Thin IceBuilding and managing a productive sales team—any team!—is a full time job, and quite often I’ve seen  things go very wrong, so here are a few rules for solving common sales management problems, which also can be extrapolated for your employee population in general.

Rule #1:  The sales rep isn’t selling.

Regardless of how good you are at team building, or how strong you believe your present team to be, at some point you’ll encounter the problem of a rep who is just not selling.  I’m not talking about one bad week or month, but a quantifiable measurement where the sales numbers just aren’t where they’re supposed to be at a given point in time.  Solve the problem by looking inward and asking yourself a series of questions.  Start with these:

  • Is the problem in finding deals or in closing them?  One is a prospecting problem, the other is a harvesting problem—and each has its own solution.
  • Ask yourself whether YOU could harvest this pipeline and how.  Most likely your answer will tell you what’s wrong and what to do about it.
  • Ask yourself if the rep in question ever has made the numbers (i.e., quota)?  If so, what’s changed?  Therein lies your solution.

There are other questions to consider, but these will get you started thinking in the right direction.  Once you can define the specific issue, you’re just a step or two away from a viable solution.  However, never let any sales rep stay below quota more than two consecutive reporting periods without taking action.  It’s just not done.

Rule #2:  Keep your reps out of trouble.

This goes for any sales rep or valued employee—some are just prone to driving their lives into a ditch.  It doesn’t make them bad people, but their problems ultimately will become your problems, so keep an eye on who’s doing what, when and how.  I’m not talking about using interrogation techniques to unearth the deepest secrets about their lives—if that’s your agenda you’re in the wrong job—I’m talking about watching their numbers, their overall productivity, and talking and listening.  It’s a lot easier to stay ahead of this potential problem the same way it’s a lot easier to keep a car out of a ditch than it is to have to pull it out.

Rule #3:  Being a manager sometimes sucks.

Every day you will have to make hard decisions—some more difficult than others, and time and again you will face the same choices of keeping a rep or employee who is seriously mediocre (or worse) and getting poor (territory) coverage; discarding or sidelining a rep and potentially having no (territory) coverage or replacing a rep and getting brand-spanking “new” coverage.  All are tough issues, and in my experience the solution is this:  Do your best to make a decision that will best stand the test of time.  Short-term solutions only create long-term problems.

And finally, remember these basics:

  1. Don’t tolerate bad attitudes.  (‘Nuff said.)
  2. Don’t keep reps or other employees that can’t (or won’t) perform as required.
  3. Keep your focus.  Every sales manager has too much to do, so choose what you do each day and do those things well.  Or in the words of the great Ron Swanson (Parks and Recreation):  “Never half-ass two things; whole-ass one thing.”
  4. Problems are normal.  Don’t get excited.  Define, prioritize and solve them.  Lamenting why the problem landed on your lap is wasted energy.  Invest that energy in a solution that stands the test of time.  The other stuff just doesn’t matter.
  5. And finally, when you face a serious problem, don’t fall into decision-gridlock.  After a reasonable period of time, do something.  Doing nothing is not an option.

If you follow these simple (but not easy) suggestions, you will have a much easier time managing your sales team and, hopefully, generate a lot more revenue for your small business.

So what would you add?  Do you have some tactics that have worked particularly well?  Please share them in the comments below!