, it is getting more and more difficult to get good reps to represent us.

I know that of all the services I provide finding good reps is the most challenging. The problem is that many of them just don’t trust us anymore. Some of them have completely given up on the printed circuit board fabricator as a viable principal. They tell me that it is difficult to get and keep customers for a PCB shop when the performance is less than 85% on time; or if they are successful, they can become “too” successful to the point where the board shop cuts them off because their commissions get too large.

Now to be fair, this week I am going to talk about things from the reps’ point of view and next week I will approach the subject from the board shops’ perspective.

With this in mind here are seven secrets to finding and keeping some great reps:

  1. As always make sure that you are performing, this applies no matter how your sales force is made up. If you don’t perform you are not going to grow your business whether you have direct or independent sales reps. In this highly competitive environment performance is king and value is prince if you don’t provide these to your customers your are doomed.
  2. Make the rep an offer he can’t refuse. By this I mean tear up your traditional contract. Who said that we have to keep using the same old boiler plate contract over and over again? Man that thing is over fifty years old; the world has changed so should we. Who said that commissions had to be from three to five to seven to ten percent? Who said that commissions had to be paid only when you get paid? Who said that thirty day cancellation is cast in stone? Who said that? Think out of the box. If you are going after a rep who you feel is so good that she can really boost your company’s sales then figure out what will be a great deal for the both of you. Offer her a percentage of the profit on the part number, offer him a longer term arrangement do whatever it takes and of course what makes sense financially to get that rep signed up.
  3. Make that rep your partner, no I mean your real partner. Bring him into your business family; treat him just like one of your direct people in terms of regular communications. Listen carefully to what they he says. You are paying this person to be your hired expert with his customer base. You are hiring this person to bring you the customers that he knows. Be good enough for him to do that. Follow his instructions when it comes to how to win those customers’ business.
  4. Pay her on time. Nothing more just pay the rep when you are supposed to pay them rep and make sure that you include a comprehensive commission statement. If you don’t pay your reps they will not perform, get it? Don’t even think about not paying your reps if you want them to work for you. Not paying them on time breaks the contract and disqualifies you as a valid principal.
  5. Include the reps in your marketing, you have a comprehensive marketing plan right? You are marketing your company with advertising, social media, newsletters, trade shows etc. right? Well make sure that you include your rep in all of that marketing. Think of your rep as a franchisee of your company; the reason people invest in a Subway restaurant or a Midas Muffler shop is so they can take advantage of their huge marketing budgets; make sure you provide your reps with the same marketing and branding advantages. And oh yes don’t be afraid to provide them with the qualified leads that come out of your great marketing efforts.
  6. Welcome them to your facility. Bring them into your company, insist that they visit before you sign them and then make sure that you provide them with the opportunity to come out to your plant whenever possible. Have a sales meeting once a year and make sure that the reps are there to take part in your strategy meetings, that they have a say in the direction of the company including service, technology and Quality.
  7. And finally trust them. If you don’t trust a rep enough to share company information with him then you are wasting your time. The partnership will go nowhere. If you don’t feel that the rep is trustworthy they he is not the right rep. You have to be open and honest with your reps, you have to share as much information as possible to that they will be successful selling your company and hence your products.

And finally, yes there is one more, I always deliver more than I promise:

Have regularly scheduled meetings with them where you discuss in detail their territory plans. This is critical. Please don’t tell me that you talk to them all the time, it’s not true; you are fooling yourself. Instead have a regular twice a month meeting with each of your reps to track the progress of their sales effort. Communication is the backbone of the rep/principal partnership and if you want to have a great relationship with your reps you have to talk to them…its only common sense

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How To Attract Great Reps

dan-7Look we all know that this is one of our industry’s greatest challenges. For a number of reasons not the least being that many board shops have screwed many reps over the years, it is getting more and more difficult to get good reps to represent us.

I know that of all the services I provide finding good reps is the most challenging. The problem is that many of them just don’t trust us anymore. Some of them have completely given up on the printed circuit board fabricator as a viable principal. They tell me that it is difficult to get and keep customers for a PCB shop when the performance is less than 85% on time; or if they are successful, they can become “too” successful to the point where the board shop cuts them off because their commissions get too large.

Now to be fair, this week I am going to talk about things from the reps’ point of view and next week I will approach the subject from the board shops’ perspective.

With this in mind here are seven secrets to finding and keeping some great reps:

  1. As always make sure that you are performing, this applies no matter how your sales force is made up. If you don’t perform you are not going to grow your business whether you have direct or independent sales reps. In this highly competitive environment performance is king and value is prince if you don’t provide these to your customers your are doomed.
  2. Make the rep an offer he can’t refuse. By this I mean tear up your traditional contract. Who said that we have to keep using the same old boiler plate contract over and over again? Man that thing is over fifty years old; the world has changed so should we. Who said that commissions had to be from three to five to seven to ten percent? Who said that commissions had to be paid only when you get paid? Who said that thirty day cancellation is cast in stone? Who said that? Think out of the box. If you are going after a rep who you feel is so good that she can really boost your company’s sales then figure out what will be a great deal for the both of you. Offer her a percentage of the profit on the part number, offer him a longer term arrangement do whatever it takes and of course what makes sense financially to get that rep signed up.
  3. Make that rep your partner, no I mean your real partner. Bring him into your business family; treat him just like one of your direct people in terms of regular communications. Listen carefully to what they he says. You are paying this person to be your hired expert with his customer base. You are hiring this person to bring you the customers that he knows. Be good enough for him to do that. Follow his instructions when it comes to how to win those customers’ business.
  4. Pay her on time. Nothing more just pay the rep when you are supposed to pay them rep and make sure that you include a comprehensive commission statement. If you don’t pay your reps they will not perform, get it? Don’t even think about not paying your reps if you want them to work for you. Not paying them on time breaks the contract and disqualifies you as a valid principal.
  5. Include the reps in your marketing, you have a comprehensive marketing plan right? You are marketing your company with advertising, social media, newsletters, trade shows etc. right? Well make sure that you include your rep in all of that marketing. Think of your rep as a franchisee of your company; the reason people invest in a Subway restaurant or a Midas Muffler shop is so they can take advantage of their huge marketing budgets; make sure you provide your reps with the same marketing and branding advantages. And oh yes don’t be afraid to provide them with the qualified leads that come out of your great marketing efforts.
  6. Welcome them to your facility. Bring them into your company, insist that they visit before you sign them and then make sure that you provide them with the opportunity to come out to your plant whenever possible. Have a sales meeting once a year and make sure that the reps are there to take part in your strategy meetings, that they have a say in the direction of the company including service, technology and Quality.
  7. And finally trust them. If you don’t trust a rep enough to share company information with him then you are wasting your time. The partnership will go nowhere. If you don’t feel that the rep is trustworthy they he is not the right rep. You have to be open and honest with your reps, you have to share as much information as possible to that they will be successful selling your company and hence your products.

And finally, yes there is one more, I always deliver more than I promised, Have regularly scheduled meetings with them where you discuss in detail their territory plans. This is critical. Please don’t tell me that you talk to them all the time, it’s not true; you are fooling yourself. Instead have a regular twice a month meeting with each of your reps to track the progress of their sales effort. Communication is the backbone of the rep/principal partnership and if you want to have a great relationship with your reps you have to talk to them…its only common sense

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Tools For Managing Your Sales Team

dan-7

Nothing happens by accident anymore, especially when it comes to sales.

It used to be so much simpler; you’d buy a good directory, circle those companies that would make good prospects, call them, set up a meeting, go see them and if you did a pretty good job in that meeting you’d get a quote and if you were in the ball park with the quote, you’d get an order and off you go.

Those were the good old days of selling. When companies wanted circuit boards; appreciated they were tough to build and thus a good circuit board fabricator was hard to find and customers were always open to trying out a new one.

Do you remember those days? Do you remember when people actually picked up their phones? Do you remember when they would be willing to see you for a cup of coffee and a meeting and if you offered lunch or especially dinner people were more than happy to give you an hour of their time to listen to you pitch them about your company and their services? Those were the days my friend.

But alas they are gone forever in this new world of voice-mail, e-mail, Microsoft Outlook, Go To Meeting and all of the other tools that were designed to “make our lives easier” but for the most part have made it much more difficult for us to have a good old face to face talk.

All of these new improvements have made our job as a sales manager so much more difficult as well. It used to be that you were more of a task master and a coach. We were the guys who made sure that our guys were making the right amount of calls to get the right amount of meetings so that we gained the right amount of customers to give us the right amount of business.

And every so often we even got to go to one of those lunches or dinners if the deal was big enough and our sales person wanted us to sweep in with our gold pen and close that deal. Other than that our job was to keep our sales people motivated, make sure they were not spending too much time on the golf course and that they did not drink too much. But then again just the right amount of customer golf and the right amount of drinking and dining with the customer was just part of the job.

But now we have to do so much more than that. We as sales managers have to make sure that our guys are not only motivated but that they are intelligently equipped for business in the twenty first century as well. We have to make sure that they are up to date on LinkedIn, Twitter, Instagram, Facebook and all of the other social media tools they are going to need if they are going to survive to sell another day.

We have to make sure our web site is cool, crisp, fascinating and engaging and that most of all it provides valuable information to those visitors that we send there with our vitally fascinating and informative blogs and tweets.

In short as sales managers we need to me much more of a “hands on” coach and leader than ever. We have to be completely focused on our sales people. We have to make sure that we keep them engaged at all times we have to be there for them.

Oh yes and of course we have to do this from afar, remotely. Back in the day many of us got to see our sales people every day. For many of us all we had to do is step out of our office and there they were sitting at their desks. But no more no we have national sales teams all over the country and for some of us all over the world. We manage sales people that if we’re lucky we’ll see only three or four times a year. So we have the added challenge of managing them on the phone, through e-mails, maybe SYPE and the once or twice a year ride along making our jobs that much more challenging.

This means that we have to work that much harder to stay in touch and to find ways to manage and measure and motivate that sales force. Here are a few tools that I use to make sure that you not only manage your remote sales people but effectively be in touch with them at all times.

  • Weekly Activity report: This is key to making sure that you know what your sales people are doing at all times. This report needs to include where they are year to date against forecast; where they are month to date on their forecast. Then a list and description of live sales calls, as all other customer contacts, these should also contain any challenges they are facing and then their plans for the next two weeks to come.
  • Weekly one on one phone meeting: This is your time to work exclusive with the sales person. Make sure this is at a set time and make sure you never miss this call. And never say “well I talk to them all the time”. I’m sure you do, but this is the only call where you are truly going over what the person is doing based on her report. It is also the only time you can get a true sense of how she is doing.
  • Weekly team phone calls: This gives the rest of the team a chance to see what is going on all over the country. You should also have key management people on this call as well. Make sure you have someone taking notes that will be published after the meeting. This is also the time to pass on company updates and information and a great time for Production Manager to talk about what he needs for business.
  • Daily score sheet: Your guys need to know how they are doing against forecast this month and this will tell them every single night. It is a very effective tool. You can’t win the game if you don’t keep score.
  • Regular ride alongs: Set these up long in advance ti give your sales guys plenty of time to set up great meetings while you’re with them. I would urge you to plan at least two of these a year with each sales person. You can plan it around a local trade show if that works for you. The important thing about these ride alongs is are not only to visit customers but to also be spending that all so valuable face time with your sales person. Don’t pass this up.

These are the basic tools that you are going to need to effectively manage that remote sales force. I’ll say it one more time. Do not wing this; do not feel that your random touch base phone calls are enough. Today more than ever you need to provide leadership and structure to your sales team in order to make them successful. It’s only common sense.

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