Career Q·MAG

The Curse of the Sales Manager: The Lost Sales Manager

The Curse of the Sales Manager 1/3:
This little series is based upon a real experience I had in my professional career as HR Director in a multinational company. It’s ok to be astonished at first, but then please go and make sure it won’t happen likewise in your own company.
1. The Lost Sales Manager
2. The Missing Sales Team
3. You Get What You Pay For

You own and lead a company. You see a big potential in your industry and promote your best sales agent as manager for the sales team, hoping that he can share all his secret recipes with the whole salesforce. In addition, you tell him that he needs to hire another 6 sales agents this year and train them: he was ok with the deal, simply said yes, and went out to visit clients again. The whole year he’s crazily busy and works more than 60 hours a week, but in the end of the year you see him and exactly one new face sitting alone in the office corner, knowing nothing about how to sell.

Even though your favorite one is still the top sales of the year with an impressive sales volume achieved, this won’t change the fact that your business target is missed, and thanks to the competition’s growth actually you are losing market share.

While believe your company need to find a way to sell more, results did not come in – and did you ever think about taking over the recruiting work to make things more “efficient”? Before you finally end up in taking care of everything including office housekeeping (and also here’s a real story behind – a CEO literally doing housekeeping in the office), please stop and think for a moment.

Your take-over might be helpful for a day or two, but in the long run it definitely will bring down the efficiency and even harm the organization. There are at least 5 reasons:

  1. you can’t cover another 5, 20 or 200 people’s work;
  2. you are not the experts for every function;
  3. people don’t feel trust, they are demotivated;
  4. people may not take you serious and/or only rely on you;
  5. the more energy you put on firefighting, the more likely you will lose overview of the business – and the opportunity to strategize and lead it.

In other words: it’s the easiest way to completely kill your business.

Sales brings in money, while only a good foundation will ensure the sustainability of your company. To solve your problem and make your business evergreen, what you really need is a systematic and structured solution.

Now ignore all the annoying little tasks in your daily struggle for a bit, and think of your organization as a whole instead:

  • What is your business model / how do you earn the money?
  • What is the vision for your business in 3-5 years? Break them down to be reflected in your yearly business plan!
  • What main activities should be accomplished to meet those plans?
  • What will be the roles/parts/functions to carry out the above activities and how they work together?*
  • Where and how do the key roles contribute in your business model?

* Roles for the moment can be independent from the current organization setting, position or person in your organization.

If you really think through these 5 topics, you will be able to sketch a clear picture including your business goal, your organizational structure, complete with the key roles including their purpose and key responsibilities. Regarding every key role, in order to fulfill their responsibilities, you may continue working on their competences: what kinds of personalities and what skills and abilities do they require and which key performance indicators will allow you to measure them?

Trust me, there will be this tiny little voice in your head telling you that “my people are not able to do this.” This is the difficult part now: don’t compromise on the foundation, and don’t let the current status limit your mind! You know where you want to go – but only if you keep that vision of the future cristal clear, this future will come true one day: because you know the real potential of your company, you understand your associates’ need to grow – and they can be developed because they have potential, too!

In other words: it’s your job to define the direction and to make sure the company keep going this way, not to be the hero of the day in all functions.

The first lesson of this series story is quite easy: for every function in the company you need a complete role profile. It strategically serves as a foundation to align your people with the company values and business vision, and tactically as a critical tool in the whole employee lifecycle: from recruiting, over onboarding, performance management, rewarding, to succession planning.

Hong Liu

By Hong Liu

Hong is an experienced HR expert for challenging business situations: if you want to create an environment attractive to top-level talent in leadership or build up an efficient HR administration, she’s the perfect choice. For more than 10 years she’s created stunning results in multinational corporations, like successfully integrating two company cultures post-merger, or building up a new plant’s staff from 0 to 450 in two years, or creating an Asia-wide management development program for more than 120 junior talents.

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