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MAKING MILLIONS IN DIRECT SALES
The 8 Essential Activities Direct Sales Managers Must Do Every Day to Build a Successful Team and Earn More Money
By Michael G. Malaghan
The McGraw-Hill Companies, Inc.Copyright © 2005Malaghan Sales Management Development
All rights reserved.
SET THE EXAMPLE
Industry is a better horse to ride than genius.
—Walter Lippman, Journalist
Selling sales managers lead by example. If Missouri is the "show me" state, then the face-to-face sales industry is the "show me" business. Leading by example sets the tone in any business. But in sales, the boss's attitude and action reign supreme in managing salespeople. Salespeople start every pay period essentially unemployed until they sell their first order. They have the freedom to quit at any time. In my early days, I kept a plaque on my desk for all my salespeople to see: "The speed of the boss is the speed of the team." It reminded me—and let my team know—that what I did mattered more than what I preached. How well I remember the following epiphany moment when I was attempting to make clear the advantages of leading by example:
My training clinic for our new sales managers on the importance of their continuing to sell had covered all the necessary points. The nods and note taking suggested that I had once again persuaded everyone to embrace this concept. I couldn't help but admire the fine job I'd done, silently stroking my inner vanity. Then Jane broke my smug reverie by asking the dreaded question: "At what point can we stop personal selling and just manage the other salespeople?"
I felt my prickly temper rise, popping my balloon of self-importance. At one time I might have shouted at her exasperatedly, "Where have you been for the last hour? Don't you get it?"
But I had learned to cool down, to smile, to be patient, because I'd come to understand that Jane—and many other new sales managers—truly didn't "get it." Jane had recently been promoted. She was typical of most new sales managers I have encountered. Throughout my presentation, she had been focusing on the one answer she wanted to hear: When could she "just manage and leave the selling to the salespeople"?
I tried to make my point a different way. "Jane, at some point, when you are managing a sales force of between 50 and 100, you may be too busy to have the time for personal selling. You will have managers under you to fill that role. The problem is, most sales managers never get to that point, because they stop personal selling too soon."
You set the pace by your example. You do not have to be the best salesperson on your team (although that helps), but you must continue to engage in personal selling until you have sufficient managers under you to fulfill this mission. To be successful, you must endeavor to impersonate those heroes we so admire in action movies: You must lead from the front lines.
By continuing to sell, not only do you maintain a high income, but you create a positive and powerful model for the team. As a sales manager, you send the message that selling is the job. Some sales managers talk about good selling; other sales managers sell. Which type do you think leads more effectively?
My best selling years took place after I became a sales manager. I felt a personal and professional pressure to maintain a high sales level. Why? I might have doubted my leadership abilities, but I felt confident that I could, and should, set a good example. This approach worked.
People in direct sales work alone; sales managers working in the field are watching or being watched. Sales managers who sell infrequently, and/or who do not sell with their sales force, impose an enormous handicap on both manpower growth and sales force retention.
Personal selling can even be used as the exclusive method for training new sales recruits. Several times in my career, I entered a new territory by myself. I had to recruit and train a sales team, starting from zero. Financial survival would have been impossible if I had had to leave the field for several days to train new salespeople in the classroom. Conducting all the training in the field solved the problem. In between sales calls or at lunch, I used the time with my trainees to address how to handle the paperwork that comes with sales, such as how to fill out a contract and other such forms. The following chapter reveals the best field training and coaching practices.
No classroom simulation comes close to the genuine experience of a live sales presentation. No virtual reality can effectively re-create the dynamics of one salesperson observing another salesperson in the field, delivering a sales talk to a real prospect.
Additional advantages of field training include the following:
* Killing two birds—selling and training—with one time management stone
* Increasing your personal selling time and, as a consequence, your personal income
* Eliminating the complaint/excuse about being "too busy" to sell because of the pressure to "take care of the organization"
* Sending the powerful message that you care enough to make sales calls with your team
* Demonstrating that you really believe in the value and salability of your product
* Establishing your hands-on leadership persona—you lead from the front
* Keeping one of the most competent sales reps in the field—you
* Maintaining the selling habit
Occasionally, most sales managers will experience a sudden decline in sales followed by a loss of manpower. Abruptly, the sales manager's override or bonus income shrinks below what it takes to maintain an established lifestyle. Sales managers who sell won't feel as acutely the decrease in personal income that occurs when others fail to deliver. They can increase their selling time more easily when the need arises. A sales manager who loses the personal selling habit finds it very difficult to "get back in the saddle."
I have seen promising sales management careers end in heartbreak and financial distress because a sales manager, even one who used to be a topflight salesperson, could not overcome the fear of rejection and go back into the field.
If a sales manager stops selling, it doesn't take long for that manager's salespeople to draw the conclusion that one of the perks of sales management is to sell a lot less or even nothing at all. This poor example produces a ripple effect. Lower-level managers who earned their position by being competent sales reps think, "If my boss avoids the field, I guess I can skip a day or two, too." Thus, the consequence of this poor nonselling example is to take many of the best producers out of the field. The speed of the boss is the speed of the team.
Some sales management tasks cannot be done in the field while personally selling. Still, sales managers want to consider personal selling a primary activity. When developing their weekly schedule, effective sales managers first set their weekly selling time. Then, and only then, do they prioritize time for all the other sales management activities.
Sales managers take care of their organization by never being too busy to show team members how to make money in the field. Doing so sends the clear message to your sales professionals that they are important. Your trainees think, "Gee, the boss left the comfort of his office to be with me, to help me learn how to close more orders." Powerful stuff, that. Any wannabe sales manager can talk about selling methods, closing techniques, and market potential; the great sales managers show by doing.
QUESTIONS TO ASK YOURSELF
* What happens when you work in the field with your sales representatives? Is it good or bad?
* What do you consider the three main benefits of personal selling by the sales manager?
* Can you name three be
Excerpted from MAKING MILLIONS IN DIRECT SALES by Michael G. Malaghan. Copyright © 2005 by Malaghan Sales Management Development. Excerpted by permission of The McGraw-Hill Companies, Inc..
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