What Makes a Great Sales Manager...and Sales?

Posted by Jack Derby, Head Coach on Tue, Nov 11, 2014

A 3 Minute Sales Management Course

sales eagleA Vermont eagle was sitting on a tree resting, doing nothing. A small rabbit saw the eagle and asked him, 'Can I also sit like you and do nothing?'

The eagle answered: 'Sure, why not.'  So, the rabbit sat on the ground below the eagle and rested. All of a sudden, a fox appeared, jumped on the rabbit and ate it.  

Moral of the story:
No matter how high up you are, you need to be totally aware of everything around you and totally prepared for what and who you are going to meet.

For me, a couple of takeaways from this little proverb which I received over the weekend from one of my high school buds...

  • "If you never ask for the sale, you will never get it, and if you aren't in front of a client and totally prepared, you can't ask, and you will never win.." 

  • The best sales managers I've ever met are able to move instantly from defining strategic direction at the very top of the organization to becoming personally involved in the hands-on details with individual deals, key customers and coaches to specific salespeople. 

These are the managers who are constantly involved with their businesses, both strategically at the top of the tree and tactically down on the ground.  They would never consider "doing nothing" since it's locked into their DNA to be 100% focused, totally prepared and consistently active.

Nothing is considered to be beneath them in terms of their direct involvement in selling and focusing on their customers. Plus, they possess a "whatever-it-takes-to-get-the-order" leadership attitude, and they become personally disappointed, and often actually upset, when an order is lost to a competitor.   

Just two of my own personal experiences of these types of Eagles.  I'd love to hear yours...

  • The CEO of the most successful transaction that I was in didn't think anything of driving 50,000 to 60,000 miles a year even if the logistics weren't efficiently planned.  She was a master of communication in using her time wisely, plus I've never met anyone who exuded more customer care, preparation and total attention to detail than her.  

    As chairman of the company, I consistently observed an intimate understanding and knowledge of the company's products and its market, and since she came from the same experience and background as most of the company's customers, she created an almost instant bond of trust with customers and employees alike. Trust through her detailed knowledge of the market, her comfortable style of personal sellng and in her total preparedness regarding the customer and her attention to operational details.  
  • I've also observed that same level of immediate trust created by the CEO of a market-leading capital goods distributor, where I'm also chairman. Highly active in the day-to-day sales activities even though there are numerous regional VPs and an experienced head of sales and marketing, this exec is consistently prepared and aware of the details of the company's pipeline, travels around the world without hesitation and is totally focused on whatever it takes to satisfy the customer.  

    Actually, to drive the trust point home, the company's logo proudly displays the words, "Built on Trust".  And, more than a statement, the logo and the words are on the walls of the building, displayed in the conference rooms, printed on all of the business cards, and embroidered on the shirts that everyone proudly wears.  More than a logo, this culture of trust has become a badge of pride.

    To evidence that reality of trust, if a customer complains about equipment that is not functioning, the company is filled with hundreds of customer success stories about late night, multi-hour drives and overnight flights to difficult locations and replacement shipments that are made within a few hours.  There's never a discussion about costs or first shipping back the questionable item.  When the culture is about "Built on Trust", the immediate focus is to first get the customer back on line and fully satisfied.  

sales sine waveWhen I think of the best sales managers with whom I've worked, I always go to the whiteboard and draw a sine wave and then talk about the realities of what I need in that person is someone who can manage from the peak to the nadir of the wave.  From global strategies to pipeline activities.  From vision three years out to orders closing this week. From intellectually bright strategies seen only from high in the tree to street-smart tactics played out on the ground.

Always focused on the objectives and the timelines of the customer.   

And the very good news is that these managers, the Eagles, are out there.  You just need to profile exactly what you want, search them out, build your sales team around them and then consistently nurture and coach them.

For example, one of the easiest and most critical sales tactics where Eagles consistently coach their team is in being thoroughly prepared for any sales meeting.  

sales report cardForrester Research found an alarming discrepancy between the grades reps gave themselves versus those given by buyers. They report that frustrated buyers are asking, “Why are salespeople not better prepared for sales meetings?” The ensuing question is, “Prepared to do what?”

And the data makes it clear that sales reps and buyers are not on the same page with respect to the answer.



Their research report, How Prepared Do Sales Reps Think They Are?, illustrates this divide with a sales preparation report card. Executive buyers assigned reps an “F” for preparedness, contrasting starkly with the sales reps self-assigned “B.”  Eagle Sales Managers would never let this happen since they would be constantly focused on training, preparing, practicing and testing their team members before they made the call.

Hopefully this reminder on being fully prepared will refresh a few ideas for your next call.

Have a great week...

Good Selling for Q4, and Good Planning for 2015! 

 Jack Derby 

Head Coach  
Derby Management...for 25 years
Sales & Marketing Productivity Experts
Business & Strategy Planning Specialists
Box 171322, Boston, MA 02117
Jack's Cell: 617-504-4222 

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Tags: sales productivity, Sales Optimization, Sales Management Best Practices, sales management effectiveness, sales effectiveness, sales enablement, sales tools, selling, sales management training, sales training