To address issues of sales persons’ productivity an organization needs to address issues holistically. Most organizations when faced with low or declining orders from their sales teams look for quick fix solutions by putting sales people through a rigorous sales training program which more often than not is structured around face to face selling skills. Issues around sales management process and sales managers’ competencies are largely given a go by. In some programs the sales managers are present as observers. But that is a subject for another article.Here let’s examine sales management and the roles that a sales manager has to perform.If you ask a sales manager what are you managing he or she will more than likely say ‘my sales team’ which of course is true; but is it right? Will simply managing the sales team result in the sales manager achieving target; or to put it another way, is it only the sales people that have to be managed to achieve results? You may say surely a manager of people achieves results through his people, but this only works if the manager and his people know what they are trying to manage.If you asked a production manger in a factory the same question, what are you managing, he would more than likely respond with an explanation such as: ‘The production line. We take the raw material in at one end and the products go out the other. It is my job to manage that process to ensure we achieve the production target with maximum efficiency and quality.’Many production people talk about managing a process where as most sales managers describe their job as managing the sales team. Put another way, one appears to focus on the management of people the other the process or task.In your opinion who has the right approach? The manager who sees management as the achievement of a task, or the one who focuses on the motivation of people?How did you respond to the question; had you already formed a strong opinion, did you find it difficult to decide between the two; or did you sit on the fence and give the answer both are right. You may have also felt ‘what does it matter as long as the job is done and the performance target is achieved.’ The problem is it does matter, and makes the difference between the successful and unsuccessful manager.Let’s take the manager who considers the key to management is motivation and leadership. Such a manager may describe their style of management as ‘If the people feel happy and motivated in their job I will achieve my target. My people make it happen, not me.’ But what will the people do, how will you or they know if the job is being done effectively? Take this style to the extreme and you may have a lot of happy motivated people achieving zero. A number of experiments with this humanistic approach in the late 1960’s and early 1970 have produced just this inactive result.What about the manager who focuses entirely on the task or process? He will more than likely find he has a very clear understanding of what should be done, but his people are unlikely to be motivated to achieve their best, they will not feel part of the process or motivated to work more effectively. To these people, their work is just a job; something you go to, come home from and receive payment for.In the first half of this century a style of management, called scientific management, was very popular. Scientific management focuses on the task. People are seen as just extensions of machines that are organized around the process to work more effectively. F.W.Taylor’ who wrote a book called ‘The Principles of Scientific Management’ in 1911, is considered the father of this style of management. Scientific Management led to the development of production lines, work demarcation, time and motion studies, and piecework. It also alienated the workforces by making them feel exploited, treated as a machine or just numbers on the payroll. Low motivation, dissatisfaction and strikes are common features of this style of management.These days the successful manager understands there are two aspects to the job, the task or process, which must be understood and, the people or team that perform the task. The key is to maintain a focus on the task whilst motivating the team to perform to the expectations of the organization. This style of management has been called, socio technical.From this understanding three important points can be gleaned that sales managers should remember: (a) the output sales managers are responsible for is the results expected by their organizations (b) sales teams are the main resource in achieving this output (c) managing sales team is not the task, its one of the methods to achieve the task.To be fair to production managers, most know that their job involves both the management of the task and their team; this cannot be said for many sales managers. There are two reasons for this. First, the majority of management research has been directed towards manufacturing, very little has studied sales management. Secondly, which may be as a result of the first, most writings on sales management focus on the motivation of the sales team? Little has been written about the sales process or management task.Today maintaining sales volumes requires the sales teams performing at peak efficiency. To increase the efficiency of the salesperson, the organization needs to have a well-entrenched sales management process, managed by a motivated and trained sales management team.If your responsibility is for just one piece of the marketing/sales process or the entire process your marketing/sales activities and events should result into a smooth, predictable, accountable process. In simple terms, a sales process that “manufactures” customers as smoothly and reliably as well-managed companies manufacture products. Of course, every organizations situation and its existing marketing/sales process is unique, hence a thorough analysis has to be done to solve the sales related problems.My argument is that establishing and managing a sales management process should deliver productivities and the salesperson’s efficiencies should add to the profitability of the organization. Selling skill training’s impact therefore should be seen in the increase in profits in the balance sheet.
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