I couldn’t believe what I was hearing on the phone. It was a frustrated sales person looking for help.
She had reached out after reading some blogs, asking me to be a sounding board for some deals she was struggling with. We spent some time talking about the deals, exploring what she might do to better position herself to win. At the end of the conversation, I asked, “Have you sat down with your manager to review this and get his advice?
She responded that she had tried to. “He’s always very busy and just doesn’t seem to have the time to help me on these things.”
Curious, I asked, “What kind of coaching do you get from your manager? How much time does he spend with you?”
She responded, “We have a formal 1 on 1 about once a month for an hour. I do talk to him most every day, but usually he’s just checking the status of things. He’s asking where we are on deals, what the competition is, and when we can get an order. Pipeline reviews are usually focused around what we are going to forecast. We do have a monthly team meeting, but usually it’s each of us giving brief updates on what’s going on. He’ll usually talk about where we need to be at to make the numbers.”
I probed a little further, “So you really get at most an hour of coaching a month?” She replied, “Well, it’s pretty one way. Usually, he’s telling me what I should be doing to maximize my numbers. I really don’t get much coaching or learn much from him.”
Aghast at what I was hearing, I probed further, “How many people does the manager have reporting to him? Is he doing the same with everyone else? How does he spend his time?”
Her responses were, “Besides me, there are 6 other people on our team, he seems to have the same approach with each of us. I really don’t know how he spends his time. He seems to be in the office a lot, the last time he went on a customer call was 6 months ago……”
As you know, my mind starts quickly running through the numbers. Assuming a 40 hour week (I don’t know anyone that actually spends that little time doing their job–I think of 40 hour work weeks as “part time jobs.”), he has roughly 160 working hours in the month. If I’m generous and he spends 90 minutes with each person on the monthly one on one’s, he’s spending roughly 10.5 hours a month coaching. Let me be generous and say he has a monthly 4.5 hour team meeting (granted, sounds like there is little coaching/development.), so he’s spending roughly 15 hours a month coaching and developing his people.
What’s he doing with the other 145 hours of his time?
Undoubtedly, it, he’s in a lot of “important” internal meetings, doing a lot of analysis and reporting, but how does that take 145 hours each month?
Yes, he was “spending time” every day with his people, usually it consisted of getting status updates and telling them what to do. While he may have thought that was coaching, it’s not. He wasn’t doing anything to improve the performance and capabilities of his people. Largely, they were left to figuring it out themselves.
“Is your team making the numbers?” I asked.
She responded, “I’m a little ahead of YTD plan. I think I’ll do it, but I struggling and need help in some areas—that’s part of the reason I’m calling you. A couple of my teammates are in similar positions, they’ll probably make plan or close to it. The other 4 are going to miss by a wide margin. They are good people, but they’re struggling. I don’t have time to help them, but they need help and they aren’t getting it from management.”
“Morale on the team is pretty bad, our manager just is focused on the numbers and is always hammering on us to do better,” she added. “We’re trying, but we need help, he doesn’t seem interested in helping us.”
I wish I were making this story up. Unfortunately, I hear variants of this every week.
I’ve no doubt that managers are investing the hours in working, it’s just how they are investing the hours. As you dive into where they invest their time, a lot is doing analysis and reporting. Some of this is self inflicted–they feel if they just keep looking at the data in different ways, the answer to making the numbers will pop out magically.
Others have the analysis and reporting requirements imposed on them by higher levels of management–in and out of sales. Probably one of the worst cases I’ve ever seen is the US subsidiary of a Japanese company being required to provide pipeline updates every 2 hours during November and December. This division sold high end B2B solutions, with sales cycles in excess of 12 months. The pipeline wasn’t going to change much in two hours—or even a week. In this case, the parent company was a consumer packaged good company. November and December was the period when those products were flying off store shelves, so very frequent forecast and pipeline updates might have made sense for those products—but not for their B2B division.
Then there are the endless “important” internal meetings, covering important topics, like, “Who should be the keynote speaker at the national sales meeting,” or “how do we get our sales people to give us more accurate reports,” or “here are the latest strategies of the corporation.” or, “should we buy this app that allows our sales people to update CRM from smart watches and fitbits?” Those meetings seem important, executives from many parts of the company may be involved. It’s cool to rub shoulders with senior management talking about future strategies. But it diverts you away from your people.
There are some internal things that add value to sales. Running interference for them, getting things done internally, getting them resources they need to do their jobs. Even some of the internal meetings are necessary.
But front line managers need to get their priorities and time allocation right.
The job is to maximize the performance of each person on the team. If they don’t do that, they won’t make their numbers.
The ways we maximize performance of people on the team is working directly with them—every day. Coaching them on deal strategies, calls, prospecting, account/territory plans, weekly time blocking, pipelines. Being in the field or on the phones helping them in customer situations. Your single highest priority is working directly with your people. At least 50% of your time needs to be dedicated to working with them–coaching, teaching, collaborating, discovering–not telling.
The next 25% of your time needs to be spent getting things done for your people. Getting them resources, support, getting approval, removing internal barriers and roadblocks. Your investment in this frees them up to be with customers.
The next 25% of your time needs to be divided in three ways: At least half of it needs to be unscheduled. You don’t know what crises will come up. If you schedule 100% of your time, you have no buffer or flexibility. Consequently, interuptions and crises will destroy your schedule. The rest of that 25% will be the inevitable, but necessary internal meetings.
The next 25% of your time can be spent on planning, analyzing, doing reports. No, my math isn’t wrong, I know I have scheduled 125% of your time–suck it up. Your a manager and this isn’t a 40 hours/week job. The time you spend for planning, analyzing, and doing reports is after hours and on weekends. The business day has to be focused on your people.
The final 25% of your time needs to be spent investing in your own development. Reading, attending courses, learning, keeping yourself up to date with the business, markets, customers, and your profession. If you aren’t continually learning, you will become a dinosaur–useless to your people, useless to the company, and useless to yourself.
You’re probably shrieking, I’ve had the audacity to schedule 150% of your time. If you are counting the hours, we’re at least up to 60 hours a week. That’s tough. You chose this job, it takes a lot of time. If you aren’t committed to putting in the time, you shouldn’t be a sales manager.
Yeah, I know there are some trade offs–trade off the time you spend in reports and analysis. There are plenty of tools that reduce the amount of time you need to spend doing this. Understand the few key indicators or KPIs that are most critical to keeping things on track. Don’t spend as much time in meetings. We hate them anyway because so little is accomplished, so why go in the first place.
When you’re making those tradeoffs on time investment, there is one you cannot change, at least 50% of your time is spent with your people. Anything less, they will fail, causing you to fail.
What would happen if you locked a leading self help expert and a sales expert in a room, challenging them to write a book? No, I’m not setting you up for a line like, “How many self help gurus does it take to screw in a light bulb,” or “What do you call 100 sales thought leaders sitting at the bottom of the ocean?”
I’m actually quite serious. Think of your favorite self help expert. Perhaps Stephen Covey, Tony Robbins, Napoleon Hill, Tim Ferris, James Altucher, or anyone else. Think of some of your favorite sales thought leaders, Dale Carnegie, Jill Konrath, Linda Richardson, Miller/Heiman, Mike Weinberg, Jeb Blount or dozens of others.
Then consider the book that results from the collaboration.
It would probably be different from most other sales books you read. Most of them, talk about skills in being a sales person. They may focus on certain aspects of selling, like questioning, prospecting, objection handling, closing, negotiating, selling against competition, creating/articulating value.
It would be different from most of the self help books focus. They focus on things like, what makes you tick, how to establish goals for yourself, your life. How to commit to those,the importance of mindset, what it takes to live a rich life. How to be a better person.
But a book written by a collaboration of these two different types of authors would be different. It would certainly contain a lot of self help perspectives—but from a sales person’s point of view. So it would cover things like self discipline, optimism, caring, competitiveness, resourcefulness, initiative, persistence, communication, accountability, and mindset. It would approach these important personal development areas in terms that are meaningful to being a sales professional.
But the book wouldn’t stop there, because the attributes of being a sales professional are useless unless you execute in the best way possible. So the book would continue on with how top sales professionals execute. It might cover things like, closing, prospecting, storytelling, diagnosing, negotiating, creating value, building consensus/managing change, creating competitive differentiation.
A book that results from this collaboration would integrate the aspects of being a sales professional and executing as one.
That’s just the book that Anthony Iannarino has written with The Only Sales Guide You’ll Ever Need. Anthony’s book bridges that gap, self help—all of us look to those to improve who we are, and sales skills—to produce a unique book for sales professionals.
Will it be The Only Sales Guide You’ll Ever Need? Absolutely, not! Otherwise, Anthony wouldn’t be writing a follow on, and many other sales authors wouldn’t be praising his work. Duuggghhh!
But it’s a great starting point for any new sales professional. It’s a great book for experienced sales people seeking to re-ground and refocus themselves, continuing to improve their practice as sales professionals.
Recently, I met with a CEO. He was trying to hire a new VP of Sales. For various reasons, he had struggled with getting the right person in place for a number of years.
He was about to hire an individual. This person was the only individual that had been interviewed. On paper, the candidate looked pretty good.
As I sat with the CEO, I asked, “What makes you think this person is the right person?”
“He seems like a good guy. He’s had a great track record of success, everyone who’s spoken with him likes him……” responded the CEO.
“But how do you know he’s the right person?” I asked, “What are you looking for?”
Usually, when I have conversations like this, this is the point where whoever I’m speaking with starts to get frustrated.
Typically, the response is, “I’m looking for a great [insert the job function–in this case VP of Sales]!”
My response is always, “What does that mean? How do you know what the right individual looks like? How do you know what to look for?”
When I ask these questions, the same look of frustration appears, they are inevitably wondering, “Why is this consultant slowing me down, I just want to hire someone!” Inevitably, their frustration is heightened since they have an open position and want to fill it as quickly as possible.
Ironically, most don’t recognize they are in a very complex, high risk, buying process.
Each person we hire in a sales role is a multi-million dollar investment. If we are hiring a manager or executive, that investment could be hundreds of millions to billions of dollars.
None of the people I talk to would ever make a multi million dollar investment without a rigorous understanding of, “What problem are we trying to solve, what are our needs, requirements, priorities, what are the risks, how do we mitigate/manage them, …….” They would carefully evaluate the alternatives, rigorously assessing the pros/cons, strengths/weaknesses of each alternative.
Yet, most of the time, we treat hiring decisions differently. We have a nominal job description, “the candidate must be capable of fogging a mirror,” we run the person through a battery of interviews and end up choosing “a good guy (guy is intended as gender neutral.)”
Rather than having clear criteria of what we are looking for, we are swayed by their “data sheets” (CV’s/Resumes) and their “sales calls” (interviews).
Perhaps only one person or a small team interviews the candidate. Those discussions often end up being discussions about what they’ve done, not what the company needs–because they haven’t formalized those.
In the end, a selection is made, usually for the person “we were most comfortable with,” without understanding whether that person was the right person. And usually, the need for filling the position quickly, outweighs the need for getting the right individual.
Hiring sales people or managers, at any level, is a multi-million investment. We can’t look just for “good guys” or people that we are “comfortable” with, we have to have a clear picture of what we are looking for.
What are the expected behaviors, attitudes, values, skills, competencies, experiences? What does it take for the individual to be successful in our company? What are we doing to help make the individual successful (onboarding)? What are the risks we are willing to take? How will be manage those risks? (Ask me for our Sales Competence Model, for a starter template on this.)
We do this with every other multi-millions investment, yet we seldom go through this rigor in our recruiting/hiring/onboarding effort.
Our jobs as hiring managers is not just to hire “good guys,” it’s about hiring the right individuals.
There’s another side to this, it’s the candidate side.
Yes, they are eager to get a job, they want to sell themselves. But if they aren’t the right people, we set them up for failure. If we haven’t done the work to figure out the characteristics of the ideal individual, instead, hiring “good guys,” there’s a high probability they won’t succeed (voluntary/involuntary attrition data seems to reinforce this.). We cheat them of the opportunity to maximize their success, when we don’t do the homework in developing the ideal candidate profile.
No one wants to go into a new job and fail, but when we don’t do our jobs, there is a high likelihood they will fail. And it’s not their fault, it’s our fault for selecting the wrong person.
Hiring is more important than getting “good guys.” It’s about getting the right individual and helping them achieve success.
There’s a series going around the web about people’s First Seven Jobs. It’s been fun and fascinating to see the very first jobs people held. There’s a diverse selection of people’s first seven jobs here, Fred Wilson, Brad Feld, and Keenan.
It’s actually a huge amount of fun–first thinking about your own, reflecting on what they meant to you (privately) and seeing others’ experience. Consequently, I’ve invited a huge number of people of diverse backgrounds, ages, and locations, to share their first 7 jobs. I’ll be posting them weekly, usually on Sundays. Feel free to join in, send your first seven jobs to me by email (firstname.lastname@example.org). I’ll post them in the order I get them.
This week, we have two more fascinating people, Katherine Tate and Eric Anderson.
Katherine Tate, Vice President of Global Sales Opera
tions, Micro Focus.
Mowing Lawns and moving pipe. My brothers & I had a lawn mowing business with a go cart to transport our equipment. My dad secured the business and set the prices. We did all the work. For one of the customers I also moved sprinkler pipe in their alfalfa fields.
Catering kitchen help- worked the buffet line, cleared tables, washed dishes
BLM firefighter – my first regular paycheck (that wasn’t cash or a personal check). Worked on a 2-person team driving a slip-on truck, doing mop up on the fire line.
Summer Intern in a manufacturing plant – worked in a clean room, and rotated through the various phases of memory c
Computer Programmer summer internship – worked on a team with other interns to develop a reusable code library.
Kindergarten & 1st grade reading assistant
Scientific editor – Edited technical journals and books that had been translated from Japanese into English. Although I didn’t know Japanese, I ensured the English grammar was correct.
1. Ranch Hand (catch all for everything on a ranch growing up)
2. Gas Station attendant
3. Parts picker for auto parts supply (Land Rover)
4. Imitation marble countertop factory worker
6. Floppy disc drive machinist
7. Peace Corps volunteer (teacher, coach)
Thanks Katherine and Eric!
Please share this with #myfirstsevenjobs.
Send yours in, ask your colleagues for theirs. Learn, Have Fun!