Friday, February 27, 2009

Are You Ready For Sales Management?

Great sales people often ask me about what it takes to make the next step in their career. For some it’s a role that shifts them from retail to wholesale sales. For others it’s a discussion about whether or not they are ready to pursue a role in sales management. In all these discussions, one thing is very clear. Many of the best salespeople would make awful sales managers. And likewise, some mediocre sales people will end up being stellar sales managers.

So what does it take?

While the list of what it takes to be a great sales manager is somewhat subjective, here is a list of must-have skills I’ve put together based on many of the successful managers I know.

1. Disciplined and performance oriented. A good sales manager needs to always have an eye on improving the performance of their team. You need to be able to enforce accountability, recognize what needs to be improved, and be a coach to those improvements implemented. Additionally, you must also be prepared to take action when performance problems arise, and are not properly resolved.

2. Always ready to “Tow the Company Line”. Being loyal to your company is a key component to being a successful sales manager. I can guarantee that on a regular basis you’ll be caught between your company’s directives, and your staff’s desires. A good manager must be able to resolve that conflict, get the team on board, and work with his team to develop the necessary strategies to put the team of track to meet company goals.

3. Business based decision making skills. This is more of a mindset than a skill set. Your decisions must be based on what’s right for your business – not on the emotion of the decision. You need to understand your business, your customer’s business, and what it takes to make both successful. Then act accordingly.

4. Customer focused. In a sales management role, it’s very easy to become employee focused. You can get caught up in basing your daily activities around implementing things with your staff, and helping them with concerns or opportunities. However, what you must never do, is lose focus of the customer.

5. Sensitive to needs. As a manager you need to understand what drives each of your employees, in addition to what it takes to gets things accomplished with your supervisor or senior management. If you can understand their points of view and what drives them. Good things will happen.

6. Put the ego away - forever. Being a great sales manager is about being a great leader, coach, and business developer. It is not about how great you are and your past victories. You will need to admit when you are wrong, and have the ability to change your point of view

7. Be a problem solver, not a problem identifier. Simply pointing out problems and telling others to fix them is not leadership. Helping others develop and implement solutions to their problems is what makes a great manager.

8. Healthy and Energetic. As a manager, you’re an example to everyone. Stay healthy and you’ll have more energy. Increased energy = increased performance potential. It is that simple!

9. Solid core values. Without a strong value system, it’s tough to make a good decision. Without sticking to your values and principles, your team will wander and not produce results.

10. Thoughtful and a good sense of humor. It’s a lot easier to follow the leadership of someone you enjoy being around!

Wednesday, February 18, 2009

What a NASCAR Race Taught Me About The Job Hunt

I just got back from my first NASCAR race, the Daytona 500. I’ve never been a huge fan of racing but I had an opportunity to join some friends down there and didn’t want to pass it up. I’ve got to admit, watching 40 cars coming out of a corner at 200 miles per hour is an impressive sight to see, and one I won’t soon forget.

The excitement of the event along with the unique culture of the fans around me made it a perfect experience to write about. As strange as it sounds, all you have to do is look around and take in the sights and you can’t help but notice several things that a NASCAR race and a job search have in common.

Here are the top 5 things a job search has in common with a NASCAR race:

1) Race cars are setup different for each track. Every week the pit crews of each racing team make adjustments to the cars that are different for each track they race on. Whether it’s tires, suspension, brakes, or a dozen other things, the car is fine tuned for the track conditions of each specific race. Resumes are no different. A race team would never build a car and leave it setup the same for the whole season, so why do the same thing with a resume? Make the necessary adjustments to your resume to best fit each job you are applying to and your odds of winning that job will greatly improve.

2) Every winner experiences a setback during the race. In each of the races I saw, the winner spent some time at the back of the pack. Whether it was due to a driving mistake, a mechanical problem, or just unfortunate luck, each of the cars that won race had to come from way behind to do so. A job search is no different. It’s so easy to get discouraged early on. However, with a good network (pit crew), the right setup on your resume (car), and a winning attitude, you can win the race

3) The spoken word is remembered longer than your accomplishments. It’s no secret that many of the NASCAR drivers have a bit of an ego. I guess when you make millions of dollars each year to take your life into your own hands; you do run the risk of developing a bit of an attitude. What I noticed right away was that it’s rarely what the racer DOES that gets noticed by the media, it’s what they SAY that gets repeated, and repeated, and repeated. In many cases, it’s when they make a negative comment about a former sponsor or employer. That doesn’t go over well with the public, and will never go over well for a job seeker in an interview. What you say in a job interview can never be taken back. Be smart and stay positive. Regardless of how you perceive your last employer, all the interviewer will remember is your negative attitude. If you talk bad about everyone you’ve worked for in an interview, the people conducting the interview will naturally assume that will talk bad about them once you’re hired.

4) Playing unfair rarely results in a win. In each of the races I saw last week, there were a few drivers that aggressively tried to take others out of the race to improve their position. Sometimes they succeeded – but they never finished the race in the top 10. Careers and job searches typically have the same results. It’s human nature. Help others and they will be inclined to help you in a time of need. If you take advantage of others, odds are you aren’t going to find a lot of help when you really need it

5) Don’t pass out on the 20th lap of a 200 lap race. I had to comment on this one. There was a nice young man behind me that was really having a good time at the race. Unfortunately his fun took a hold of him just 20 laps into the 200 lap Daytona 500. He didn’t wake up until the rain (that eventually called the race) started hitting him in the face – about 3 hours later! It could have been his one opportunity to see Daytona and he missed it. Searching for a new job or establishing a career is important. You need to stay focused and on top of things. Taking a casual attitude to your search could result in you missing the best opportunity of your life. Stay healthy and awake. You never know what you might be missing!