Farquharson/Tedesco on Business Development: Sales Managers Really Want...
Expectations. What does this guy want from me? Salespeople scratch their collective heads and ask this question as they walk out of off-putting encounters with the boss. Sure, you are well aware of his or her expectations regarding sales volume. That number was given to you a while ago and you are on track, feeling good about your results.
Results. In the end, it's the ultimate measuring stick. Hit your numbers and all is right with the world. Your boss will smile at you and life will be good...right up until the time when a new sales year starts and that smile disappears. Happiness in the sales/sales manager relationship typically only lasts a few weeks.
Between the time when annual sales quotas are handed out and the time when they are met and exceeded, bosses have different and often unspoken expectations. Failure to meet them can make for month after month of rough meetings and head scratching. So, what DOES this guy want from you?
Beyond the results lies five unspoken expectations:
Communication—Several times a day, all bosses ask the same questions of their salespeople: What are you doing? Where are you? It's not fair, but managers manage primarily with their two eyes. If they see you in the office, they have some awareness of your sales activity (although they do wonder what you are doing here and why you aren't out selling something). But the minute you walk out the door, questions arise. It is your responsibility to answer these unspoken questions and let the boss know what you are doing to increase your sales.
Let's say you got into the habit of sending a weekly e-mail every Friday before you left to start your weekend. In it, you could summarize the week's activities in terms of appointments made, prospecting attempts, successes, potential successes and anything else you can think of that screams, "I am doing my job!" The results may not yet be visible, but your manager will have the information necessary to feel confident that the correct activities are being followed. It is very difficult to over-communicate with your boss, but the opposite is easy and common.
Work Hard—Every sales rep (and perhaps every employee) has a belief that he or she is not being compensated fairly for their work. Every sales manager has the occasional, "What am I paying these people for?" thought. A second primary expectation is that you, the salesperson, are putting in the hours and working hard. In essence, show that you are earning your paycheck. This is especially true for the reps who are struggling.
If your car is in the parking lot when the boss pulls in and still there when he or she leaves, a message is sent (see also WikiSein: George Costanza turned this into an art form). The single most important characteristic that any salesperson can possess is that of diligence. Some reps have natural ability, charm and family members in purchasing, and therefore they achieve. But all can have drive and persistency. These factors are additional visible signs of pending sales success.
You are expected in the office at a certain time and for a certain time. Check out at noon on Friday and the presses had better be humming with your work on them. Again, know that managers manage with their eyes. Give them something to look at.
Information—Consider the job of being a manager or boss and, more specifically, the many challenges being faced. Primarily, there are "today" issues and obstacles. Presses are down. Key people are out. Raw materials have not arrived. And then there's those needy salespeople. But "tomorrow" challenges are present, as well.
It was once said, "10 years from now 70 percent of our business will come from customers we do not currently have who are buying products we do not currently offer." With that in mind, the boss has the added responsibility of wondering where to steer the company ship. Salespeople often have the answer to this important question without even knowing it. As Dr. Joe Webb correctly pointed out, "It is far more important to stay ahead of the customer than it is the competition."
Good salespeople possess knowledge that good bosses need. They are aware (or they should be, anyway) of the direction their clients are headed. In order to stay relevant, salespeople will need to get there first, and that might require expanding into products and services that are not currently offered. Bosses and managers desperately need to know what the sales reps know so that plans can be made to ensure future success.
Harmony Within—It's the same characteristics of a successful salesperson that can also create issues within the plant. Namely, ego. Confidence is a wonderful thing in a sales rep. The proper selling attitude, one that says, "I am the best in the business and you should be buying from me," can help a salesperson to achieve. However, bring that attitude back with you from a sales call and speak to CSRs, estimators and production with that same tone, and a "clear the air" meeting where hurt feelings are soothed is likely to follow.
There is an expectation that salespeople will recognize their place. Sure, nothing happens before a sale is made, but plenty happens afterward. Reps need to understand that they are only as good as the people around them and it is in their best interest to play nice. Don't make waves.
Miscellaneous Wisdom—"He spends the company's money as if it were his own." A company president uttered these words when describing his top sales rep's expense reports. It spoke volumes to the bosses' faith and trust. Salespeople who have the company's best interest in mind at all times are looked on kindly by the people who are writing the checks.
The same can be said for the rep who doesn't scream, "This is a rush job!" every time an order is placed. When a job goes south and there is a problem or if there is an internal issue of some kind, keeping blame and gossip within the walls of the building and not carrying them on to the client shows maturity and wisdom that does not go unnoticed. Even expressing appreciation and sharing the glory of a job well done with all of those who contributed is a sign that the salesperson is a team player, despite the fact that sales is often a solitary assignment.
For better or for worse, everything a sales rep does can be measured. The number of calls, appointments, quotes and, of course, sales, is tracked and noticed and becomes the answer to the ongoing and inevitable sales management question, "Is my rep doing the job?" If results in the form of sales volume are not present, getting to "yes" requires a bit of mind-reading. The boss expects, but does not always express, those expectations. Work hard, talk to me, predict the future, kumbaya and be a savant. That's all.
Oh, and he wants a pony, too. PI
About the Authors
T.J. Tedesco is team leader of Grow Sales Inc., a marketing and PR services company that has served the sales growth needs of graphic arts companies since 1996. He wrote "Win Top-of-Mind Positioning" and eight other books. Contact Tedesco at (301) 294-9900 or email@example.com. Bill Farquharson is a vice president at NAPL. He can help drive your sales. Contact Farquharson at (781) 934-7036 or firstname.lastname@example.org