Are Your Sales Managers Proactive or Reactive?
Many sales managers live in a vortex, constantly reacting to the deal of the moment or the crisis of the week. They live in a world where salespeople come to them with problems that need immediate attention. These sales managers struggle to lift their head above the fray and look out over the horizon. One of the things that we constantly preach to salespeople is you have to plan and think proactively. Generally, we want salespeople to think 30, 60, 90 days out. These numbers may vary based on the length of your sales cycle, and the amount of competition you face, however, the concept is the same.
For instance, consider a standard three-month sales cycle, meaning that from the time a salesperson first contacts a prospect to the close of the sale is, on average, ninety days. Ideally, we want your team thinking and planning 90 to 120 days ahead. Instead, what we often see is reactive vortex sales management. Sales managers who can’t get above the fray and are constantly behind because they're always reacting to the crisis of the moment or focusing on the deal that's right in front of them right now. When managers adopt a deal bunker mentality as their management style, they are only focused on what is right in front of them. and you're only focused on what's right in front of you, pretty soon your pipeline dries out, you have nothing to build on going forward and you have a big lull in your revenue forecast. That's what we want to avoid.
How can managers get ahead?
Clear, concise goals
Every quarter each salesperson should have a very clear idea of what they need to accomplish that quarter. Your managers should back that up and say, “What do we need to accomplish this week to make sure we hit that goal for the quarter?" When your sales managers can begin having consistent proactive coaching meetings, they'll be able to get out of the deal of the moment and have deeper coaching conversations with each team member. They will be able to spot patterns, see trends, and start to observe where a salesperson is struggling. They can begin to coach for development rather than react and coach for productivity.
It's far more expeditious for a sales manager to say, "Do this, do that. Sell it this way. Talk about it that way." But when they do that, what they're really doing is training their salespeople to come to them with problems rather than think for themselves. Ultimately, we want a team of high achievers who are looking ahead proactively at what they need to a month or two from now and thinking about it from the client's perspective. ‘Where is my client going to be two or three months from now?’ and ‘What can I start talking to them about now to help position myself in favorable light two or three months from now when they're ready to buy?’
Question to ask yourself as the CEO: how many of my sales managers' conversations are forward looking, proactive versus how many are right now, deal of the moment, crisis kind of vortex conversations? The more conversations your sales managers can have that are out in the future looking out 30, 60, 90, a 120 days, the better your forecasts are going to be, the more proactive your pipeline's going to be, the more consistent your revenue is going to be and you'll drive long term growth going forward.
Forward-looking conversations = Higher Forecast Accuracy
I challenge you to coach your sales managers around thinking out ahead rather than living in the moment and reacting to the crisis. Certainly, there are going to be times where it's necessary to focus on something right here, right now, but they need to find the right balance. Too many managers default to just dealing in the moment and living in the vortex. We need them to get above the fray and look out ahead.
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