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.