There’s no question that sales managers have a demanding job. From recruiting top notch sales professionals and training new employees to creating an effective pay structure and tapping into powerful tech tools, sales leaders carry a heavy burden. To add to that intense career pressure, a sales manager’s performance can make or break a business.
In fact, one study shows that an ineffective sales manager can cost a company as much as $3.5 million. Cha-ching! According to research by Vantage Point Performance, underachieving sales managers rake in 39 percent less revenues than their top performing peers.
Why exactly do so many sales managers crash and burn? More often than not, it isn’t a matter of laziness or incompetence. Generally, underperforming sales managers are simply relying on outdated, ineffective leadership tactics—and many of them are making typical sales management blunders.
If you’re looking to boost revenues and drive your pest management company to success, steer clear of these six common sales management mistakes:
Mistake #1: Fixating on the Numbers
Kyle Carson, sales manager with McCall Service, based in Jacksonville, Florida, says many sales managers fall into the trap of obsessing over numbers. “They constantly review sales numbers instead of reviewing the activity of the sales person,” he points out. “Activity will always lead to sales when enough activity is made.” He adds that sales managers need to carefully structure activity and review each sales professional’s efforts daily. “Sales managers need to set up clear and concise guidelines for their team with a purpose for each day. A salesperson without a plan for the day will not accomplish anything productive.”
Bryan Cooksey, president/CEO of McCall Service, echoes this sentiment. “When you’re managing sales activity, you have to set some parameters,” he explains. He says if salespeople are persistent and keep calling on customers, they will eventually be successful. “The reality is everybody’s on a decision cycle for pest control. They all have it in their budget. It’s just a question of whether they’re happy or not happy or if the timing is off. What you’re really doing is building relationships out there. When an issue does come up, you’ll be the person they call. That’s a very patient game.”
Mistake #2: Selling without Targets
Carson says another error sales managers often make is not providing target guidance for their sales professionals. “The world is a large place and asking a sales person to go sell without providing targets is a very common mistake,” he explains. “You must provide salespeople with specific sectors to target each month and a list of potential clients within the sector for them to call on,” he adds. Once a salesperson starts working in a specific sector, he or she will quickly become familiar with the area’s clients, as well as the competition—which will give them a major edge.
When it comes to targeting, Cooksey adds that salespeople shouldn’t just focus on the big accounts. “Sometimes your most profitable accounts take a longer decision cycle,” he explains. “Sales folks get frustrated when all they swing for is the homeruns—and they’re not getting enough base hits. They need to get enough income coming in from what they see as the small or monotonous accounts that don’t have as much commission attached to them. But if all they do is focus on the huge accounts, the smaller ones fall through the cracks. The little ones add up, too. Look at it this way: the little accounts pay the bills, the big ones pay for the vacations.”
Mistake #3: Unrealistic Expectations During the Holidays
Carson points out that many sales managers set expectations way too high during the holidays and other downtimes. “Everyone wants to push salespeople for sales year-round, but certain times of the year are not a sales friendly environment to make sales calls,” he says. “Sales managers need to understand that sales personnel schedules may be light during these times.”
Cooksey says these slower times around the holidays offer the perfect opportunity for relationship-building. “These are the times when your salespeople should be dropping off gifts or cards and thanking customers for their business rather than looking for a sale,” he adds.
Mistake #4: No Dedicated Sales Leader
In many pest management businesses, there is not a dedicated sales manager—and Carson says this is a glaring oversight. “Sales management is commonly done by local management that oversees operations as well as sales, and these management professionals are often not trained in sales management,” he explains. “This can lead to turnover and lack of sales. In many cases, they don’t give a lot of time to their sales staff and only give attention when sales are slow and they need sales to maintain their goals.”
Cooksey agrees, adding, “There’s a conflict between the guys who are driven for production, getting the work done, versus the ones who are driven to bring in new sales,” he says. “It’s a constant balancing act between what takes the highest priority. We’ve got to take care all of our customers—the existing customers and the new customers—and make sure they’re all satisfied.”
Mistake #5: Hiring in a Hurry
Another mistake sales managers make is hiring too quickly to fill an open sales position. “All levels of management are constantly over-anxious to hire someone to fill a spot and keep themselves from having to fill in the vacancy,” Carson says. “But this commonly leads to bad hiring practices and leads to turnover and wasted funds on training and payroll.”
This is precisely why sales managers should follow the old saying, “Hire slow, fire fast,” says Cooksey. “Sometimes the pressure of getting someone in there to cover sales leads to managers hiring too quickly,” he adds. “It’s better to take more time to find the right person so they don’t keep churning over that spot.”
Mistake #6: Not Delegating
If you want something done right, do you it yourself! At least that’s what many sales managers believe. However, Cooksey says this is a flawed philosophy.
“If you aren’t willing to let go of some responsibilities, you’ll eventually get diluted with too many tasks,” he explains. Plus, this is the perfect opportunity to build the strengths of your salespeople. “You have to let go and give others the opportunity to succeed or fail,” Cooksey says. “The challenge is making sure you give them enough latitude to be successful and enough patience to ride out the 18 months it takes to get them up and running. It will eventually pay off, but it takes time and patience.”
The Road to Success
If you want to triumph as a sales manager, it’s critical to avoid these six common mistakes. But whatever you do, don’t get tied up in your own victories. After all, your job is to ensure the success of your team members.
“The sales manager’s role is to make their salespeople look good and help them to be successful,” Cooksey explains. “Sales managers need to analyze their salespeople’s performance and help build their strengths and minimize their weaknesses. If they can do that, they’ll be successful.”
By Amy Bell