What Great Sales Managers Know

Hire the Right People
There is an old adage – “Hire slow but fire fast”. Consider this when selecting your candidate.  teresabioToo many managers make the mistake of hiring too quickly, or for the wrong reasons, and end up regretting it when the cycle quickly repeats itself. Use a proven interview tool which asks probing, behavior-based questions. Consider using a skills/behavior assessment tool to find the right match against a predetermined benchmark. Skills can be trained or honed, but instincts and character cannot. You either have it or you don’t. Avoid trying to put a round peg in a square hole.

Training is the Path to Success
Train thoroughly and demand active participation and commitment from your team member. Use a training tool which doubles as an accountability checklist. Revisit this tool often and carve out time during each ride along or visit to ensure that training is on track.

Coach Your Team
Coach every chance you get! Coaching moments exist everywhere. Face to face coaching is clearly the most effective and timely, but coaching can also be done over the phone and even in email. Never let a coaching opportunity pass you by.

Challenge and Grow
A sales staff is usually comprised of people at all different places in the learning curve. Keep everyone engaged at his or her own place or risk losing a newbie because he does not understand, or boring a more tenured person. Keep them focused and challenged in order to keep them growing.

Demand Excellence
Set standards and demand that they be met. People will perform to the level of expectations set. If you will accept mediocre performance, that is what you are going to get. At the same time, remember that sometimes “Good really is good enough”. Pick your battles, and keep the most important things the most important things.

Set Goals
Set targets and goals regularly. Reaching small goals usually brings big results. Set weekly performance goals. Hold monthly challenges. Inspire competition.

Celebrate and Praise
Praise publicly and celebrate with your team, both individually as well as in group. Hand-written Thank Yous and notes of congratulations or encouragement go a long way. Make time to publicly celebrate victories (top performers, challenge winners, exceptional sales calls, etc.) Small tokens such as ribbons or medals may seem silly, but most sales people will treasure them. Keep in mind that salespeople are often motivated by recognition. Don’t underestimate a “High Five” in the parking lot after a successful sales call! The opposite side to this coin, discipline or course correction, should be handled privately in a swift manner with an eye on improvement. Get the salesperson’s buy- in by giving them input. Course correction should be handled firmly, but kindly. Remember that in most cases, discipline or course correction is about a behavior and not about the person.

Know your Team
Ask your team members what motivates them. You may be surprised. Take the time to develop teamwork when possible by encouraging your staff to get to know each other as well. Remember special occasions such as birthdays. People like to feel important.

Be Present
Be truly present when you are with a salesperson. Try not to allow distractions and minimize phone calls and other work. Understand that this may be a routine day for you, but guaranteed, your salesperson probably does not feel that way. Whether they welcome your visit or ride-along or not, your presence is important. Make the most of your time, whether it is on a sales call or another coaching moment. Encourage your team to keep an ongoing list or folder with current questions or support needs.

Be Accessible and Approachable
Admit that you are not perfect and that if you are any good, you are still learning too. Don’t be afraid to make a mistake. Encourage your team to take risks and step outside of their comfort zones by modeling. And, keep in mind that there is no I in Team. Make sure your team knows that you are on their side and that you are in it together.

Why Healthcare Sales IS Different!

Let’s see; we’ve all heard that a good salesman can sell ice to an Eskimo or heard,” She is quite a talker; she should be in sales”. Neither by the way is true. A good salesman would know that an Eskimo doesn’t need or want ice and a great sales person is much better at listening than talking.

However, I digress!

As much as we may want sales to be the same whether you are selling Pepsi, BMW’s or a nursing home bed; it is not! They are each tangible products; they are wanted or needed by the consumer and for many companies they enjoy a solid reputation for delivering what the consumer needs. They even have about the same selling cycle length.

Mrs. Smith walks into a store and wants a soft drink; she will choose among many. Most likely she may narrow it down to Coke or Pepsi. Mr. Smith walks into a dealership and wants to buy a car; he will choose among many. Most likely, he may narrow it down to a BMW or a Lexus. Mr. & Mrs. Smith walk into a hospital where they will be asked to decide on a next location for Mom. They will choose among many. Most likely, they will narrow it down to the top two suggestions.

So, then why is the sale different?It has to do with culture, corporate culture. Pepsi and BMW are sales-driven cultures while healthcare is operations driven. Neither is good or bad, just different. They take the company in different directions and that impact is felt most directly in the sales organization of both cultures.

The sales-driven company begins with the end in mind; the end being profit, margins and revenue growth. The budgeting process sets clear expectations for growth; sales hiring is meticulously rigorous; accountability is excruciating at all levels. Compensation programs are often an open-ended opportunity for sales people to produce. Operations meetings begin with market analysis, product trends and sales projections. The key person at the table is the CMO and the COO.

The operations-driven company also begins with the end in mind; the end being delivering a quality product. The budgeting process is often a laborious process to determine how to deliver the product and still make a profit; sales hiring practices are a de-centralized function concerned more with team matches and customer service attributes than with producing revenue. Compensation programs are viewed as expected but unnecessary. Operations meetings begin with a cost and budget analysis by department in painful but necessary detail. The market /sales discussion may be moved, delayed or hurried at the end of the meeting. . The key person at the table is the COO with no CMO.

Healthcare is an operations-driven organization. This difference in healthcare’s focus reverberates throughout the company. It shines a laser-light on clinical issues, human resource issues, turn-over and regulations. It is not that sales expectations are unimportant; they are simply far down on the list. There is often a tendency to believe that we would exist happily without a sales focus; a sort-of “build it and they will come” attitude. Heaven help the Pepsi, GM or BMW CEO who tries to compete with this mindset

How Do You Know When You Need Help?

Salesmanship is sort of like interior decorating; everyone thinks they can do it. When I look at a room, I just know when it isn’t right. I am aware that the colors are pleasant but they don’t create the warmth I had hoped. I love the new, expensive lamp but somehow it feels awkward. I understand the basics but there just isn’t a WOW factor. I have achieved mediocrity.

The reason, of course is because it takes more than understanding the basics to achieve greatness. It takes more than being a smart leader. It takes skill and practice

The sales person who surpasses his goals and makes it “rain” does so because he is skilled. He is practiced and has most likely spent many hours perfecting the basics. Let’s face it, most Administrators, Executive Directors; even General Managers and CEOs simply do not have the time or the desire to perfect the skill of salesmanship.


Why then do managers continue to hire the wrong people to lead their sales force? Why do we see them step ill­prepared into the sales role or try to manage the sales process from the office? I would suggest it’s because it’s a little like interior decorating; everyone thinks they can do it…until the finished project is a disaster.

So, when do you know you need the advice and support of experienced sales professionals?

The answer might be …NOW! Here are the three questions to ask:

  1. Have we reached or surpassed our revenue goals with a steady growth pattern over the past year? How about year over year?
  2. Do we own market share? Do we really know?
  3. Are we the number one choice in our medical and professional community?

If the answer to any of these is no, reach out to a professional company with sales and marketing experience in healthcare. Ask for references; look for experience; listen for results.

Lead Scoring

Oh no…not another new buzz word? That’s right. Several companies have started using this acronym for “Being in front of the right person at the right time with the right message.” No, it isn’t really new. IMPACT sales has had this as one of the primary principles for years. What is new however, is the technology. The automated system which allows a sales person and a manager to track the progress or lack thereof on a specific customer makes the process more effective than the traditional spreadsheets.

The system is clearly aimed at the “C” level of organizations using phrases such as “shortened time to revenue”, “shorter time to market” and “shorten time to profitability”. They talk about providing an edge for savvy businesses and maximizing team selling time. As a company moves away from commodity selling, it focuses on team selling. savvy sales organizations understand that it takes a team to identify the right clients, uncover their specific wants and deliver the products in a professional and targeted way. Any system that creates a more effective and efficient method to achieve this should be seriously considered.

The downside of a technologically advanced lead scoring system is the same as it is for the excel spreadsheet system. It removes the sales manager from the field. It provides one more reason to work from behind a desk. It gives top officers one more report, study and analysis to request. Let’s face it, as a manager, who wouldn’t prefer to work from the quiet warmth of their home office or their well-equipped regional office? The alternative is frankly more work and often requires more travel. But the real reason managers shy away from field work is none of these. To be a fully-engaged manager, one must know the market, know the sales person’s strengths and weaknesses, understand where he or she is in the sales process and have the confidence to take on the customer and coach the sales person. On a snowy, blustery winter morning which task would you prefer?

The answer, of course is that great sales managers love what they do every day. They thrive on developing their people to stardom. They relish putting themselves out there. They do more demonstration calls than ride alongs. Why? Because they understand that they are the expert and that their most valuable role is to pass that knowledge on to their sales force enabling them to rise up and become better. They will shine when each and every person they coach becomes better. That is how regions and divisions outsell others. It has very little to do with reports and analysis

The decision for every manager is about how to achieve that balance. How much in-process coaching can I accomplish while providing post-process reporting to those in leadership roles. Reports and analysis that are truly needed and effective in strategic decision making.

Do What Others Will Not

It is quite clear that we usually know the right thing to do. It becomes more about the choice we make when we ignore that which we know. Recently, I was whining to my family physician that my only problem was my inability to shed the pounds. Her response was to ask if I would like to speak to the nutritionist on staff. My response? “I know what I am supposed to do; I just don’t do it.”

I got me thinking about why it is difficult to do what we know is the right thing to do. Often, it is not a question of right or wrong. Rather, if we make a choice to do something we know works, it will provide us with success. Yet, for some unknown reason, we still continue to knowingly practice the less successful action.

We know that if we eat Chicken, Fish and Vegetables, we will manage our weight. Why is it that Macaroni and Cheese, Bar-B-Q Ribs and Hot Fudge Sundaes end up on our plate?

We know that if we spend time in the field riding with and coaching our sales people, they will succeed. Why, then do we find ourselves creating power points, excel spread sheets and handling coaching over the phone?

We know that if we follow a linked sequential sales process that we will close the sales almost twice as often. Why then do we show up ill-prepared, talk too much and close too early?

A few years ago, I learned this lesson first hand. As the AVP of sales, I was charged with creating an innovative sales training. I hired a firm to create training tapes using their sales staff in the videos. During the day of taping, it became clear that the sales people selling the sales program were not comfortable using the system. Had they been using the sales system they were promoting, it should have been second nature.

There are of course many reasons for this but the most obvious is it is hard, very hard to make the right decision. It is easier to stay in the office, to eat what we like or to slide back to our old sales systems. It requires dedication, discipline and focus to do those things that everyone else will not do!

What Are You Waiting For?

If the time to focus and drive is the when you are doing great…then this is the time!

One day, a wise Administrator told me, “If you are waiting for someone to tap you on the shoulder to make something happen, you will be sitting in that chair for a very long time.” Jane and Charlie Miller successfully operated a small nursing center in Jersey Shore PA for many years. Though, they are both retired now, I still think of Jane’s message often.

As leaders, are we waiting for someone else’s idea? Are we confident in our knowledge and experience to recommend the steps necessary to grow our market share? As managers are we stepping up and leading those in our charge?

Bill Belichick, coach of the New England Patriots rarely tells his special team coaches what to do; why? He expects they know how to be a defensive coach. He expects that the offensive coaches know how to lead their players and motivate them to practice the basics of the game: the block and tackle. Our leaders are expecting that as managers, we have a handle on our areas of responsibility, that we are coaching our teams; that we are instilling the basics of our game. But, it is more than that. Manning and Brady, Drew and Reggie call their team members in the middle of the night….want to guess what they talk about? They talk offense! They talk defense! It is a love and commitment to our game that matters most.

Nancy Pelosi is already known as having the smile of galvanized steel, why, because she promised in the first 100 days to make things happen. As speaker of the house, she was asked what one word she would use to describe her first 30 days. She answered, accountable. She successfully pressed through some six bills in that short month, unheard of in our slow political system.

The New Orleans Saints should never have been on their way to the Super bowl but they were… why? Because they didn’t wait for someone to tap them on the shoulder and tell them they could!

Whether or not you voted for Nancy Pelosi’s party or routed for Bill Bellecheck’s team, there is no denying their impact as leaders….they wait for no one else, they are not afraid to stand up and be counted when they are confident in their position…no matter how big the guy is! They make things happen! Every day, I try to remember those words from Jane Miller….

“If you are waiting for someone to tap you on the shoulder to make something happen, you will be sitting in that chair for a very long time.”