Sales Leadership



 Plan to Win: Understanding the Link
 between Leading and Planning

by Jim Pratt

Continuing on the theme that we have discussed in recent issues of Transaction World Magazine - preparing to lead - we will now discuss the importance of planning.

Plan to Win

To find true success, we must know where we are going. We must have a plan. Denis Waitley framed it this way: "Most people spend more time planning Christmas and holidays than they do planning their life!" It's our responsibility to help our salespeople focus on their targets and to get their goals in writing. Minimal standards of performance should be communicated and enforced. Efforts to reach those acceptable levels should be positive and ongoing.

How often should you hold a sales incentive contest? According to the Sales & Marketing Management survey:
When appropriate or necessary
As a minimum we recommend the posting and distribution of sales performance rankings on a monthly basis. Our job as Sales Leaders is to grow our people. Effective Sales Managers let the salespeople know where they stand and how they rank in comparison to others, determine their goals and aspirations and develop plans to help them improve. To reach your goals, you must start by successfully hiring and training.

Here is a checklist of a dozen essential attributes of a stellar salesperson:
    Sales experience
    Positive attitude
    Work ethic
    Communication skills
    Track record
    Interpersonal skills
    Listening skills

Refine the list to develop a written profile of the sales-people you want to find. You need to be constantly networking to locate those key producers. Too often Sales Leaders make the mistake of saying their office is "fully staffed." Instead, we need to recruit on a regular and ongoing basis in order to keep upgrading our sales force. Sales Managers should have a written list of candidates, as well as a written plan for winning them over.

Prime the Pump

Regularly scheduled sales meetings often are convened out of habit, monopolized by the Sales Manager and conducted without a defined purpose. The result? No one expects anything useful to be accomplished.

Here are some suggestions for making the sales meeting one that people look forward to - and leave with renewed vigor and skills to employ in the market:

� Sales mangers should limit their talking to no more than 25% of the time.
� Rotate the chairmanship among all salespeople, make it their meeting.
� Begin every meeting with recognition - tying it into specific success stories.
� Spend a minimum of 20 minutes in each meeting on sales skills development. Exercises such as role practicing, reviewing case studies, building presentation skills and the development and refinement of a personal "success guide" are good candidates for this section.
� Invite guest speakers. Don't overlook the possibility of inviting a top- performing salesperson from a competitor. You'll be surprised how many readily accept an invitation to "strut their stuff."

Getting Ahead

Which one of us wouldn't benefit from a course in computer technology? Who among our salespeople couldn't benefit as well? Active leadership is the way to get them there. By "walking your talk" you'll take the initiative. Similarly, an ongoing reading program can help retool the initial basics obtained in school. Respondents to the Sales & Marketing Management survey read an average of eight business books per year.

Are you keeping up? The following books were identified as "must reads" for every Sales Leader:
The Seven Habits of Highly Effective People/Stephen R. Covey
One-Minute Manager /Kenneth Blanchard and Spencer Johnson
How to Win Friends and Influence People/Dale Carnegie
Swim With the Sharks Without Being Eaten Alive/Harvey Mackay
In Search of Excellence/Tom Peters
Think and Grow Rich/Napoleon Hill
Principle-Centered Leadership/Stephen R. Covey
The Leadership Secrets of Attila the Hun/ Wess Roberts
The Art of War/Sun Tzu

To this list we would add:
The Art of Leadership/Max Depree
How to Make a Buck and Still Be Decent Human Being/Rick Rose

Influence Circles

As contact management guru Harvey Mackay would say, "you're only as good as your contacts." Take a cue from survey respondents, who had 2.5 files of business cards on their desks (or in their computers). Not only should we as Sales Leaders be maintaining a thriving, growing database - but our salespeople should also. If we are not leading them in this direction, we are falling short of our responsibilities. Our salespeople should have a database with every merchant they've done a deal with.

An ongoing list of prospects also should be kept and regularly worked. To continue growing a loyal clientele, this list should contain no few ever than 30 names, addresses and phone numbers.

Each prospect must be prioritized by potential value to the ISO and the database should include information such as the anticipated date of working together, time of last call and results of that contact. Once again, Sales Leaders demonstrate the way through their "Rolodex management," or complete contact management program.

Finally, Sales Managers were asked, "What's the best part of your job?" Almost half agreed that helping others succeed is the most important aspect of selling. In fact, nothing else came close. Dealing with personnel problems, terminating non-performers and paperwork were cited as the least-enjoyable aspects of Sales Management.

Martin Pazzani, Vice President of Marketing at Heublin, Inc., summarizes our Sales Leader well: "The old command and control style of leadership will not work in a complex environment that changes rapidly, communicates instantly and relies on a diverse workforce for results. Future leadership will need to set high goals, define the standards, create the culture and let the organization do the rest."

How do you measure up? Remember, you are the message!

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.

back to articles