Roughly every third week I have been blogging about what I am hearing from sales leaders across the Country and today that steak continues. Ask yourself the following question; would you rather grow at 10% or 20% this year? Ok, that answer is obvious so let’s take that question a step further. What if in order to grow at 20% this year you had to put a guaranteed 10% yearly growth at risk? Would you still opt to shoot for the 20% or would you be content to settle for the 10% growth knowing that you were not maximizing your team’s performance. I pose this question as hypothetical, but the reality is that this is a real question that sales leaders are asking themselves every day. Finding the answer is causing an inner struggle that taking place in the pits of countless executive sales managers’ stomachs on a daily basis.
Here is the challenge that is taking place. Most sales organizations across the board have done a decent job of bringing a good deal of order to their sales team, especially at the sales rep level. Most sales managers can recite with pretty decent accuracy the actions and high payoff activities that their reps need to execute against in order to hit a projected level of growth - say 10%. So, executive sales leaders know that if they can have their frontline sales managers simply hold their producers accountable to a certain level of activity they should be able to stay the course and achieve their growth targets. On the surface this is great news right? It is, however most executive sales leaders know that if their frontline managers were able to more effectively coach, lead, and engage their teams that they could achieve even higher levels of performance than say simply reporting on the numbers, helping them reactively solve problems, making sure compliance is in order, and maybe worst of all being super sales people – more aptly put they doing all the fishing and never teach the reps how to fish.
So the question becomes should the executive sales manager stay the course and have their managers keep operating to the status quo or should they start to make a fundamental shift of where they ask their managers spend their time. Should they identify and execute against new actions and high payoff activities that their sales manager’s need to be held accountable to on a regular basis – track their new actions the way they track the daily actions of their producers? Most executive managers choose to stay the traditional course, I know this because when I ask them what their strategy is for developing their sales managers 8 out of 10 organizations can’t answer that question succinctly, yet they all say that they want their manager’s to coach their teams to higher levels of performance. The gap lies between what they say and what they are willing to execute against. Below is a short list of the fears that some sales leaders have candidly shared with me over the years of why they don’t ask more of their managers:
- I would rather leave my highest performers alone because they don’t want to be bothered (this is false by the way – it is code for they don’t want to be bothered because their manager is not bringing value)
- I simply don’t know where our managers should be spending their time
- I’m afraid we don’t have the right manager’s in place who possess the necessary skills to be great coaches
- Making the shift is going to be a lot of work and the timing isn’t great (it never will be)
- I don’t think my managers will respond well to the new challenges
There are many more items I could add to that list, but you get the point. There is an endless amount of excuses for why executive sales managers would choose not to opt for the aforementioned 20% and stick with the safe 10% growth. But great sales leaders are not afraid to inject some complexity in to the lives of their sales managers. They are not afraid of getting out of order and trying new things – that is a component of great leadership. And while instilling the right coaching, leadership, and management disciplines might take some hard work on the front end, you will absolutely achieve that 20% on the back end if you do – we see it with our members every year.