Here is the story of a small manufacturing company’s sales dilemma…
Sandy owns a small manufacturing company. When you ask him about his company, he’s proud to tell you he employs more than 60 local people, that they make great products, provide great customer service, and have kept the company going – through good times and bad – for more than three decades. His company is his family, his livelihood . . . his legacy.
Sandy and I have known one another for years. He invited me to breakfast last week. After coffee, and before our eggs and bacon arrived, Sandy slid a piece of paper across the table and asked me to “give it a read.” The top of the page reads, “Sales Manager Job Description.”
While I read, Sandy shared that the company isn’t growing and that his second Sales Manager in two years just left, so he’s looking to hire a new one. He wanted my input on the job description.
After reading, I asked Sandy a few basic questions about his sales strategy, current sales plan, key customers, how he planned to increase sales, and to tell me more about where the previous Sales Managers fell short. Sandy had to pause and think about each answer . . . and that pause can be very telling.
I asked Sandy if he would be surprised if I told him the problem isn’t the Sales Manager Job Description.
He laughed, “That’s why I invited you to breakfast! I wish I had asked you sooner.”
We both smiled as our server arrived with eggs, bacon and fresh coffee. I shared that Sandy had nothing to worry about, as I’ve seen similar issues across many companies, and these things can all be fixed.
I then outlined an approach that has helped many companies like Sandy’s. I shared that doing these things well will enable Sandy to not only write a great Sales Manager Job Description, it will help him focus on the things that matter most inside his company, then hire the right Sales Manager and keep his company going for decades to come.
I thought you might benefit from seeing what I shared with Sandy. If that sounds good to you, keep reading . . .
The key to hiring great sales managers & continued success
Before you can recruit the right person to lead your sales efforts, you need dig in and answer some questions about your current business. Your answers to these questions will help you understand the person you’ll need to achieve the best sales results:
What does my company do better than my competition?
You need to understand why your customers do business with you and be able to translate your company’s strengths into benefits that mean something to prospective customers – the “so what!” Your Sales Manager will need to play to these strengths. It isn’t important why you think your customers buy from your company, it is only important what they
Where is my current business coming from?
Identify who your “best” customers are. The best customers aren’t always the biggest ones. You also need to understand what products/services drive the most margin and which enable your company to operate efficiently. Review the business you’ve gained and lost this year – understanding “why” is key. Your Sales Manager will need to nurture your current business and be able to perform well in the areas where the company makes money.
Where will new business come from?
Ask, “Where are the white spaces in my product/service portfolio AND customer base that can generate more business?” Know what adjustments need to happen to win new business if you’re not growing today. Identify what the “ideal” new customer looks like. Your Sales Manager should be hungry to go after the new product and customer opportunities that drive growth – if he or she isn’t – you have the wrong Sales Manager.
How can I set my Sales Team up for success?
Make sure your Sales compensation plan drives the right Sales behaviors. Be consistent and frequent with communication – flowing out to Sales, and into the company – to ensure alignment. Your Sales Manager should have the right compensation plan and communication support to help your company achieve its goals while being empowered to make decisions that are in line with company goals.
What attributes should I look for in a great Sales Manager?
Seek a person with solid values and beliefs who is able to do the right thing even in a challenging situation. A good Sales Manager should have outstanding listening and observing skills and be able to flex his or her communication style to better connect with diverse personalities. Recruit a Sales Manager who can set ambitious, but realistic, goals and hold the Sales team accountable to achieve the plan. While no one is perfect, your Sales Manager should have a balance of drive, energy, empathy, and detail skills, and be able to use these to influence both customers and internal team members. Although many Owners believe industry or product experience is a necessity, it is often only a “nice to have.”
As Sandy and I wrapped up our breakfast, I asked him how he felt about the Sales Manager Job Description he asked me to review. He admitted he felt both “bad and good,” as the questions I asked revealed he had more work to do. He was excited to do some soul searching and make changes that would lead to hiring the right Sales Manager. He looked forward to a different result, rather than repeating the mistakes he made in the past. This would help him look forward to the NEXT three decades.
If you see a little of Sandy’s situation in your own company, I’d welcome the opportunity to talk with you. With the right focus on sales strategy, sales process, and sales execution, we can get the right people working on the right things, and generate the results you want for your company!