Sales management is a tough job to do well — and a relatively easy job to do poorly. I know because I’ve done it, coached it, trained people to do it, and held people accountable that wouldn’t do it the right way.
Too often the sales team inmates are left to run amok in your markets, delivering a roller coaster ride of sales results. The best analogy might be the classic movie “One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest,” in which protagonist Randle McMurphy (Jack Nicholson), in an attempt to avoid hard labor time, moves to a “cushy” mental institution and begins to undermine the authority of Nurse Ratched (Louise Fletcher).
Nurse Ratched has the rest of the inmates under control until Randall shows up and attempts to shake up the status quo. Bedlam ensues with a surprise ending —if you haven’t seen the movie, it’s worth your time —that may speak to your sales management challenges. So what can we learn from this award-winning movie?
Sales Management Requires Discipline
Well-run institutions run on discipline and authority. They achieve consistent and predictable results through sales behavioral modification. One nonconformist can tip over any institutionin a hurry. Many nonconformists means your sales asylum is run by the inmates and not by Nurse Ratched, i.e. your sales manager!
When you start breaking all the rules, your sales organization becomes a roller coaster. Your operations and support staff are often forced to become the “orderlies,” thus drama and conflict ensues. And let’s say the visitors to your institution are actually your customers. How does this scenario appear to them as observers?
You can forget about AV business referrals. How many times can you say you are sorry? How will that impact your profitability and future AV business opportunities? You get the picture.
Here is what I would do in your hospital shoes:
Revisit the perception of your company culture vs. the reality of its execution.
Ask salespeople individually their perspective of your company’s culture and the expectations you have of them. Listen very carefully. Keep your mouth shut and ears open. This can be an eye-opening exercise, trust me. We often find gaps in this area when clients allow personal behavioral freedom that is not productive for their AV business brand name or bottom line.
Evaluate the DNA of your past sales revenue streams and closing ratios (proposal to contract).
Were they a result of a disciplined proactive sales strategy that was well forecasted, or a mixture of timing, luck and relationships? What impact does an “unmanageable” sales force have on your reputation, office drama and bottom-line profitability?
If you allow yourself to be everything to everybody all of the time, you may be doomed to the loony bin. Sales disciplines consistently enforced should deliver quality scopes of work, with the right products, at the right price when you can actually deliver them.
Establish and communicate where you want your future revenues to be derived from by your sales teams.
What product lines, what applications, what vertical market customers and what blend of arterial revenue streams? Review expectations, role clarity, budget, authority and accountability for your sales manager. You can’t run an asylum without these key elements in place.
Finally, do you have the right Nurse Ratched running the show? Are they simply a “sales buffer” to handle the messy sales details and babysit salespeople because somebody has to do it? It’s a tough question that needs answered sooner than later.
So what are the first steps on your gurney ride back to sales sanity? Begin by assessing your sales talent and management. Do a simple SWOT (strengths, weaknesses, opportunities to improve, and threats to your brand) analysis to better diagnose their maladies, then prescribe the proper medications to enable a full recovery; or file for a transfer to another career opportunity.
I found that clarity of purpose, clear expectations, some new sales tools, great training, and rigid discipline did the trick for my sales team.
Sales teams must be led from the front, not the back office. If you want changes in their sales behavior, you must demonstrate and be a role model, up close and personal, for the desired future state of your company. The dynamics of buying have changed radically over the past eight years. Have your professional selling strategies kept pace? Has your sales management team “recertified” its leadership and selling skillsets to stay current? If not, what is the worst that can happen to you AV business … really?
Keep in mind that Randle McMurphy may be your next sales hire, and boy will he stir up the other inmates!