Interviewing is a critical responsibility of any sales leadership role. It was my primary focus when I took over a sales force of more than 500. The hiring process included a corporate level interview for all sales management positions. During the interview, I asked one question every time. “If you were to be chosen for this position, what are the first three things you would do?” The answers were both amazing and revealing. Not only in content but in the inability to provide sensible and wellthought out solutions. If you had only three first steps of the many from which to choose, what would they be?
1. Identify the true goals
Goals are funny things; unless clearly communicated they seem to be different depending on whom you ask. That becomes your first objective. What are they…really? Do the CEO and the CFO have the same goals? Is the sales direction supported by the operations? Do the written goals match the genuine expectations and abilities? Unless you have a clear picture of what you are being asked to achieve, it will be virtually impossible to motivate your sales team to reach any goal.
2. Assess the sales force
No, really assess your sales team! This requires meeting them face to face not reviewing their monthly reports. It requires traveling with them, observing sales and coaching interactions. Use a systematic approach on how you measure each person’s ability, attributes and results. This is key to your success. Identifying your stars will enable you to give them their goals and set them free to succeed. It will provide you with the names and levels of others so you can design next steps for them, promotion, training and coaching or assistance to find alternative employment.
3. Establish clear expectations
Remember the adage, “If you don’t know where you are going, any road will get you there.” When I visit a new company, I make a point to ask everyone I meet, “What are your goals?” From the Director of Housekeeping to the CEO, everyone should know, understand and be motivated to achieve their goals. Once you have a clear view of the leadership’s goals, you can work with your sales management team to set theirs. Your expectation then is that theywork with the frontline sales force to set specific, measurable, achievable, time bound and relevant goals.
These are, of course only the first three actions of many. You will find that you may be handling these as well as balancing other significant issues. However, if you maintain focus on these three steps, it will provide you with a solid foundation upon which you can build a worldclass sales force