December 15, 2013

Sales Manager: Why Don’t You Formally Meet 1:1 Monthly with Every Salesperson?

Leading the team and creating a healthy sales culture are primary responsibilities of the sales manager. Very often, I’ll ask a vice president of sales or the sales manager how often they meet 1:1 with their people. And the typical answer sounds something like this:  “I am in touch with every one of my people on a regular basis.”  Some will proudly state, “I speak to or email every member of the team almost everyday.”  That’s when I smile, pause, and ask again to begin making my point and leading the manager down a path. I’ll say, “That’s great that you’re in regular contact with your folks, however, that’s not really what I am asking you. How often do you formally meet 1:1 with each of your people? By ‘formal’ I mean sitting down in person, or by phone, to review their results, pipeline (and activity if necessary)?” Remember, this sales management coaching conversation is in regard to their personal leadership of the team and the importance of creating a goals/results-focused culture.

What I am consistently finding, in company after company, is that most sales managers do not meet formally with each of their people on a monthly basis. And very often, part of the motivation for an executive engaging me to help improve the performance of the sales team is that they sense a lack of accountability and focus on results. And that, my friends, falls squarely at the feet of the sales manager. Period. If you follow me on twitter you may have noticed I’ve been tweeting more and more about sales management issues, and the time is right to begin tackling these topics here on the blog.

One of the easiest, simplest and most practical ways to increase accountability and focus on goals and results is to begin 1:1 meetings with each member of the team, every month. Yes, by all means, keep talking with your people. Yes, have team meetings at an appropriate rhythm – more on that in a future posts. Yes, publish and distribute sales results, reports, scorecards and rankings! But there is something magical and powerful about a formal, scheduled 1:1 meeting where both parties know going into it that the main theme is results — current results, past results and future results. In a mere 20 minutes per person, by phone or face-to-face, the manager can transform the focus of the team, increase visibility, evaluate performance, clearly communicate expectations, review the past and future (pipeline), and send a crystal clear message to each individual, and the team as whole, that this sales organization is laser focused on delivering results and exceeding goals. And all of this can be done without spitting, arms flailing, bad words or public humiliation of an under-performer. It’s a simple 20-minute conversation about last month’s results versus goal (and relative ranking amongst team members),  YTD results, and future results.

sales manager stretchedSales managers, I know you are busy. I see how you are pulled in six different directions everyday. Many of you can’t seem to take off the firefighter helmet, even for a minute. You are swamped with customer issues, service fires, internal problems, high-maintenance veterans and rookies requiring your constant help. The CFO is upset and wants to meet with you about price concessions and expense reports. The marketing people are complaining about how your team is handling leads or conducting presentations. The ops folks are dropping the ball and you’re feeling forced to jump in and represent a key customer’s issues…and on it goes. I get it! Your plate is full. Or better said, you’re spinning as many plates as you can! But way too many of you have lost focus on the prize. You are too busy being busy, too busy doing other people’s jobs. And you know what is suffering, don’t you? Your team is not being led well. The culture doesn’t have that feel. Intensity isn’t there and many of your folks have lost sight of the  fact that their main job is produce new revenue, not just manage a territory or book of business. And your boss is getting highly concerned that you’ve lost focus and that your team members are not being held accountable.

My strongest encouragement is to get your head out of the CRM screens, stop letting others fill up your calendars with non-revenue producing “management” responsibilities, and quit pretending you’re leading the team and maintaining a healthy culture by launching threatening mass emails about the need to close more business! Carve out 20 minutes per month per salesperson for the type of meeting described above and you’ll not only have a much better handle where the team and every member stand, but you’ll also be doing wonders in terms of accountability and results focus.