As a sales manager, you are the shield between the sales reps and executives. In other words, the buffer that stands in the middle of the food chain. Today on the funnel we talk about how to be that shield without getting yourself into trouble by avoiding the danger zone, setting the stage, effectively communicating, and understanding the sales rep. As always if you have any questions please schedule a free 30-minute consultation and I’ll do my best to help in any way I can.
What we’re going to cover:
- Danger Zone
- Setting the stage
- The sales rep
“You are entering into the danger zone as a sales manager when you are the buffer between the executive and the rep, and sometimes that buffer zone can get a little out of whack. Your objective, as a sales manager, is to shield your reps from the unwanted pressure without killing your relationship.”
How do I kill the relationship?
“If your sales reps begin to have lengthy conversations and input from executive management/vice versa and they go around you? You’re killing your relationship with your team.”
Threat of micromanagement
“The danger zone is when there is the threat of micromanagement from executives and you start getting involved in every deal and every opportunity. Then there’s the danger of you as a manager becoming too transparent and providing all the information from above without any thought about what that looks like moving forward.”
Setting the stage
“You have a job to do as a manager and that is to be a good manager. There are some managers that know how to manage their manager, their reps and they know how to navigate these treacherous waters, but there are others that aren’t as good. And the only way you can manage this effectively is if you do your job well as a manager. In other words, your boss or owner respects you.”
Confidence and respect
“You have to earn the respect of the executive level members who are involved with your team and you need to build their confidence in you. Then, you need to set realistic, ongoing, expectations for them in a timely manner. Because if something bad happens you want to get out in front of that.”
“Maybe you lose two team members or you have to fire somebody that you didn’t expect to fire and you weren’t prepared for it, things happen and you have to be accountable to the outcomes that they expect.
You’ve accepted the position, you’ve accepted the numbers if you go through the process of deciding what the numbers going to be for the year and you come to some agreement – now you own that and your team owns it because you’ve delivered your expectations for them in the forecast to them.”
“Strong communication rules the day here and it’s a delicate balance. Because communication goes up and down.”
“Communicate your transparency about your territory. If you’re having pipeline, forecasting meetings, coaching sessions and sales meetings then you know what’s going on in your territory. So, if a senior executive has a question about that territory they don’t have to call five reps, they can look and see your CRM and you can show them accurate data.”
“If you have accurate forecasting they’re only going to go to one source because it makes their life easier. The facts are the facts, here’s the pipeline, here’s the deal stages, here’s where we are, look at the deal, look at the notes, everything is right here.”
“Accurate forecasting answers the questions they have because you have your thumb on the pulse of what’s going on with your team.”
“Involve the senior executives in some of your discussions and meetings. Maybe it’s a large deal, so bring them in let them see what happens. Ask them to do the occasional sales call so they can see what it’s like. Why not?”
“Then have a solid sales process in place so they know each step of the process of what’s going to happen next, they can look at it.”
What not to do
- Don’t forward every little message you get. Senior executives are prone to emotional outbursts because they’re feeling the pressure.
- Don’t lay that pressure on your team, don’t ask them to do to your job. Your job is to handle that pressure.
- Don’t make it your reps problem if there is some downward pressure. Bring them in so they feel like they’re a part of something and they understand.
The sales rep
“Share bad news up front. Good or bad news, open up and tell me. Encourage two-way communication. Because I want to share the good stuff up the food chain but if there’s something I need to share with my boss so they’re aware of it then I need to do that too.
Trust me I’ll protect and if it’s necessary I will shield you, but I need to know. It’s not fair to me to have a surprise like that as your manager and it’s not fair to my manager for me to surprise them and it’s certainly not going to be fair to you if you do that because it could get ugly.
Don’t let panic rule the day
“It happens all the time, especially up the food chain. ‘This is going to be the worst month ever, this is the worst quarter ever.’ What are you talking about? I’m looking at the pipeline and I’m confident we’re going to go over the numbers. And if we aren’t because of effective communication the executive would have been made aware of it weeks ago because you would have told them.”
Get rid of people who aren’t performing
“If you protect under performers on an ongoing basis that’s the quickest way to lose your relationship with your manager and the trust that you have built up. I don’t care how much you like the person if they’re underperforming they need to get off the bus.”
“If you’re underperforming as a rep get out in front of it and talk to your manager. Tell them you’re having a problem so they can then go to their boss and communicate what’s happening.”
It’s not easy.
“It’s a constant push-pull, every day you’re making decisions. You have to pass on the corporate message, the numbers, and all that good stuff. But it’s the stuff in between that you have to make decisions on as well. Do I really want to chase this guy down because he came in without his tie on and the owner of the company went nuts? Do I want to go through that?”
“You’re going to make those little mini decisions every day as a manager and you need to work hard on doing the right thing, don’t make your problem their problem, handle your stuff, shield them, support them, encourage them, and take no prisoners when it comes to underperforming and you will do well.”
Keep Filling The Funnel
We would love to hear from you. Let us know what you think about this episode. Please feel free to reach out to us if there is a specific sales topic you would like me to cover. You can find me on Twitter at @Sheajohnr or email me at email@example.com. And if you get a chance, please feel free to review us on iTunes.