The always excellent S Anthony Iannarino has excelled himself with a great post published the other day entitled The three disciplines of the sales manager. I’ve given the bare bones here and riffed a little on the subject, but you really should get over there and check it out. While you’re there, do yourself a favour and subscribe.

In essence Anthony lists  the three ideas required for sales managers to approach with an almost religious fervour. Not a task to do, nor an option, they are actual disciplines. It’ll make sense shortly!

1) Ensuring a healthy pipeline. I go on about activity management all the time. Its the simply the difference between winning and losing. Great sales people are failed every day by sales managers that are weak in this area. They prefer to focus on quality. Thats a mistake. Employ the right people in the first place, and insist they achieve the quantity measures. They will bring the quality with them.

There is no better sales training that getting out there in front of customers and doing the job. So a focus on activity pays off in this way too.

It’s also important that the sales manager is aware of whats behind the numbers. The sales manager must ensure the pipeline is not just full, but full of (mostly) the right opportunities. Also, they need to keep an eye on ‘deal velocity’ a new term on me, but clearly a great way to describe how long a deal is taking to come to fruition. (Thanks Anthony, I’ll use that one a lot!)

There is nothing worse that a sales person keeping deals in the pipeline that are quite simply never going to come off. They need help to spot the ‘continuance’, and close the deal either way. A ‘No’ is as useful as a ‘Yes’ in these circumstances.

2) Coaching Opportunities. As Anthony says, deals moving from the ‘opening’ of the sales funnel to the close get stuck, stall, and sometimes die. It’s a sales managers job to help the sales person get these deals moving, keep them moving, or as mentioned, help euthanise if required.

Sometimes things stall due to the sales person. A capability issue or a simple mistake, sometimes due to the client. A change in the brief for instance. The sales manager needs to be able to sweep in, pick the deal up, and set it back on its feet, and then move away again to allow it to come to a conclusion.

Of course, sometimes that will need the sales manager to actually ‘take over the reins’. but use this method sparingly, there is no point in teaching sales people that when times get tough you will dive in and save them.

3) Developing Your Sales Team. To quote Anthony again – the better your sales team, the easier your job – and of course, the converse is also the case. Guy Kawasaki says that Steve Jobs taught him that A players hire A+ Players, and at the other end of the scale,  Sir Isaac Newton said he got to the heights he achieved in the world of science by standing on the shoulders of giants. And it’s no different for you.

Hire people bigger than yourself. Hire people better than yourself. And help them be as good as they can be. Empower them and equip them to handle things themselves and multiply yourself through them.

You must become obsessed by these disciplines in order to win. It’s too easy, as a sales manager, to get distracted by all the day-to-day stuff that you have to deal with. The talent you need to develop in yourself is the talent to swerve these distractions and focus on what will help you hit your number. NOT fixing all the issues that will present themselves.

And all the while, doing so while increasing the capability and capacity of the sales team that works for you.

Easy to say, hard to do.

What do you think? Am I talking sense? Do you find Anthony Iannarino’s work as powerful as I do? let me know below, or tweet me on @radiojaja

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