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The Role of a Sales Manager

Should an equipment sales manager be focused on making calls with the salespeople, or should this position be proficient in all areas of the sales department (i.e., contact management system, quotation system, running reports, running bookings/delivery reports, etc.)? Should the manager perform simply as a coach or as an operationally rounded manager?
– Tracey Clark, President, Yale Equipment & Services Inc. (Menomonee Falls, WI)

Dave Griffith: I am a firm believer in the field sales manager as coach and one who manages the sales process. To my mind, this would be contact management, ABCD accounts, sales skills and time management, as well as sales force development and training. Closing skills are a great way to train and drive the business. We have a sales administration department that reports to someone other than the sales manager to deal with paperwork and the like. Obviously, they work closely together. We need to be better at driving the process versus doing the sales work. How else will you leverage your talent?

Loren Swakow: Company size determines the sales manager’s duties. In a small company, the top producer is generally the sales manager. The company adds salespeople as it grows, and it falls on the manager’s shoulders to get them up and running. This requires training and making calls with the salespeople. The manager will generally track the quotation process, the contact management system and the other procedures required to efficiently run the sales portion of the business. Problems arise because the number one producer is now spending more time processing and tracking than selling. At some point, a sales coordinator should be hired. The sales coordinator is generally an inside person who routes sales calls to the proper salesperson, orders products, tracks deliveries, and allows the sales manager to lead the department and continue to sell, as well as train the new hires. Eventually, a full-time sales manager may be needed to stay in the office for the majority of the time. His or her job will be to arrange meetings and agendas, train on product and sales techniques, train the new hires, and produce or procure marketing programs (assuming the size of the company does not warrant a marketing department). The key objective should be to keep the number one producers producing.

Larry Abernathy: I don’t see how sales managers can do their jobs if they are not involved in every aspect of the prospecting and sales process. The only way to just make calls with salespeople is to have someone else handling all the organizational and monitoring tasks. I have never believed in making calls with salespeople unless they are training or you need to be there in support of the sale.

Ron Rechenbach: The role of an equipment sales manager is determined by the experience and capabilities of the people who make up the sales force. More experienced salespeople need coaching to develop and redefine their skills, while newer, less experienced salespeople often need help with the overall organizational structure of your company. The sales manager should focus on increasing the salesperson’s listening skills and overall confidence. What is effective for one company may not be effective for another company.

Duncan Murphy: Job descriptions tend to evolve to meet the marketplace. Today’s customer is more electronic-oriented. Sales teams can fall into the trap of thinking that electronic interaction is enough: “They’ll contact me if they need me.” It is the sales manager’s role to understand operations and support functions but delegate those activities, with oversight, to address our information age. This allows the sales manager to spend as much time as possible in the field. Street time should be split between transactions and coaching. This drives more customer contact and better relationships, blending the electronic with a personal touch.

Jack Phelan: I think of the sales manager as more of a process manager who coaches his or her sales staff on the sales process. There are certain action steps required in the sales process to be successful, and it is up to the sales manager to make sure these steps are followed. A good sales manager will recommend to the salesperson what he or she should do next to secure the order. The manager should also make sure there is a constant effort to do all the necessary steps to keep the sales pipeline full. To be effective, he or she will also need, on occasion, to make calls with the sales staff and always run reports to monitor the sales staff’s efforts.

Rex Mecham: Depending on the condition of your sales force, either focus may be appropriate. If your sales force lacks experience in equipment sales or needs skill development, a manager focused on making calls with the salespeople would be recommended. If the sales force is more seasoned, you can benefit from having someone who is more process-oriented. However, since all salespeople can learn better skills and are constantly in need of process support, you might consider having both. A field sales manager to work with salespeople and an inside sales manager to facilitate processes would be the best of both worlds if you have enough profit to pay them. If you feel it is too expensive for both, you might experiment with paying the additional person by basing remuneration on a percentage of incremental profit generated.

Richard Donnelly: The responsibility of a sales manager is to be both a coach and an operations manager. At our dealership, the primary responsibilities of the sales manager are sales coverage, inventory management and sales department profitability. He or she needs to develop strategies to meet market share and profitability objectives. Another responsibility includes developing salespeople by providing training in selling skills, territory management, product knowledge and application. The manager is there to assist the salespeople and call on customers when required; however, it is the salesperson’s responsibility to develop relationships with the customers and sell the product.

Chuck Frank: Our sales manager is focusing more of his time on monitoring the numbers, defining our “cookbook” for success, tracking calls made, refining our tier account list, coaching on making effective proactive calls, reviewing schedules and holding our salespeople accountable in hitting the numbers. We use our senior management group to assist our salespeople with the high-level calls.

Material Handling Equipment Distributors Association

One comment

  1. Michael Vaughan

    I believe that the successful sales manager to focused on coaching the salesforce to success. This involves working with the salesofrce to ensure that designated accounts have been touched or are planned to be visited, heavy interaction in the pre call planning process to help position the salesperson for success, working with salesforce to go through presentations planned to be made and then attending appointments that are strategically the most important for the business and achieving planned results.

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