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Sales Leadership Lessons I Wish I Could Have Given to My Younger Self

Like most sales managers, I spent several years as a sales rep before promotion to a sales management position. Here’s what I know now that I wish I could have advised my newly-promoted self back in the day:

Your top sales rep may not be your best choice for promotion to sales manager

I had a sales manager opening to fill, and two quota-producing salespeople I was considering for the promotion. My top producer, Mike, was an exceptional salesperson. He had a “motor” that was 2nd to none and was consistently 120% of quota. He was highly competitive and incredibly hard-working. When Mike won a big sale he’d get very jazzed, but when he lost a sale he could get down in the dumps.

My #2 producer, Darren, consistently produced at 100-110% of quota. Darren was more even keel than Mike.

Naturally, I promoted Mike, my top producer because he sold more. It was a huge mistake!

As a manager, Mike expected everyone to sell like he did, and he couldn’t understand when they didn’t. He would get emotional, subjective, and unpredictable when his sales team didn’t sell like him. I coached Mike frequently and wanted him to make changes. But he just wasn’t capable of making that shift. After six months, I suggested that he reconsider a sales territory, and he jumped at the chance to get back to selling. I then tasked Darren as the team’s new manager.

Today, 20 years later, I still keep in touch with both Mike and Darren on LinkedIn. Mike now sells business insurance, and Darren manages over 1,000 salespeople for a technology company. At the time I employed Darren, I knew he had become a good salesperson but I did not recognize his leadership qualities soon enough.

Don’t let daily “stuff” get in the way of making effective hiring decisions.

An incentive for one company I worked was an awards trip for the top 5% of their 2,000-person sales force. I won the trip as a general manager one year and attended the company-sponsored cocktail party at a resort in Mexico. One salesperson, who looked vaguely familiar, came up to me to me and asked, “Kevin, do you remember me?”

Turned out that I had interviewed him three years prior but I had made the decision not to hire him. A few months later, he’d landed a sales job with another division of our company in a nearby city. And within two years he had risen to become one of our company’s peak performers.

We all know the cost of a bad hire that we make. But what about the great candidate that we don’t hire? The mistake I made, I’m sure of it, was that when “stuff” got really busy I could become less effective as an interviewer. The busier I was, the more pressure I put on myself to make faster decisions. Not good.

When times are tough, and you’re stressed out, don’t lose your sense of humor!

The day that Abraham Lincoln was nominated to become president was, for him, a very stressful day. Lincoln handled stress by telling jokes. On that day, one joke Lincoln told was about Thomas Paine, a famous Revolutionary War patriot.

Shortly after America won its independence from Great Britain, Paine travelled to England to visit his cousins. As a practical joke, these British cousins decided to place a picture of George Washington in their outhouse. One day they asked Paine, “Do you think it strange that we placed Washington in our outhouse?”

Paine said, “No.… Actually, I thought it was the perfect place for it, because nothing will scare the poop out of an Englishman faster than the sight of George Washington!”

I’d never claim to be in the same league as Abraham Lincoln. (Few of us could!) But if Lincoln could maintain his sense of humor when taking on the leadership pressures of a highly divided country just weeks away from the start of the Civil War, surely I could have done the same in my own situations.

There you have it. Three pieces of advice from an older-and-wiser Kevin Davis to the young, ambitious sales manager I was once. Hope you can benefit from my experience!

Sun Tzu's Tip for New Sales Managers

Sun Tzu’s Tip for New Sales Managers

Ann spent years developing into a stellar sales rep for her employer, a tech company. She had a well-earned reputation for producing results far beyond expectations. Six months ago, they rewarded Ann’s hard work by promoting her to the position of sales manager.
Now, Ann tells me she’s working harder than ever before—and yet her team’s results are mediocre at best. My words of advice to her and other new sales managers come from Sun Tzu (The Art of War), the great Chinese philosopher. He wrote: “Eventually your strengths will become a weakness.”
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How to Determine Coachability in Sales Rep Candidate Interview

How to Determine ‘Coachability’ in the Sales Rep Candidate Interview

Why waste time and resources hiring sales people who can’t or won’t grow on the job and end up taking up valuable space on your sales team?

Unfortunately, that happens far too often. It’s true that some reps are naturals and likely will succeed in almost all situations, but those self-driven top performers are more the exception than the rule. Most reps require sales coaching to attain top skills and performance — to thrive in your sales culture — and the time to determine a rep’s coachability is in the interview with the candidate, not way down the road.
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Hiring the Right Salesperson

Perhaps no decision is more important for a sales manager to “get right” then the decision to hire a salesperson. Mistakes are very costly. Here are some suggestions for making your next new-hiring decision one that you will one day congratulate yourself for.

Can you see this candidate, after training and effective coaching, ranking in the top half of your sales team? If not, don’t hire the person.

Each hiring decision you make will have an impact on your team’s culture – and you need the impact to be extremely positive not negative.
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3 Daily Decisions Effective Sales Managers Must Make

3 Daily Decisions Effective Sales Managers Make

We’re near the end of 2014, which makes it a great time for self-reflection. What can you learn about how you managed yourself and your time this past year as a sales manager that could help you better manage your time and your team next year? To get started, think back over the past year and rate yourself on a scale of 1 (poor) to 5 (great) on the following three statements:
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What kind of sales manager would Abraham Lincoln be?

What Kind of Sales Manager Would Abraham Lincoln Be?

The Thanksgiving Holiday in the United States was passed into law by President Lincoln in 1863 so now is as good a time as any to reflect on our 16th president. I recently read a couple of books on Abraham Lincoln—Founder’s Son by Richard Brookhiser and A. Lincoln by Ronald White.

Lincoln was one of the most unlikely people ever to become president. He had no management experience, attended no more than one year of schooling, and managed his paperwork by stuffing important papers in his tall hat.

It occurred to me, however, that Lincoln possessed an overabundance of qualities that all great salespeople have: ambition, empathy and people skills. No doubt, he would have been an excellent candidate today for an entry-level sales position! And certainly, because of his leadership skills, he would have moved up into sales management.

So that begs the question: what kind of sales manager would Abe Lincoln be? You be the judge…
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7 Ways to Drive Your Sales Coaching Culture (Free eBook)

Implementing a formalized approach to sales coaching – a sales coaching culture – is proven by research to drive up sales performance.

The link between the ability of your sales managers to coach sales reps and your reps’ willingness and ability to make the best use of that coaching is critical to your company’s top line!

In this e-book Kevin Davis, president of TopLine Leadership, shares the 7 ways to drive your sales coaching culture. Specifically, you will learn:SalesCoachingCulture2

  • How to hire more coachable people - identify which sales rep candidates have the willingness and aptitude to be coached.
  • 5 common mistakes sales managers need to avoid to coach effectively on a daily basis.
  • How to better motivate your sales reps to accept coaching by distinguishing between motivators and de-motivators.
  • Daily techniques for nourishing your sales coaching culture.
  • 5 qualities a good manager needs to develop to become a great sales coach.
  • Tips for coaching the team with discipline and constructive feedback.
  • The one essential requirement managers need in order to gain greater buy-in from their team.

Download this important eBook today! “7 Ways to Drive Your Sales Coaching Culture

 

Sales Rep Attrition

5 Ways to Prevent Sales Reps from Saying “I Quit!”

There is nothing more frustrating for a sales manager than to have a senior-tenured sales rep resign.

Many companies are coming to realize that the #1 reason why productive salespeople leave is because of their relationship with their sales manager. The decision sales reps make to quit your company doesn’t occur in an instant. When there is too little coaching from the sales manager and very little feedback (other than negative), a salesperson becomes gradually disengaged with what is going on. He or she perceives they are not growing and they begin to wonder if the grass may be greener somewhere else.

Here are five things sales managers can do to prevent sales rep attrition:

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Help Sales Reps Learn From a Lost Sale

Great Sales Coaches Help Reps Learn from a Lost Sale

Nobody, no matter how good they are at selling, has a 100% win rate. That means all of us have to learn how to deal with losses. As a sales manager, your job is to help your team learn from these lost sales. A lost sale is a failure only when we, individually and as a team, don’t learn from it.

Having a positive attitude is especially important in the sales profession. And when a salesperson loses a big deal, it is easy for them to get down. That’s a normal human reaction. But if your salesperson stays down, that’s not good. And one way to help salespeople process their lost sales quicker is to teach them how to “look for the lesson” in every lost sale.
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Problems we Solve

The 5 Biggest Mistakes New Sales Managers Make

Your transition from salesperson to sales manager is one of the biggest challenges in the sales profession. It requires a complete change in thinking. Overnight, you go from being in control of your own destiny to having your performance ratings determined by the results other people produce.

In fact, the more successful you were as a salesperson, the more difficulty you will have in the transition. Successful sales reps-turned-managers have a very hard time giving up the things that made them successful in their original sales job.

Many new sales managers understand they’re facing a big change. What they lack is a clear understanding of “OK, now what do I do?” Without guidance, they’re prone to making five big mistakes. Here’s an overview of those mistakes and what you can do to avoid them.
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