As you wrap up this year’s open enrollment cycle, we challenge you to think about this function in your business. Most of today’s “sales managers” have less than five years of sales management experience. Who manages your sales operation? The sales management focus and style must adapt to the market conditions.

Also see:Advisers on the move.”

Management under a growth market:

  • Recruiting is rapid-paced, and often selection criteria are sacrificed due to increased competition for talent;
  • New hire product and sales training is more basic to get the new resource productive more quickly;
  • Management’s focus is on gaining market share.

Management in a slow economy:

  • New hire standards are much more selective, as there are more qualified candidates;
  • Emphasis on multi-lines selling and expertise to secure more revenue per client, improve retention
  • Emphasis on improved profit margins, creating value.
Bloomberg/file photo

Sales under a growth market:

  • Gaining market share, speed to market and time management issues are critical;
  • Product knowledge focused on best-selling products;
  • Emphasis on product innovation and new needs.

Sales in a slow economy:

  • Establishing client needs and account rounding activities are essential;
  • Slowdown in client decision-making resulting in “stalled” sales and a longer sales cycle;
  • "Value selling” and providing greater value to clients to offset client budget cuts.

Hopefully you see the validity that you need to adapt your management emphasis to match the market conditions. In this business and political climate, we need to be optimally adaptive, flexible and prepared with contingency plans, including new sales management techniques.

Also see:10 questions to ask about accommodations before allowing employees to work from home.”

I am reminded of some of the content I used in teaching sales management courses to dozens of successful sales managers. It applies now, more than ever before. Please think about these “sales management commandments” below in the context of your professional experiences.

Commandments of sales management

  • Think of your clients’ best interests, then employees’, then yourself. Build long-term relationships and become the “trusted adviser.”
  • Prospecting is the difficult part; selling is easy. Proactively develop centers of influence. Request referrals. Institutionalize prospecting to secure introductions to multiple, qualified prospective clients.
  • Differentiate your practice. Develop expertise in a market segment. Create proprietary products. Develop benefits strategic plans. Bring value to your clients in a unique and meaningful manner.
  • Develop client needs first. Understand your clients’ business issues. Then create solutions that are pertinent and relevant. The product selections will become self-evident.
  • Closing should be less than 15% of the total sales process. The time spent closing the sale should resemble the narrow part of a funnel.
  • We recruit in our own image. Know yourself and your deficiencies even better. Hire to your strengths.
  • Your best salespeople call you and provide specifics about results. Poor salespeople don’t.

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