What Are Reasonable Sales Management Expectations?

I am often asked which of the various services we provide to companies can be done in-house, by the executive team.  Fair question.  Answer: All of them.

So why would companies use us or others with our expertise?  Answer: Because when they try to do it in-house they aren’t able to get most of it right:

  • Sales Force Evaluation – this simply isn’t possible to do in-house:
    • Not Objective
    • Performance data is not representative of ability
    • Sales Management doesn’t have proper diagnostic tools
    • Sales Management doesn’t usually identify the right questions to be answered
    • No data to compare findings to
    • Severely limited by what they don’t know
    • Don’t know what to look at to find answers
    • No way to determine if their findings are accurate
  • Sales Process – try as they might, home-grown sales processes get most of the important elements, sequences and timing wrong.
  • Sales Metrics – they come closer on this one but eventually identify measurables that don’t drive revenue and those they do settle on tend to be lagging rather than the desired forward looking indicators.
  • Sales Pipeline – this should be simple but most companies can’t simplify it and have it work all at the same time.
  • Sales Management – since we’re battling the Ignorance Factor, sales management coaching, accountability, motivation, leadership and recruiting don’t improve from a home-grown initiative because they simply don’t know what they don’t know!
  • Sales Strategies – this tends to be biased by their industry.  It sounds like, “well in our industry we have to…” or, “in our industry we can’t…”
  • Sales Development, Coaching and Training – as a rule, training is not a sales management competency and sales managers lack most of the skills to do this effectively.

So is it done in-house?  Yes.  Can it be done in-house? Yes.  Can doing it in-house work?  That all depends on what you define “work” as.  You can certainly eliminate a cost.  But does the money saved pay-off?

Suppose you have a $15 million company and you’re looking at investing $75,000 in 2010 to improve sales effectiveness and you do it in-house.  You saved $75K and you had a measurable one-time return of about 2% that you could attribute to your efforts, most of that from the fact that you did something as opposed to nothing.  Net gain $300,000.

Now let’s suppose you invested $75,000 and had an expert help in all of the aforementioned areas.  History says that your return would probably be close to $2 million and because of the resulting optimization, it is sustainable.

The real question with all of this comparison is why aren’t sales managers more capable of doing the type of work I described above?  The answer is that they shouldn’t be expected to!

It’s no different than this:  You go to a doctor for 40 years and then someone says they need someone to fill the doctor role at their company.  You think to yourself, “Well, I’ve been going to doctors for 40 years, I know what they do, I understand that stuff now, I could probably pull that off.”

The same is true of people who become sales managers.  They think, “I’ve been selling for 10 years, I know what they do, I understand that stuff now, I could probably pull that off.”

And what they lack in sales management knowledge, understanding, skills, competencies, experiences, exposures, systems, processes, strategies and tactics is just like what patients lack in physician training.  The skills required to do this quickly, efficiently and effectively, with a lasting impact, aren’t the same skills that salespeople acquire selling or that sales managers acquire managing.  It’s a related but different skill set and it’s unfair to expect your sales managers and Sales VP’s to be fluent in it.