A sales manager needs to be seen and heard if they are going to lead their sales force. One of the downsides of our technologies is that the salesperson can monitor their sales force's results over long distances. For as long as there have been CRMs, salespeople have feared their sales manager would act as Big Brother, monitoring their every move, tallying up their activities, and micromanaging their efforts. The reason the technology is mostly detrimental is that it prevents a number of critical engagements with their salespeople.
The sales manager I was speaking to had a problem with a salesperson. He wasn't sure what the salesperson was doing wrong, and he wasn't certain what he should do to help improve the rep's results. When I asked him what he learned when he joined his salesperson on a client call, he told me had never met the salesperson face-to-face, and had never observed the salesperson.
The Invisibility Cloak
The demands on a sales manager are many. Mostly, however, they are internal. The many meetings, forecasting, and internal communication easily dominate the sales manager's time, energy, and attention. It can feel as if the sales manager is the offensive coordinator being pulled into the locker room to discuss the game instead of leading their team. The company's needs can take precedence over everything else, up to, and including the time they need to spend with their sales force.
Between the CRM and its magical dashboards showing every metric in real time and the time spent on internal needs is an invisibility cloak, with the sales force being unable to see, hear, or feel the sales manager's impact. It's important for a sales organization pursuing growth to have sales managers and leaders with high engagement with their sales force. Without high engagement with the sales force, you cannot produce a high-performing sales force.
A sales force being managed through their CRM is often one where the sales manager views a salesperson's results without addressing the salesperson directly. Because they have viewed the information they needed, some managers wait to address the salesperson at some time in the future. The more time the sales manager allows to pass before confronting the salesperson, the longer the salesperson goes without making the changes necessary to produce better results they need.
There is a difference between someone looking at your results from some far away place and having to self-report your results or lack thereof. The salesperson who did nothing to create a new opportunity in the last workweek is going to experience negative emotions when they are required to report that they were unable to acquire a meeting in a five-day period. The salesperson who doesn't feel the presence of their invisible sales manager may be happy with the arrangement. That arrangement is you say nothing, I say nothing, and we go on as if nothing is wrong. This is how things go wrong and how teams fail to meet their targets.
The Lack of Accountability
You might believe that these are minor things and that your attention should go elsewhere. There is zero doubt you are being pulled in different directions and doing your best to take care of all of your accountabilities, but these two areas make it much more difficult to create and maintain a positive culture of accountability.
The sooner you recognize a salesperson is struggling to produce the results they need, the sooner you can act on that information. The longer a problem continues without being addressed, the more you provide individuals or your team with a waiver. By allowing something to go on unaddressed, you have waived your right to complain about it or take action at the end of a quarter or a year. You need a no waiver policy. But more than that, you need to prevent problems from threatening your results.
No one wants to be a micromanager, but not intervening long before a salesperson fails not only prevents them from failing, but it also prevents the sales manager from failing and the sales leader from failing. Any problem or challenge that might put your goals in jeopardy needs a sales manager to be proactive.
From Invisible to Visible
Managing a sales force that is all in one location is far easier than one that is spread out around the country or the world. But if you want to use technology, then you should schedule a meeting to have your sales team report on their results in a format that causes them to recognize you are going to hold them accountable for their results.
Showing up, engaging with, coaching, and developing your sales force's effectiveness is the most important outcome for a sales manager to pursue. The more time you spend with your team and the more you work on helping them succeed in a difficult job, the better your results.
Two weeks ago I posted on LinkedIn that salespeople should show up in person. Salespeople applauded that post, many saying they missed face-to-face meetings. The marketers who commented on the post suggested that only a dinosaur would cause one to leave their home to see a client. What is good for salespeople and their relationships with their clients is good for sales managers who need to improve their relationships with their salespeople.