Business

Balancing act: Sales management includes knowing when to cut

Managing a sales force is tough—-note the word force, as in source of power, influence or strength.

But if the energies of an individual sales professional are weakening your team or draining you of time and wasting your own energy, you need to redirect that person’s force in a more appropriate direction or release it to self-destruct or fit better somewhere else.

Here are some to-do’s around balancing your team:

Vigilant Processes

Vigilance in fact-keeping may assist you in the balancing act of managing sales professionals. Sometimes in the midst of confronting a problem with a subordinate a manager may be too busy to precisely deal with the issue on the spot—the most urgent need may be to fix it and move the larger process ahead. But it’s important to make time to document and contemplate issues when you see a repeat problem or a sales professional with reoccurring problems.

Keep track of facts

Because recruitment, selection, hiring, and retaining excellent staff is critical, difficult to do well and expensive, it’s normal to dread the thought of creating a void in the sales force by letting someone go. But being diligent in documenting situations and making time to put them into thoughtful context can give you options. It can help you create a collective and more accurate view of the root cause of the undesirable situation; it can help you put the impact of the outcome in objective perspective; and it can assist you in implementing high-impact re-training, corrective instruction, or make a purposeful decision.

Balance What You See

1. Are you managing individuals in a sales department, or are you coaching a team? Do you need conforming behaviors or are your professionals allowed autonomy? Your perspective can influence your expectations.

2. Are you working with a highly creative person who frequently finds better ways to do things, or are they breaking necessary prudent policies?

3. Does their behavior toward others create goodwill and synergistic collegiality, or do they create divisive wrangling among peers?

4. Do they display spontaneous inspiration, or a lack of reasonable self-control or low emotional intelligence?  Boundaries of acceptable behaviors and activities toward customers, peers, and other staff generally mean after an interaction everyone feels whole, respected, and their dignity is intact.

5. Is an occasional lack of punctuality due to their conscientiousness toward completing an important task in line with organizational values, or is their chronic tardiness a trademark of carelessness?

6. Does the sales professional tout their high sales numbers but their delinquent completion of paperwork hinders the final process?

7. Is your busiest person really producing, or are they just working in circles? Efficiency can yield effective outcomes, but make sure the activity is organized chaos not just insanely high piles of incomplete work.


Be a good problem solver

Step one: Define the problem.

Without documentation you might lack reliable evidence except for your emotions of frustration and perhaps anger-and that is not a good way to make effective decisions. So document; measure; compare; analyze. Then ask yourself:

1. In context of the whole picture of performance, is the behavior an anomaly or a trend?

2. Is the situation just annoying or is it building momentum?  Your historical documentation trail may shed objective light on determining if what is frustrating you is rare-or is it an accumulation of many different situations, each one rare? If you don’t document you may write off dysfunctional behaviors again and again.

3. Do their actions block others’ success-yours included?

4. Can you discern a pattern of harmful intent or carelessness (willful) or just a lack of awareness (often trainable)?

5. What is the acute and the ripple-effect cost of the undesirable behaviors? Do you ignore them, retrain the person, or take other action?


Plan to manage well

Don’t risk a ripple effect of negative outcomes in your sales team, organization, and customers. Training staff vs. reprimanding them when awareness is needed can be a low-cost, high reward outcome. And though involuntary turnover is difficult to do, sometimes it is too expensive not to do.  Making time to document well so you can contemplate a situation thoroughly later on may add powerful strength to your sales force

 

Cheryl Kane, MBA, PHR, GPHR, SHRM-SCP, is a strategic business consultant, sales trainer, & professional speaker specializing in strategic planning and service quality. If you seek assistance in growing your business, need a business speaker, or have a topic you would like to see in this column, Cheryl welcomes your communication at email: CherylKane@cherylkane.net.

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