A newly hired traveling salesman wrote his first report to the home office. It horrified the top brass in the sales department because it was obvious the man was almost illiterate. The letter read:
I have seen this outfit which ain’t never bot a dimes worth of nothing from us and I sole them a couple hundred thowsand dolars of guds. I am now going to Chacawgo.
Before the man could be given the heave-ho by the sales manager, another latter came from Chicago. In this one, the man wrote: “I cum here and sole them haff a millyun.”
Fearful if he did and fearful if he didn’t fire the man, the sales manager dumped the problem in the lap of the company president. The following morning, the manager found the two letters posted on his email along with a memo from the president:
We ben spending to much time trying to spel instead of trying to sel. Let’s watch thos sails. I want everybody shud reed these letters frum Gooch, who is on the rode doing a grate job for us, and you shud go out and do like he done.
Sometimes we spend too much time on the things that don’t count and less time on selling. Good salespeople may not be the brightest, best organized or the best educated, but if they relate to people and produce profitable sales, be happy.
Here are 15 things sales managers need to do to be more effective:
1. Insist that every employee maintain a cheerful, friendly attitude towards customers, prospects and other employees.
2. Do not depend on spies for information; people neither admire nor respect an employee who listens to gossip.
3. Encourage everyone to think and make their own decisions. Hold them responsible for results and discourage them from consulting with you on matters they should decide for themselves.
4. Try to minimize cliques. Any group that functions effectively cannot have cliques within the group.
5. Be quick to show appreciation for a job well done. Praise when deserved and criticize wisely; overdoing either is not good.
6. Assign jobs and explain their importance.
7. Be careful not to overload the hardest workers, or you might cause them to burn out.
8. Encourage initiative but be careful not to let individuals work at cross purposes. Hold people accountable by letting them know what is expected of them in their jobs.
9. Make all employees feel that it’s their company and that they are part of the team.
10. Don’t haggle over reasonable expenses. Let employees know what is expected and the results that are needed to justify the expenses requested.
11. Help all salespeople work on their time management. Set a good example yourself.
12. Watch anyone who takes credit for everything positive that happens.
13. Do not break any promises you make.
14. Don’t compare the way you sold to the way an employee sells. We each sell differently.
15. Give credit where it’s due. Praise in public and reprimand in private.
If sales managers follow some of these simple suggestions, they will produce a better group of salespeople who will be more productive and more successful. Remember that unhappy employees are poor producers. Unhappiness is highly contagious.
Compensation that is tied to accountability is the key to happy salespeople. It has been my experience that as many sales compensation programs evolved over the years, they became unfair to the consistent sales producer or new employees.
A reasonable amount of sales staff turnover is expected and should be anticipated. Turnover can be beneficial. It allows new salespeople with new ideas to energize others in the sales department. Sales training is essential whether it is done internally or by hiring a firm. Either way, it’s money well spent.
(Dave Gleason has more than 40 years of experience in contracting, engineering and wholesaling. He has put these experiences into a comprehensive consultation and training company called Systematic Selling Inc., which offers customized sales seminars and workshops. Contact him at 1165 Antioch Campground Road, Gainesville, GA 30506; phone 800-447-7355; fax 717-698-6555.)