Home Truths: Turkeys vote for Xmas?

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Lesson #2: Would turkeys vote for Xmas?

The following incident took place recently in a wellestablished dealership. Only the names have been changed to protect the culpable.

The principal players were: a visiting sales director (VSD) from another industry, the business owner (BO), his sales manager (SM) and the new salesperson whom we shall call ‘Bob’.

VSD: “So, how are things?”

BO: “We are really struggling at the moment!”

VSD: “I’d like to help if I can… When you say you’re struggling, what exactly do you mean?”

BO: “Sales are down.”

SM: “It’s Bob!”

VSD: “Who’s Bob?”

SM: “He’s the third new salesman this year. He’s been on the phone next door for over a week and hasn’t made a single appointment yet!”

VSD: “Can I speak to Bob?”

SM: “Sure.” At this point, Bob sheepishly appears.

VSD: “Bob, have you been given a script or a cue sheet?” Bob: “No.”

VSD: “Bob, how many days training were you given before you started calling?”

Bob: “None.”

VSD: “Bob, how many calls has your sales manager made with you to show you how to do it?”

Bob: “None.”

VSD: “Bob, when you told your sales manager you were struggling what did they do or say?”

Bob: “Try harder.”

VSD: “Mr Business Owner, I think I may have spotted the flaw. It’s your pathetic excuse for a sales manager. Throw them out right now, immediately.

“Tomorrow, send them an invoice to recoup all the money they have claimed under false pretences since they first started calling themselves a sales manager and if they really want the signed photo of themselves with an X-Factor finalist or their cut glass runner-up trophy for ‘1996
Salesperson of the Year’ (‘perfect attendance’ category), tell them to counter sue.

“Finally, be thoroughly ashamed of yourself for allowing this to happen and immediately place yourself on a final written warning for abdicating rather than delegating responsibility and be grateful you can’t sack yourself!”

Actually, I made the last little bit up. The VSD is not as frank as me.

There are plenty of people in the industry (networks, retailers and dealers) currently drawing massive salaries in sales management roles based upon performance (or politicking) during the downhill, windbehind market conditions of the last few years. Unless they
change, they are about as useful as a goldfish on a bike in today’s conditions.

What’s worse, they cannot show new or existing salespeople how to be
successful in these market conditions because, let’s be brutally honest, they may never have been successful in these conditions themselves.

As long as current business owners and directors fail to recognise this or allow it to happen, these individuals will continue to throw salespeople at the wall until one sticks, and brand those that don’t as failures rather than look to their own responsibilities.

Throwing people in the deep end doesn’t develop champion swimmers. It merely identifies survivors.

A sales manager’s job is to train, motivate, discipline and control their sales team to ensure that agreed objectives are met within budget. Not to sit back, draw a salary based upon historical performance and blame their tools for the poor quality of their current workmanship.

If you are a business owner, now would be a good time to remind all sales managers/ heads/directors of this and review their remuneration packages and personal development plans accordingly. If you look in the mirror and recognise that you are one of these fish out of water, yesterday’s market sales managers, then at least be honest with yourself, if nobody else.

Accept that to change will involve an incredibly steep learning curve.

It will mean facing up to the fact that you are currently incompetent and may have been simply getting away with it for years. You’re going to have to hold up your hand and seek help.

If your ego dictates that you are not willing or able to commit to this then you should do the honourable thing and resign, not burn salespeople. But I’m not holding my breath. It will be interesting to
compare the industry increase in percentage turnover of salespeople with that of sales managers/heads/directors over the next 12 months.

Alasdair Jeffrey is an independent consultant. He has worked in fixed line, IT and mobile. Contact aj@alasdairjeffrey.co.uk

This article originally appeared in Mobile News issue 435 (March 23, 2009).

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