One of the most important jobs of a sales manager is making sure that he conducts regular joint sales calls with his salespeople. And yet many don’t take the time or put the effort into ensuring that that calls are done on a consistent basis and proper feedback is given to their salespeople.
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That’s the view of Joe Ellers of Palmetto Associates, a management-consulting firm that has helped more than 1,000 companies improve their selling skills. Ellers conducted a well-attended workshop on joint sales calls during the Association for Hose & Accessories Distribution’s Convention (NAHAD) held this week in Orlando, FL.
“Sales managers must work with their salespeople to become more proactive; schedule those meetings on a regular basis and hold them accountable,” he told attendees.
He added that a manager cannot know what is happening on the field, unless he observes his salespeople to determine if they are:
- Calling on the right customers
- Calling on the right people within those companies
- Talking about the right things
- Establishing good relationships with those customers
- Displaying that they have the right “mechanics”
“Every salesperson needs to have joint sales calls with their managers during the year. It doesn’t matter if you’re a new salesperson or someone who’s been in the field for 35 years," he said. “Even good salespeople slip into some very bad habits.”
He noted that from 2002 to 2007, business was so good that many salespeople became order takers rather than solutions providers.
Today, he said, it is different as salespeople fight to take market share from their competitors.
Sales managers must hold their salespeople accountable for meeting their goals. “If you give them no guidance, you’re actually showing them that you don’t care,” he said. The top 1 percent of salespeople have a written plan and hold themselves accountable for meeting those goals.
There are other advantages, as well. Salespeople with written call plans make two and a half times as much as those without such a plan, he said.
He added it is equally critical for a sales manager to have a written checklist to determine how well their salespeople are performing.
Managers should insist that each salesperson set aside one day to work with them on prospecting rather than just calling on existing accounts.
And after the calls are done, Ellers advises managers to give good, quality feedback to their salespeople. “Be specific about the good points and focus on the positive,” he said and limit any critique to three things. “Have examples and agree on an action plan,” he concluded.
Jack Keough is a contributing editor to Modern Distribution Management and the owner of Keough Business Communications. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or by phone at 508-734-0029. Keough is the former editor of Industrial Distribution Magazine.