Concerns of a Sales Manager
While getting a team of sales people to perform at their highest potential challenges every sales manager, some come closer to reaching this goal than others. Rich Creegan, Sr. VP of Global Sales at Lodestar has created high performance sales teams in several positions during his career. His resume of over 25 years of experience in senior sales includes roles at Itron, SPL WorldGroup, and Open-C Solutions. In an effort to share best practices in sales management, Mr. Creegan agreed to share some of his viewpoints on the subject.
While his approach to sales management is not appropriate for all organizations, his considerations can be used as a backdrop for approaching the sales function in a strategic manner. Executives may gain the most by reflecting upon how Mr. Creegan approaches the issues of organization infrastructure, routines, and culture, then considering areas within their own organization where pressure can be applied to achieve improvement.
Sales Manager’s Role
Mr. Creegan describes six key features in his role as a sales manager. These features focus on managing the sales activities and providing a conduit for information flow between the sales team and the rest of the corporate organization. In his words, his role is to:
- “Hire and develop a staff that executes to company objectives.
- Create and support the key business processes that support growth and sustain momentum.
- Implement sales strategies to execute in specific territories and regions.
- Support and manage sales execution.
- Ensure the sales organization provides feedback of market requirements to the company.
- Provide executive feedback to the organization for accurate forecasting.”
Mr. Creegan’s role as a sales manager is also expressed in his goals. He stated that his primary goals are to ensure the right operational environment for success by hiring the right people, developing the appropriate business processes, facilitating communication between the team and the organization, and supporting their activities in the field. Supporting these primary goals, the sales manager also needs to provides leadership, vision, and infrastructure in support of sales.
Team, Sales Model, Methodology, & Motivation
Much depends upon fulfilling the first role responsibility, hiring and developing a staff that executes to company objectives. To achieve this responsibility, he first determines the fundamental sales model appropriate for delivering results.
The sales model Mr. Creegan developed for Lodestar requires a small number of executive salespeople managing relationship oriented sales. He posits the paradigm of classifying sales according to either transactional or transformational in nature. To him, enterprise sales are transformational in that they change the business processes of the customer company.
His selection of the sales model drives the selection of the sales methodology. Mr. Creegan is a Miller Heiman practitioner, but acknowledges that other methodologies work. The selection of the sales methodology really depends upon the sales model required to produce results. Deploying a specific sales methodology enables Mr. Creegan to create a common vernacular throughout the organization. It also enables him to set clear rules for sales forecasting. For him, defining what goes on and what stays off the forecast determines the revenue expectations of the company and also the level of support a salesperson should expect to close the opportunity. Getting a sales opportunity on the sales forecast charges both parties to deliver a higher level of commitment.
Once the appropriate sales model is selected, the sales team can then be constructed to fit the model. Mr. Creegan believes the appropriate sales people to execute a transformational sale will come from the manager or director level where they would have developed an appreciation of organizational transformation from the executives viewpoint which includes an understanding of the challenges, requirements, and value.
According to Mr. Creegan, motivating the sales team is a challenge of unleashing the sales people’s entrepreneurial spirit. The sales team is motivated by instilling “recognition within the salespeople that they have a franchise area. Their opportunity and responsibility is to drive maximum revenue from their franchise area. That creates an entrepreneurial spirit.” Once sales people take responsibility as franchisees, Mr. Creegan then treats them as such.
With a sales model that fits market requirements, a team selected and developed to work within that model, and the team members motivated to maximize the potential of their sales territory, secondary issues such as compensation and tactical sales support are easier to address.
Mr. Creegan believes that, when he has hired the right person, 80% of the time both he and the sales person will agree. 5% of the time he is wrong while 5% of the time the salesperson is wrong. The remaining 10% of the time, both of them are wrong. With these odds, the remaining key to success is to execute.
Managing the Internal Sales Meeting
The attitudes of Mr. Creegan are reflected in both his weekly and annual internal sales meetings. To provide practical advice for new managers, I asked him for pointers in running an internal sales meeting.
Annual internal sales meetings with Mr. Creegan are usually held at a remote location where all parties can concentrate on the meeting. His agenda is to:
- Optimize the time out in the field. Make the meeting no longer than 3 days.
- Communicate clear corporate objectives, preferably by direct interaction with the CEO and CFO.
- Provide product strategy, not product training.
- Provide a venue for salespeople to update corporate managers on market activity, including new market requirements.
- Provide a component of sales training.
Weekly internal sales meetings with Mr. Creegan are usually held in a conference call and the agenda reflects a greater emphasis on tactical issues. His agenda is to:
- Provide a corporate update.
- Capture an update from salespeople on their sales activities.
- Restrict the conversation to relevant and urgent issues only.
- Provide some brainstorm time to allow salespeople to drive value from being on the phone with their colleagues.
Infrastructure, Routines, and Culture
Mr. Creegan’s approach focuses on achieving the right infrastructure to support sales activities, routines to facilitate performance, and entrepreneurial culture for delivering results. His sales team typically executes executive level sales of complex, high-value enterprise solutions. Other sales teams executing exploratory sales, solution selling, repeat purchase sales, or telephone sales will require a different set of infrastructural support, routines, and culture. Rather than replicate Mr. Creegan’s approach, most sales managers would benefit most by evaluating the requirements the market places on constructing the sales model, then building and improving their current organization accordingly.