a World Class

by Jim Pratt       

    MANY PEOPLE APPOINT ONE PERSON TO BE THE LEADER FOR BOTH SALES AND MARKETING. Although doing so may be conventional, in our view it is not wise. It is very rare to find a cross-trained individual who can be highly competent at both disciplines. Sales leadership and marketing leadership are two distinctly different specialties. Therefore, they should be separate responsibilities within a company. Marketing is both analytical and creative. Its purposes are to identify prospects, make these prospects aware of us and to meet as many of their needs as we can.
    Sales involves creating the right environment to personally ask for the business and to do so with a high degree of success. Very few sales professionals make good marketing executives and vice versa. If your firm can only afford one person, hire a Sales Leader to take charge of your production efforts and outsource marketing to a marketing group or similar organization.
    Sales and marketing must inter-relate effectively and constantly. Input from your Sales Professionals, perhaps through a sales advisory committee, also is absolutely essential to refine your selling process. But remember: The best place to design your product is on the customer's desk. A useful exercise is to divide your sales force into productivity quartiles. Determine the average sales of the top 25% of your sales force, the next 25% and so on. Examine the results brought in by your top 25% and compare them to your bottom 25% of Sales Professionals. It is our bet that the top quartile outperforms the bottom quartile by a factor of five to one!
    Then compare the time commitment and other demands on sales leadership required by each group. After seeing the resources which go into your lowest producers, you can understand why our recommendation usually is to replace the bottom 25% of your sales force.
    Generally less than 20% of a sales force truly qualifies as Sales Professionals.
    Too many of our producers are really only order takers. Perhaps even worse is that the majority of sellers � those found between the two extremes � have only mediocre results.
    It has been reported that 75% of all salespeople are operating below their capacity. Yet if an individual salesperson is performing below your standards, there are only five primary reasons for that:

  • You hired the wrong person.
  • Your recruits don't know how to sell.
  • You haven't challenged each one individually.
  • He or she is not committed to the business.
  • Poor sales leadership or other company handicaps are hindering their efforts.

    Isn't it obvious that Sales Leadership controls all five reasons for poor sales? If there is a problem with any salesperson, the responsibility falls on his or her Sales Leader.
    We're not suggesting that Sales Leaders have no sales responsibility. But we are suggesting that Sales Leaders should be measured by how well they grow the sales force they are responsible for.
    One of the toughest challenges in industry is the personally producing Sales Leader. Too often a top salesperson is made the sales leader, but with the stipulation that he or she continue producing.
    A frequent result is the loss of a strong producer and the creation of an ineffective Sales Leader. Remember that the skill profile of a Sales Leader is different from a Sales Professional's skill set.
    If the goal is to grow your sales team, compensate the new Sales Leader � at least in part � based on the increased productivity of each team member. You then can quickly wean sales leaders off of their personal production.
    Also, don't create house accounts. Instead, move them to other team members.
    In the box to the right are the attributes or character traits we have found from personal experience that represent the makeup of the most successful Sales Leaders. Obviously, the primary key to unlocking a world-class sales team is in developing world�class Sales Leaders.
    Yet in many cases a Sales Leader was selected because he or she had been with the company for years and was a strong personal producer.
    But it's not difficult to change this pattern. Start by acknowledging that generally everything the Sales Leader has learned occurred not in kindergarten, but on the job. A careful review of the Sales Leader profiles will isolate areas for additional education and training which a salesperson needs to earn the title: LEADER.
    Management skills are necessary. But when working directly with people, you must switch to a leadership style. Your sales staff will respond differently to a "Sales Manager" and a "Sales Leader." A key component to remember is that you can manage assets, but you must lead people.
    Of course, Sales Leaders manage well. But they also get their people excited. In essence, leaders create the vision while managers implement it. We need both skills. Sales Leaders communicate with a passion the corporate vision for the next three to five years, the mission to be accomplished in the coming twelve months and the quarterly goals for the sales unit.
    Strong communication skills found in top Sales Leaders produce "buy-in" from all involved. Collective and team goals then are more likely to be achieved � ahead of time.
    How Sales Managers invest their time is, in our experience, the most common barrier to Sales Leadership success. It's impossible to lead Sales Professionals from behind a desk! A key question to ask is, "In helping my salespeople to increase their sales, what is the highest and best use of my time? We think the answer is found by concentrating on the foundations itemized here.
    Your answer may get you started in building the best sales team in your industry.

Jim Pratt is the CEO of the Pratt-Daly International Sales Consulting firm based in San Diego, CA.
Jim's experience includes leading sales forces of one to 4,800. You may reach Pratt-Daly at 800.374.0300.