by John Monroe

As the owner of a business, we are frequently called upon to coach or manage salespeople… and usually we’re at a loss for how to do that. Here are a few suggestions to help.

It all begins with the first day on the job, so think of that day as the “birth” of a new salesperson. We should show the new hire how we conduct business from the intake call to putting the customer’s house back together. Introduce them to the rest of the staff and let them work with each person so they understand what everyone’s job responsibilities are. And of course, outline their responsibilities and how you expect them to perform their job.

As a sales manager, there are three tools we need to supply our salespeople with, other than the obvious cell phone, gas card, and “good luck!” as they head out the door.

  1. Define their target market, create a prospect list, define the route/territory, and outline their sales metrics (sales budget, number of touches per day, number of job leads per week, etc.)
  2. Schedule a weekly, one-on-one meeting to be held the same day and time each week. During the meeting, review the sales calls made the prior week, along with their sales call objectives and strategies for the coming week.
  3. Arrange a ride-along with your salesperson at least once a month, although I personally prefer once every other week.

Setting expectations and goals for any position in the company is a best practice, and for the sales manager it allows us a way to measure the results of the salesperson’s sales calls. Sales metrics are not just random numbers. They should be based on historic data within our company or by getting insight from other companies, trade associations, or industry consultants. Simply put, without goals we can’t measure success or failure.

Holding a productive sales meeting is one of the two fundamental jobs of a sales manager in any company for any business. Productive means having a written agenda that is communicated to the salesperson ahead of time. Key elements of the agenda should include:

  • Analyzing sales activity to the sales plan. Use the metrics established on the salesperson’s first day of hire versus the ones outlined in the annual business plan.
  • Reviewing the previous week’s sales calls listed on their sales call report. Ask them questions about what was discussed during the sales calls.
  • Evaluating their objective for each of the sales calls and their follow-up plan.
  • Reviewing counter days, lunch-n-learns, and sit-down meetings that took place and the follow-up planned as a result of these events.
  • Discussing what the sales person is hearing about competitors or other vendor partners.
  • Conducting some type of sales training during the meeting. Training could include role playing situations the salesperson encountered or reviewing sales techniques from a book the two of you are reading. Without training we can’t improve.
  • The final part of the meeting should be reviewing the upcoming week’s schedule and the sales strategies for those sales calls.

Conducting ride-alongs is the other fundamental job of a sales manager, and I think it is the most important training tool in the sales manager’s toolbox. This is an opportunity for us to hear firsthand what our salesperson is communicating to our clients. It also gives us the opportunity to do coaching in the heat of the battle, which can be the hardest job of a sales manager. When the sales call is not going well, we all have the urge to step in and take over. Do not do that! Let the call be a learning experience. Then, when the two of you get back in the car, ask the salesperson how they thought the call went and what they might do differently the next time. Coach them through their answers, but don’t tell them everything they did wrong. Coach them to improve on the next call.

Great managers understand that working side-by-side with their people is more meaningful then using the top-down management approach. Salespeople need guidance and someone to bounce ideas off. Most importantly, we need to remember that our people are not self-sufficient. In the book First, Break All the Rules, authors Marcus Buckingham and Curt Coffman tell how they discovered, through extensive research of many companies, big and small, that great managers attract and retain the best employees by selecting people for their talent, not their skills or experience. They go on to say that great managers set expectations and define the right outcomes, not the right steps. Finally, great managers motivate people by building on their strengths, not by trying to fix their weaknesses.

Not everyone is meant to be a salesperson, but those who choose sales for a career will have a better chance at succeeding if they have a sales manager who knows how to coach them effectively.

John Monroe is a Business Development Advisor for Violand Management Associates (VMA), a highly-respected consulting company in the restoration and cleaning industries. Monroe is a leading expert in marketing, sales and sales management for the restoration and cleaning industries with over 30 years of experience in those fields. Through Violand, Monroe works with companies to develop their people and their profits. To reach him, visit Violand.com or call 800-360-3513.