We recently sat down with the CEO of Partners in Excellence and author of Sales Manager Survival Guide David Brock. Below, David shares his perspective on micromanagers, data-driven sales coaching and much more.
Q: How has sales management changed in the last several years, and what do you see as having driven this change?
A: Fundamentally, the sales manager’s job has always been one about maximizing the performance of each person on their team. That has stayed constant since sales management was invented. How we do that in a world that’s getting more complex and changing at a more rapid rate is where the real challenge of sales management is. The basic principles and job of sales management has remained pretty constant, but the issues of overwhelming complexity and rapid change have driven a profound impact in everything we do. And that’s really where we see the big stress and change factors in sales management.
Q: What are some of the biggest mistakes you see sales managers make when dealing with these changes?
A: The biggest challenge I see is that frontline sales managers and sales executives don’t know what the job is, and so consequently they can’t do it. You see a lot of people that end up being desk jockeys or report managers sitting behind desks or sitting in meetings doing a lot of analysis and strategy. But the fundamental job of a sales manager is to maximize the performance of each person on the team.
You need to make sure you have the right team on board that can perform the way you need them to perform, you need to have clear performance expectations and you need to be out there working with them every day to find where the opportunities are for them to improve performance. Do they need more tools? Do they need processes? Do they need training? Whatever it is, the job of the manager is really maximizing the performance of the team. And so many managers simply don’t know that.
Q: You mentioned providing the right tools. What do you think are some of the best tools for sales managers to more effectively manage their teams?
A: There are a lot of tools available, from basic CRM to specialized applications. The problem is that I see a lot of people who aren’t using these tools. I don’t know how many sales managers I sit down with and say, “Tell me about the pipeline for your team; how are things going?” And I know they have a CRM but they aren’t using it. It’s kind of a “use it or lose it” scenario. If you aren’t using whatever tools you have, you aren’t gaining the leverage that you could have.
The counterpart of that is an over-reliance on tools or not knowing why you’re using them. You’ve got to have fundamental processes and principles in place and then use the tools as a way to improve your efficiencies and ability to use those things. A lot of these automation tools allow you to create crap at the speed of light. The tools shouldn’t lead the process; the strategy and process should ultimately be supported and reinforced and amplified by the tools.
Q: I think most people can agree: there’s nothing worse than a micromanager. How can managers foster accountability and trust among their reps?
A: You have to care. You’ve got to be passionate about the success of your people. Unfortunately, you don’t see a lot of managers who really care. They’re there managing the numbers. They don’t care enough to establish the right kind of connection and dialog. People in some sense become commodities – if they aren’t doing what they want them to do, they get rid of them.
I see a lot of managers who are in their people’s faces every day and really working with them, but they aren’t micromanaging. It’s that they’re so passionate and care so much about the success of their people. They’re not there telling them what to do but they’re rolling up their sleeves and helping them take action and achieve greatness. Micromanagers are people who are in your face telling you what to do, but they don’t create value and they’re not engaged with people being successful.
Q: Data has a lot to do with fostering rep accountability and teaching people how to make smarter decisions independently. Can you talk a little bit about the role you see data playing in sales coaching?
A: When we started this interview, I was in the middle of an article titled, “If You Don’t Understand Your Numbers, You Don’t Know How to Improve Performance.” What this means is that you have to have the right kind of data to identify where you have performance problems. But you also have to know how things work, like, “I need to provide $5 million this year. So how many deals do I have to compete in to achieve that number? How many leads do I need to produce that many deals?” And so on and so forth.
Data serves as a red flag, but then you have to ask what the data means and what’s causing it to be that way. If I need 100 deals to make my $5 million number and I’m only at 75 deals, I have to start asking what the problem is. How do I get to that 100 deals? You have to know what data to track, make sure you have data integrity and accuracy, and know that the data will give you the signal that something is off, but you have to drill down into the data and know what it really means so that you can solve the problem.
Q: That’s a great point, and that’s why we built Apollo, which takes the data that sales teams create within their CRMs and generates recommendations, or prescriptive insights, for performance improvement.
A: What people don’t get into is the “why” of data. Too often I just see people managing the numbers without understanding what they mean. I think that’s where tools like Apollo perhaps can help them understand not just the right numbers but what they actually mean. And also understand the tradeoffs to start pulling levers and tweaking numbers in their favor.
That’s a lot of what managers should do in problem solving. The numbers are the numbers, but what do they mean and how can you start tweaking them in your favor? Here’s what would happen if you doubled your average transaction rate, improved your win rate or went after these types of customers. If you’re more successful with customers like A than B, then why are you going after B? But if you don’t have the analytics you won’t be able to come to that conclusion.
To learn more about how sales managers are overcoming modern challenges and driving sales performance, check out the 2017 Guide for Next Generation Sales Leaders. And for more insights and interviews from sales experts like David, subscribe to the Base Blog!