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Why Aren't We Selling More?
By Steve Martin, Author of Heavy Hitter Selling - How Successful Salespeople Use Language and Intuition to Persuade Customers to Buy
I recently heard the story about the comments a leader of a prominent company made while on a quarterly conference call with analysts and investors. He said their sales problems would be solved if only he could, "Make the monkeys climb higher in the trees." His tongue-in-cheek criticism was the topic of conversation within his sales force for months. To his salespeople, it was just another example of a management style they find repugnant.
It can be well-argued that the vice president of sales is perhaps the most important position within a company since their words and actions impact the organization's most critical issue-generating revenue. While it is normal to assume that a person's past history is a good indicator of future performance, many technology companies have found out the hard way that this isn't necessarily true. A vice president who was successful at one software company can fail miserably at another. In the post-bubble era of today, it is a person's management style and how it fits the company's unique position in their marketplace that is the key determining factor for success.
Over the past twenty years, I have been exposed to hundreds of different high-tech sales managers while serving as a salesperson, vice president, consultant, and sales trainer. Frankly, I have found many to be very good and a few that were just plain horrible. But I can honestly say I learned as much from the bad ones as from the good ones. More importantly, I began to recognize patterns of behavior and catalog management styles tendencies. I explain them in detail within my new book titled, Heavy Hitter Selling-How Successful Salespeople Use Language and Intuition to Persuade Customers to Buy.
Before we begin this discussion about management styles, it is important to put the conversation in perspective. It is human nature to judge others" actions and behaviors using broad generalizations. We typically take a negative position when passing judgments on others as we are comparing them to ourselves and own our idea of perfection. Frequently, people are classified as bad sales managers without any understanding of why they act the way they do (even though they achieve results).
Many learned books have been written about sales management philosophies, processes, and how to develop the individual attributes required to achieve success. The intent here is much simpler. We are trying to provide a framework to talk about the different types of high technology managers and the general circumstances where they best fit.
Sales Management Styles
Just as people have different levels of gregariousness, assertiveness, and action-oriented tendencies, they have different sales management styles. I have found that seven management styles are most prevalent. Most likely, a manager has one dominant style. However, he or she will probably share a few characteristics from other styles and may even move from style to style depending on the situation. The seven most common sales management styles are the mentor, expressive manager, sergeant, Teflon manager, amateur manager, micromanager, and overconfident manager.
Each of these management styles builds a different sales environment by hiring their "type" of salespeople and establishing a culture based upon their belief systems and personality. The following chart below introduces the seven different sales management styles and the characteristics of the sales force environment they create.
||Sales Force Composition
||Me First, Bravado
||Optimistic, Nice Guys & Gals
||Repetitive Task Orientation
||Win at Any Costs
Let's examine each of the sales management styles further.
Mentors are charismatic leaders and sales experts who measure their success using three criteria: exceeding revenue goals, creating an environment where the entire team can succeed, and helping all team members realize their individual potential. Mentors are confident in their own abilities and possess the business insight to know what needs to be done and how to do it.
Even though they believe in accountability and a strict code of ethical conduct, they relate well with their team and motivate by positive encouragement rather than fear. They are comfortable with themselves and are able to keep perspective and a sense of resolution during tenuous times.
The mentors" philosophy is an extension of their personality. While their demeanor may range from gruff and cantankerous to friendly and personable, they are well liked and act as a unifying force to their sales team members. Although mentors tend to have a very hands-on management style, they don't meddle in their teams" daily duties. They lead by example instead.
Mentors" sales intuition has been honed by many years of customer calls; therefore, their judgment is respected and advice highly sought-after. Mentors are highly effective in presentations or one-on-one customer meetings because customers genuinely like them and appreciate their presence.
Salespeople want to learn everything they can from mentors, so they adopt a strategy based on being a "scholarly student." They invite their mentors on calls, quiz them about tactics over lunch, or chat with them after hours about their sales experiences. They also extend this strategy to their customers. They want to understand what makes the customer "tick," the problems they are trying to solve, and befriend them. This becomes the culture of the organization.
You can never go wrong hiring a mentor. However, in certain technology segments it is absolutely imperative to do so. Mentors are highly desired where the partnership between the customer and technology provider are so intertwined and co-dependent that the relationship is expected to continue for many years (enterprise software, creating complex applications, extremely large purchases, and intangible licensing agreements). Just like long-term friendships, customers want to do business with people they like, respect, and believe will genuinely care for them forever. Mentors naturally create this environment.
Expressive managers are people-oriented with a flair for sharing their emotions and amplifying the emotions of those around them. They have a natural ability to put people at ease. They are very charming and gregarious individuals who are always ready, willing, and able to discuss personal matters in addition to events at work. They will frequently be seen chatting with coworkers in other departments at the "water cooler."
Expressive managers create an environment where a considerable amount of energy is focused on how they are thought of and perceived within the company. They crave attention and tend to be overdramatic, by either exaggerating their accomplishments or overstating the prevailing circumstances their team is facing. These "sympathy complaints" are subconscious attempts to secure love and affection. Expressive managers are saying, "Pay attention to me!" Because of their need for constant emotional approval, they may become jealous when others receive recognition.
Expressive managers are master motivators of their team, and since people are so comfortable with them, they are very effective on sales calls. Customers perceive them as genuinely nice people who will personally take care of their account. However, their mood swings can be intense, and they have a natural tendency to become bored with mundane tasks because they would rather be working spontaneously based on their emotions. It is their emotions that drive
their daily tasks and agenda.
Expressive managers create an environment of "empathetic egomaniacs." While the sales force empathizes with customers, they believe that their entire company should revolve solely around them. The other areas of the company are not nearly as important and their needs should always be met first. The sales force of expressive managers experiences tremendous highs and lows; therefore it's difficult to ascertain the actual truth. Is it really the "end of the world" or will they blow out the quarter. No one can accurately say until the quarter is over.
While this type of behavior creates havoc for the publicly held company, the over-the-top behavior of the expressive manager can actually be appropriate for the small start-up that is trying to win-over early adopters. With the IT market flooded with so many new technologies, attracting the customer's attention sometimes requires bold acts of bravado.