The easiest job in the world.

Sometimes I think that the easiest job in the world is that of Sales Manager.

Let’s face it – when you get right down to it what do they do?

If you talk to the sales staff of some broadcast outlets you get the feeling that the SM is there to yell at folks who are below budget and to remind everyone that somewhere in the shop there is a rate card that should be consulted from time to time.

Many sales management types are reluctant to actually go out of their comfortable office on a sales call. They can come up with all kinds of excuses for not going, most of which suggest it would be counter productive in the development of the sales person.

But usually they don’t go for one of two reasons – they’re either lazy or frightened.

Now lazy we can all understand – but frightened?

You see – it’s really an ego thing. Usually by the time a sales type wants his boss to go with him to see the buyer it’s because it’s a lost cause. And the rep would like to see their smart ass mentor get a dose of reality.

But let’s assume that support from management might be just the thing needed to close the deal. After all, managers have the ability to negotiate rate and value-added right on the spot so if there’s a “deal” there this may be the best way to “nail” it.

At least if you don’t get it – the SM will have to stop carping at you about it.

And, who knows, the old trout may just be able to provide the negotiation with a fresh approach based on longer experience that may rescue an important account.

I used to be a sales manager.

At times I thought I was a pretty good one.

Most of the time though I felt that I was somehow inadequate.

In order to improve the odds of me being a successful manager I had observed that several of my manager friends had developed the habit of hiring people they thought they could “handle” and might therefore not upstage them.

So I developed the theory that I would hire people who were brighter and more capable than I was so their abilities would guarantee my success and income.

(Now – before you leap to the phone to call me – let me say that many of my friends have already pointed out that finding people who fit this bill was hardly a challenge).

One of the things I discovered was that there is not enough training for sales managers. Most of us came up through the ranks eventually reaching management status because we had some success on the street.

All too often individuals like myself arrive in positions of responsibility with insufficient direction and experience to allow us to adequately cope with the precious human capital with which we have been entrusted.

Our training for supervision was largely derived from our observations of people we had reported to. Some of them provided useful examples – but frankly several served as negative role models who, like bad parents, demonstrated techniques that we were determined not to imitate.

Unfortunately, I eventually found myself perpetuating some of this learned behavior.

Today, there are some fine courses available and better internal training systems to prepare individuals for supervisory roles. In addition, more and better programs exist to assist managers in the development of individual sales staff members.

It is important that organizations, both large and small, develop, implement and audit training programs which combine both internal and external resources.

We must recognize that no one person has all the answers. In recognizing that reality we then understand the need to continue the training of trainers and to monitor their development as leaders.

So, assuming that sales management is perhaps more demanding than perceived, how can one be more effective in this important role.

First of all, always remember that your staffs are people – with spouses/partners, families, mortgages, hopes, fears and needs. They look to you for leadership and assistance -not criticism and sarcasm.

Never reprimand sales personnel in “public” – keep it behind closed doors.

Your title doesn’t come with a license to “attack” a person. Your remarks should always be restricted to performance issues

Ask yourself, are you trying to help this individual or “control” them?

Finally, try to think like a teacher, one who is there to help people solve problems and to provide adequate resources in an atmosphere which encourages individual career development.

If they succeed – you succeed.