The role of the
sales manager is complex.
It requires a broad range of necessary skills that
are not often appreciated. The sales manager
- Cold caller
that can open doors
They do all this
while managing the numbers for each territory. An
effective sales manager can keep the pulse on the
territories, AND know where to generate last minute
sales at month end.
To succeed, sales managers must be organized with a
plan. This section will suggest a planning
‘The Right Things’. It will provide the Sales
Manager with a quick list of ideas to help them more
effectively run and grow their regions.
These ideas have been
developed over the years working as part of the team
with a number of inspirational sales manager for a
number of companies in a variety of industries. It
was borne of the realization that Regional Managers
must be consistent across the country, but that
standards are seldom put in place to help them
efficiently and effectively manage. These are
The library also contains a
number of Regional Manager Guides that address some
of the most common areas where sales associates can
use some help. Download these for quick
reference and as handouts.
The content is for sharing.
Bookmark the site, or send the link
to others on your sales team. Feel free to
link to the site, using
Add to the content with feedback or
debate it using the Facebook link to
If you like the thinking or want to improve your
sales organization, contact Ryan with comments,
questions or to add talent to your team.
National Sales Manager
The National Sales Manager must simplify
things for the Regional Sales Managers. If
not, multiple priorities will turn effective
management into crisis management.
Work on the right things.
- Manage to those
- Keep a clear
understanding of the ‘vital few’ that drive
- Provide National
Work on the right
things, and measure them
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the first step in your analysis. You can’t
win if you don’t have enough players on the
Many companies fall short here without ever
How many people do you have in the field selling
How many does the top competitor in your
How many do competitors your size have?
There are several sales organizations you can
implement or even mix.
- Direct sales
people that work for the company.
This is the strongest, but most expensive.
- Independent Reps
that work on commission.
This is the most affordable and flexible.
sales organizations are teams that operate like
- Inside sales
that work on the phones.
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How to Catch Up
sales force is too small. How do you catch up?
The fastest, least expensive way is to hire an
independent sales force. Independent rep
group commissions are a variable expense. They
don’t cost the company anything until they sell
something. So you can expand your sales
penetration without a sales base.
Over time, as the territories mature, you may
transition to direct sales people to:
- Expand call
patterns to include additional distribution
- Reduce the cost
of sales for a mature distribution channel
- Increase sales
through dedication to a single product line
Inside Sales may be
added to speed commodity product sales penetration
while reducing the cost of sales to hit sensitive
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Independent Rep Group Risks
1) They carry other lines.
You’ll be dissatisfied with the focus you
get. One of the challenges with
independents is earning their attention.
Obviously, they gravitate to where the sales are
fastest and largest. Be sure they
understand how to make money with your line.
Help them get there.
2) You’ll pay them a commission on
all sales into the
So they’ll make money from day one, whether
they are effective or not. Just because
they are on commission, doesn’t mean they don’t
cost. They must still be managed.
3) Geographic location
Independent rep groups may or may not be
positioned for your best market coverage. Hiring
a rep that isn’t effectively located in the
territory may be a mistake. Be sure you
understand how they will cover population
4) Do NOT Allow Sub Reps
Many independent groups hire sub reps to
better cover the territory.
The rep with the line splits the commission with
the sub rep in the geography. The compensation
to the sub rep was just cut in half. Their
incentive to sell was just drastically reduced.
They may not even be able to profitably sell the
line. We’ve seen sub reps hire sub reps reducing
income to a level that no one can really afford
to sell the line. The rep of record abdicates
any responsibility to the area. No training. No
mentoring. No relationships. They aren’t
managing the sub rep. This system will not work.
Do not allow sub reps. Forbid this arrangement
in your contracts.
The independent rep group should have firm
relationships with their sales force where they
invest and mentor the success of the team.
5) The Territory Grab
Reps like geography. They get paid for
anything sold into it (whether they sell or
service it or not). Don’t assign territories too
large for the group. The company benefits most
from strong penetration in small areas.
In a small territory frequency of call, service,
response and ultimately the relationship are
better. The more the rep has to travel, the less
meaningful the relationships will be. Not to
mention that travel time is not selling time.
Encourage the reps to work close to home.
Reflect that in the territory assigned.
6) The Call Pattern
Independent reps succeed by building
relationships within their call pattern.
They sell an array of products to companies
where they already do business. A new line
gives them new products to sell to their
Be sure to manage for new account growth. They
can do it, but they’ve got to be pushed.
However, they will not go beyond their
established call pattern. Their business model
focuses on certain customers. They are not
going to spin their wheels chasing new
distribution strategies you target, but their
other lines don’t.
7) The Business Base
Reps have expenses. Does the territory have
a base of business sufficient for the group to
get started? A rep group will determine that
prior to accepting the line. If there is no base
of business, if the rep group is starting from
scratch to build your brand, they may need a
guarantee or a draw to cover expenses as they
get started. Their other lines may offset the
amount. But the more the other lines pay your
development expenses, the more those other lines
will conflict with your growth down the road.
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More than half the U.S. population is centered
in 40 cities.
Make sure you have those cities covered.
The areas are called Metropolitan Statistical
Areas (MSA) and include a city and its
surrounding suburbs. The #40 MSA is
Jacksonville, Florida. It is amazing how quickly
the size of the top cities fall off. It is
critical that you have the top 50 well covered
if you want access to national sales dollars.
Too many companies lack reps living within the
MSA. Make sure these top markets all have
reps living within their boundaries. In
fact, the largest cities certainly can
compensate more than one sales person.
You can download a
list ranking the top metropolitan statistical areas
by clicking on our library. You can also find
the most recent list at
Build a checklist of these individual cities
with the sales person responsible and their address
within the market. If you find an area not covered –
you’ve just identified a significant growth
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You aren’t managing sales if you don’t have the
Accurate information is the only way you can be
comfortable, powerful and credible managing a
sales force. Here are reports you should be
receiving and reviewing regularly.
Shows territory sales for the prior day.
Shows cumulative sales for the month.
Shows percent to plan.
Projects cumulative sales performance against
month end goal based on a month to date sale
average, factored against selling days in the
These figures become more accurate later in the
month. They are the first warning you receive if
you are falling behind plan. Adjust your sales
Shows monthly sales and sales Year-to-Date
Shows comparable sales for last year and last
Shows monthly sales and YTD projected against
the annual plan.
There are only 12 of these reports in a year.
Many sales managers wait too long to read and
react to the trends this report reveals. Two or
three weak months can destroy the year. So when
one of the monthly reports is down, re-act and
correct it. (See Probation below)
Customer Ranking By Sales
This is a critical planning report for the
sales territory. It ranks every customer in the
territory by sales volume. It should also show
YTD cumulative sales as well as last year
Use this report to identify the top performing
It also shows the second tier of growth
accounts. You can see new but smaller,
developing accounts. Look for accounts in
decline. And identify lost accounts –
those that have stopped purchasing. This report
will be the foundation of your sales plan.
Taking the Pulse with Sales Reports
Always know these figures
- Sales Year To Date
- Percent to Plan
- Dollar growth YTD
- % Growth YTD
Use these figures to build your sales plan
This is the Pareto Principle, or the 80/20
Rule. It says that 20% of your accounts
will do 80% of your business.
Typically you’ll find 3 or 5 top performing
accounts whose sales figures have a significant
gap between the next dollar level. These
accounts are the believers. They’ve bought you,
the product and the company and they write with
a big pen. They are difficult to replace. Take
care of these accounts.
These are second tier accounts that appear
to be growing into key accounts. Nurture them.
Accounts where you have obviously lost
business. They are declining in a manner that
isn’t adjusted by timing. This warrants looking
These accounts are just getting started.
They’ve bet on you.
They will need your help to learn the product
and grow. In-service them.
These are at the bottom of the list. Their
numbers are way down, or zero.
Lost accounts are companies that bought the
product, but something happened. Perhaps they
were ignored. Perhaps another sales person was
just at the right place at the right time. Just
a visit can sometimes reverse these accounts and
bring them back to the fold.
Number of Total
How many customers are on your Ranking list?
Do you have more or fewer than last year?
Total Sales figure divided by the number of
This shows you the average size of customers in
Divide the number of total customers in
half. Look up that customer.
Their sales figure is your mean sale, meaning
that an equal number of customers spent more and
less than that number.
If your Average Sale is smaller than your Mean
sale, it suggests that you may be underselling some
of your customers. It also may mean that you are
overly dependent on your largest accounts.
If the average is higher than the mean, it
signifies that your sales volume is improving per
customer. You are growing your customers along with
your business, which is great.
Small accounts can grow into larger ones. But
they can also be time wasters. If your mean sales
figure is inordinately low, consider whether or not
too many small accounts are distracting you from
more profitable sales and service of your larger
accounts. This is all part of maintaining a healthy
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The Sales Pipeline is
your projection of sales that will close within the
current month, or the next month. It is helpful to
the manufacturer in managing inventory and
production. It is also a good tool to manage your
Most companies have customers or channels with
longer or shorter sales cycles.
Some customers may take an entire year in the
selling cycle, but consume a huge and ongoing
volume. Other customers close quickly, for smaller
In managing your territory, you’ll want to keep
consistent pressure on the Longer Term/Higher
Payback accounts. They are future growth and income.
But they won’t make the month.
Those smaller accounts come in handy when you are
just below plan for a month ending in a week. Keep
your eye on the sales pipeline so you always know
where to get a sale quickly when you need it.
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Regional Sales Manager Responsibilities
This is a helpful
guide defining the job responsibilities of a
- Define each
territory by zip codes that coincide with
- Do not have
territories that are not aligned with sales
- Know top
Metropolitan Statistical Areas (MSAs) by
- Know Rep
- Where do the
sales reps live in relation to the population
- Identify gaps in
- Know all Key
Accounts (Pareto 80/20 Rule) by Territory
- Dollar volume
- Product Mix
From this assessment,
the Sales Manager should be able to evaluate the
sales people, organizations and performance across
Evaluate Each Territory by Sales and Rep Performance
- Rank the
Region’s Territories by last full year sales
- Rank the
Regional Territories by year-to-date percent of
- Rank the
Regional Territories by percent growth.
- Rank the
Regional Territories by dollar sales growth.
- Review each
Territory for sales by product mix.
These reports will
provide an overview of each territory and rep group.
It will identify large dollar volume (and
correspondingly slow percentage growth) groups.
It will identify small or undeveloped territories
with high percentage growth, but low dollar volumes.
It will show how effectively all reps are performing
against plan. It is important that you understand
how effectively the organization is forecasting
This regional analysis will help you identify your
strongest rep groups, groups that are effectively
developing territories as well as groups that are
Rank your sales team.
Who are the top performers?
Which groups are not effectively using the line?
Which groups are average performers?
Where can each group improve?
- Key Accounts
- New Accounts
- Product Mix
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Fastest Way to Impact Sales
Now you know the
territory and rep performance. You job is to grow
sales. Here are the fastest strategies:
#1 Fill open territories.
No rep means no sales development.
Get someone in there selling! Do it quickly.
#2 Hire reps to fill open geography within
Did you find a territory that is under-represented?
Fill in the open geography and sales will jump.
Put a deadline on this for your rep group principal.
#3 Insure all MSAs are conveniently covered.
The Top 40 Metropolitan Statistical Areas have more
than half the U.S. population.
If you don’t have reps in each of those cities, you
are missing major sales volume. Hire someone
who lives in the MSA and both service and sales will
#4 Hire competitor reps with established
relationships & sale volumes
The first place to look for a replacement rep is
with your largest competitors. They are
experienced. They have relationships. They have
transferrable sales. Perhaps they are upset of
the last commission cut. Or territory reduction. Or
management change. Talk to them. What do they
want? It may be worth it if they bring their sales
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You are a sales person. So you suck at
interviewing. Admit it. Now, let’s get past it.
There is a reason sales people make poor
interviewers. We take leadership. We sell.
We’re sensitive to people and try to facilitate.
We’re optimists. Here’s how all of that plays
See if this feels familiar in your experience.
1. We don’t interview for jobs. We try to sell
the applicant into taking the job. So they sit
back and listen to us talk about the excitement
of what we do. After the interview, you don’t
really have any impression.
2. We encourage the applicant that the job is
easy and they can do it. Heck, anyone can. We
don’t effectively evaluate their skills, because
we underestimate our own.
How can we improve the interview? Consider the
skills we admire most in sales people. Set up a
circumstance to witness them.
- We’re nervous in
a new sales situation. How does the applicant
- We need to
control a selling conversion. Can the applicant
control the discussion?
- We need to guide
a sales discussion towards a close. Does the
applicant do that?
- What are the
buzz terms we consider critical to sales
success? Are they mentioned?
Here is a scenario
you can build from to help improve your
A. Don’t talk. Don’t start the conversation. Do busy
work or simply stay quiet.
This is a familiar selling circumstance for many of
us. So how does the applicant react to it?
How do they use it? Let them initiate the
discussion. How do they overcome their nerves?
B. Does the applicant probe with questions to learn
about the job? Questions are a huge sales skill.
Do they effectively use them? Are the questions
strong? Do the questions set you up for lengthy
informative answers? Do the questions provide
answers the applicant can use to earn the job?
C. The applicant should continue to control the
interview with questions and discussions. It should
be warm and personable, but moving towards answers
they can use to fulfill your need for a sales
D. Do they get as much information from you as
possible before starting to share their skills and
experience? Are they sure that what they are about
to say fills needs you’ve expressed? If they
are selling without knowing what you are buying,
they’re making a mistake.
E. What buzz words do you consider critical to sales
success? Did they use those words?
I would expect to hear “listen” and “relationship”
not only mentioned, but exhibited.
Are there other key concepts you’ll be looking for?
Make sure you spend time identifying what they may
On your next interview, let them lead and guide the
discussion. You’ll learn more about the applicants.
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Hiring Rep Groups
It is customary for a Distributor or Independent
Rep Group to provide you with a business plan as
to how they will handle the territory. What
should you expect in that business plan to help
you decide in favor of the group? Here are some
- Define the
You are assigning them responsibility for
certain geography. They should be able to define
the value of the territory for you.
- What call
patterns (distribution) do they cover?
- How many
prospects are there in the territory for each
What and where are the major population centers
- How many reps
are in the group, and where does each rep live?
Check their proximity to the population centers.
This is best presented on a map. Sales software
exists for such a presentation.
- Where do they
need additional representation? When are
they planning that expansion?
- Who do they
consider to be Key Accounts in the territory
Where are they located? What relationships
do they have?
What sales expectations will they forecast for
- What three or
more accounts will they target in the first 90
What is their attack plan and forecast?
How would they evaluate the reps serving the
You’ll find a Rep
Group Evaluation questionnaire here in the Library.
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How to light the fuse
for your sales force.
Reps are in a field where they have complete control
of their income.
But they need to set goals for it….expectations for
earnings from the company.
This exercise is one of the most important
management approaches you can take to help your team
to be self-motivated. Run this exercise and the
sales force will drive themselves.
Download the Commissions Work Plan from our Library.
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There are three ways to grow territory sales.
Grow existing accounts.
Add new accounts.
Retrieve lost accounts.
Everything written about sales boils down to
being more effective in these three areas.
Serving your Key Accounts is the first focus.
These are the companies that believe in your
organization. They trust you. They trust the
company. They have a relationship. They
believe in the products. You have momentum. Your
sales plan starts here.
Identifying Key Accounts
The Key Account is the manifestation of the
Pareto Principal (the 80/20 Rule). The
rule is that 20% of your customers will generate
80% of your sales volume. It is always
true. So make sure you know who that 20% is.
Start with a Customer List ranked by Sales.
Start at the top and look for a natural break in
volume. Key accounts are typically clustered
together with higher volumes. Then
suddenly there is a break in volume, a
significant drop before the next level of
customers. The break may be after 3 or 4
accounts or it may be after 10 or 12 accounts.
Perhaps more depending on your industry, product
pricing and buying cycle. In any case, it will
be a very manageable number.
Break these customers out for special treatment.
They are the foundation of your territory and a
key element in your growth plan. Be sure they
are well documented in your Customer Relations
Management (CRM) database. You will always want
a quick pulse on these customers.
Rules for Key Accounts
- The sales
associate should maintain an up-to-date CRM
report on all key accounts.
- The report
should show the sales trends for all products in
the key account.
In addition, the rep should identify competitive
product also in the account that can be targets
- The rep should
have a leverage sales plan as to what they will
introduce to the key account in the next 90
- The Regional
Manager should know the decision makers at all
key accounts in the Region.
- The Regional
Manager should know the 90-Day plan for key
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Most sales people have a list of prospects.
Unfortunately it is usually a ‘wish list’ as
opposed to a target list.
Today’s competition should not be
under-estimated. The customer probably believes
in their product. Their service is probably
adequate. Just being a vendor they probably have
some level of a relationship and momentum.
Target accounts take time and focus.
You don’t win them by just dropping by every
month. Something has to change. To earn their
business, sales associates need to declare their
intent and form a plan with a timeline. It is
amazing what a professional can accomplish when
they are committed. The Regional Manager needs
to know the intent and the plan. That alone will
generate activity. We all perform better when
we’re being measured.
As part of the 90-Day plan, sales associates
should identify perhaps three specific accounts
they are targeting. The actual number of course
varies with the industry, selling cycle and
pricing. But focusing on fewer rather than more
By knowing the key account leverage plan and the
target account plan, the Regional Manager can
provide a more accurate Pipeline Report.
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As a Territory
Manager you will be responsible for the Sales Plan.
It use to be that the company would say “We’re going
to grow sales 10%!” Everyone’s sales quota was
upped 10% and the Sales Plan was done. No one
asked where that 10% would come from. No one
knew. It was simply “sales’ responsibility.”
Those were the days when the market grew 10%. So
sales were achieved and everyone felt successful.
Today, markets don’t grow that fast or steadily. So
forecasting has become more grass roots.
Forecasting isn’t fortune telling. It is a road map
and a compass.
If you take the time to logically plan what you
would like to achieve with your most important
accounts, you’ll find you always know what you are
trying to do. You may not always achieve your goal –
but you’ll find you are always moving forward.
So a forecast is just taking the time to plan an
Take a single prospect. Who are they currently
using? Do you know what volume?
Based on the account’s experience and with what you
know about the competitors, with which product will
you lead? How long will it take to capture their
interest and earn trial? How will you follow that?
As you capture this information, you begin to
develop a pattern for sales calls and product
introductions. This plan will also help keep you on
track, and prevent being lost in the day-to-day
responsibilities of sales and servicing accounts.
There is a forecast worksheet in the Library for you
to download and practice using. Start by
listing your key prospect accounts.
Identify the product on which you’ll focus.
Estimate the quantity that you know they currently
How do you know? Ask! They’ll tell you.
Finally, based on the number of calls you think it
will take, and the frequency you plan to make those
calls; when do you think you’ll be successful in
converting that business? 60 days? 90 days?
Six months? Put it down. You may not be accurate at
first. But this is your personal tool. Use it to
measure your own effectiveness. By measuring, you’ll
get better at forecasting sales and managing your
What is your prospect using? Which product are you
going to sell them? How many? When?
All the magic answers. You’ll be surprised how
effective you’ll become answering them .
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Multiple rep groups.
Multiple sales associates.
Lots of products.
Lots of customers.
Lots of distractions.
There are a lot of moving parts. The only
way to stay on top of it is to have a Management
Consistently manage to the things that grow the
business. Teach the sales force to
anticipate the same questions and have an
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The 90-Day Plan
90 Days is the right
length of time for sales success.
It provides sufficient time for sales to understand
an objective, take it to the field and generate
Establish the expectation with your sales force that
you will manage to key objectives through a 90-Day
The Regional Manager sets the framework. The sales
organization will produce the plan.
Each rep will present a 90 Day plan to their
principal or supervisor each quarter.
The 90-Day Plan will include
- The Sales Plan
for each of their 3-5 Key Accounts
Include a quick forecast proposal including
products, volume and timing.
- Three (or so)
Target Accounts for the quarter on which they
Present the contact plan and objectives.
Include a quick forecast report
- The proposal
will acknowledge YTD status towards the Sales
The plan will show where the growth is expected.
Conference Attendance & Sales Plans
Vulnerable Competitor Intentions
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The 30-Day Plan
The 30-Day plan is an
update of progress against the 90-Day Plan.
It encapsulates the 90-Day goals, and shows tactical
plans to sell the target accounts.
The 30-Day plan will include lists of in-service
training, lunches and other reasons to be in front
of the customer.
In addition, the 30-Day Plan will include a rolling
track Pipeline Report reflecting what products are
expected to be sold in the next month and at what
volumes. The Pipeline Report is simply a formal
method for operations to anticipate sales results in
the next 30 days.
The 30-Day plan shows which reps, are doing what,
with which prospects. It is an excellent activity
report. It will also help the sales associate to
stay focused on commitments.
These two reports are easy to generate and enable
Sales Management to get the pulse of any territory
in the country at a level of detail that provides
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Regional Manager Contact Standards
Regional Managers require extensive flexibility.
They have lots of geography and lots of people
to manage. It requires significant travel. For
the success of the Regional Manager and the
company it is important that standards are
established for consistent national performance.
I watched a Regional Manager join a company and
work for more than a year, without ever visiting
all the Principals of the sales organizations.
The person looked busy. The person generated
activity reports. But no standard had been set
for local market visits. You can’t manage people
you don’t know.
These standards will change with every company,
depending on the market, number or sales
organizations and reps, number of customers and
size of orders. This guideline works well in
demonstrating a standard.
Phone Contact Expectations: Bi-Weekly with
It is important that the Regional Manager talks
to the Principals at least once every two week.
Lots of Regional Managers get busy and focused
on problem markets or accounts.
They don’t make the phone calls because they
don’t have anything to talk about.
Conversation Guide for Bi-weekly Phone Contact
for Bi-Weekly Phone Contact
Show you are watching their performance. Offer
reflections on accomplishments such as:
(YTD growth vs. plan)
% to Plan
Progress on the 90-Day Plan
- Get a Key
Account Update (refer to Key Account List or
Customers Ranked by Sales)
- Get a
progress report on Target Accounts (refer to
- Ask about
Vulnerable Competitors in the territory.
in the Territory
Entertainment – golf, dinners, etc
- Update the
Which Reps are doing what with whom?
In-Service or special contact
- The standard
should be 4 Face to Face Meetings Per Year
Co-Travel & Planning
Fall Session to cover forecasts
- 2 at
Conferences or Meetings
Major Industry Conference
Top Niche Segment Conference
National Sales Meeting
- 30 & 90 Day
Plan Review (Key & Target Accounts)
- New Product
- Rep Support
- Rep Training
- Key Product
- Discuss Lost
- Investing in
Which are your people attending?
Discuss Meeting Objectives
- New Reps
Tools & Resources
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Most Sales Associates
hate to co-travel with Management. They consider it
a waste of time.
Typically they turn to accounts where they have the
best relationships, explain that a manager is coming
to town and co-conspire with them to stop by for a
positive visit. Co-Travel ends up wasting
sales time and accomplishing little.
On the other hand, Regional Managers are often
hesitant to provide any worthwhile feedback to their
sales associates. Sometimes they are silent.
Sometimes they are overly critical. Sometimes they
are egomaniacs in front of the customer. And
sometimes they wait in the car making phone calls
Co-Travel can be one of the most valuable sales
support efforts if the standards are accordingly
Objectives of Co-Travel
The reason for Co-Travel is not to sell, but to
There are other
- To Mentor
- To Open Doors
- Build Corporate
relationships with key accounts
- Resolve problems
Accounts to visit accordingly:
- Key Account
Visits (perhaps these should be evening dinners
- Target Account
contact from the 90-Day Plan
- Problem Accounts
to help resolve the issue
- Opening doors to
new accounts based on Regional Manager
relationships or sales skills
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While you are in the
field co-traveling, be prepared to provide
professional feedback to help the rep develop their
skills. Let them sell, but observe what they’re
doing that can be improved. Then gently share those
The Library has a series for Regional Manager Guides
you can provide to your sales team during co-travel
to help emphasize selling skills.
Before the Call
In Front of the Customer
After the Call Debrief
Distributor Evaluation Forms
How to Fire Procedures
Down Market Plan
From your territory analysis, you are going to
discover some areas that are under performing.
You are also going to have reps that come to you
with population centers that aren’t succeeding.
A good Sales Manager will have pre-planned tools
they can implement to lift sales.
A Down Market plan consists of a series of idea to
pump up sales in a geographic area that isn’t
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The Down Market
1. Identify what
sales have been lost.
- Has the
territory lost accounts, which are accounts that
were purchasing but are no longer.
- Has the
territory lost product sales. The accounts
continue to purchase, but not a particular item.
- The accounts are
purchasing all items, but the quantity has
2. Analyze the
loss to suggest a tactic
- The accounts
have wandered away due to poor service or
- The accounts
have dropped a product due to competitive
- The accounts
have been seduced by a competitor’s sales
More often than not, accounts are lost due to
poor or inattentive service than competitive
3. Build the Plan
- Visit Lost
Accounts with a Regional Manager to bring them
Often some attention can encourage the account
- Visit Key
Accounts with the Regional Manager to re-affirm
- Use a new
product or promotional incentive to encourage
new activity with stocking orders.
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Missing the Number
There are a number of reasons that sales
organizations miss their number. The
professional sales manager understands how to
assess the situation. They all require
corrective response. But the tactics applied
Reasons Sales Miss
These are uncontrollable factors from outside
- Back orders
- Quality problems
- Delayed launches
- Supplier or
shipping (supply chain) complications
Acts of God
- Weather conditions
valid, some are situational, but they must be
- Canceled orders
- Lost customers
- Lost employees
- Lack of training
- Late or missing
- Health or Family
Poor Work Habits
- Lack of service
- Lack of calls
- Lack of
- Poor sales
Sales is responsible
for correcting all shortfalls, whether justifiable
or not. The Sales Manager must determine if
the solution requires:
- Creativity and
Training for a changing market
- Patients and
- Renewed efforts
Don’t change people
for losing opportunities they couldn’t control.
Don’t accept excuses for poor work habits.
Always react quickly to declining sales situations.
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The biggest risk in
sales performance is not skill based. It isn’t
product quality. It isn’t even the competition.
The most common reasons for not achieving sales
goals is distractions and priorities.
Too many lines.
Too many products.
Too little discipline.
Perhaps it is too much money from indirect sales.
Income from tracings or commissions on existing
customers that order without any contact with the
If a sales person is missing their numbers due to
training or external conditions or temporary
situations, those are easily fixed. But inattention
to the line will not change. If your line is a low
priority to the group, face the facts and make a
Probation is the tool to emphasize that a correction
is needed. Probation opens up communication
that something is wrong and must be addressed.
Probation is how Sales Management starts to get
straight answers from the field on what is wrong.
As a Sales Manager, you have only 12 chances in a
year to achieve your goal and earn your bonus.
Months are valuable. Set the standard that you
expect each month to end on target. Two months of
missed objectives is extremely difficult to
overcome. Three months is 25% of your year. You
cannot afford to take a wait-and-see attitude
towards missed objectives in a territory.
Of course these guidelines will change with
various industries, but the concept for timing holds
#1. Current Month, third week
You are reviewing reports daily that show
current sales for the month, projected forward to
estimate the month end. Do not wait until you’ve
missed the month to begin working on sales issues.
After the second week of the month, these reports
are beginning to accurately project the month. Make
it a practice in the third week to contact the
principal of rep firms that are not on track to make
their month. Point out the gap, and ask what the
plan is to make up the sales.
Ask for specific executions. Who is in the Pipeline?
Where will the team go to get the additional sales.
This is when issues in the territory will be brought
up. Most are excuses, but it is your opportunity to
look for a real issue. If you find one, address it.
If it is situational, put a plan in motion to save
the month. More training? Co-travel? A territory
incentive for customers? Additional terms for
stocking orders by the end of the month? This is the
time to address the sales shortfall.
If you aren’t given a specific problem and plan,
there isn’t one. You need plans and commitments that
you can track to get the territory back in line. The
biggest concern you have is that the sales shortfall
is because the line is not getting the attention it
deserves. As soon as you suspect that is the case,
deal with it.
Ask for ongoing reports as to what the sales team is
accomplishing against the plan. Equally important,
the entire sales force needs to understand that you
take these reports seriously.
#2 Missed Month End: Probation Warning
By month end, you’ve already had several
conversations with the principal and perhaps with
individual sales associates that are lagging behind.
The topic isn’t new. You notified them of the
concern two weeks ago, and they didn’t focus their
skills to turn it. A missed month is now your
problem as well as theirs.
If the missed numbers are situational or external,
you’ve already started correcting the problem.
If it is negligence of the line, it is time to be
clear that it is unacceptable.
Warn the rep group that they need to be on track for
this month’s sales in time for the third week
review, or they will be put on probation. Be clear
that it is also their responsibility to make up the
sales short fall as soon as possible.
#3. Understanding Probation
It is important that you see probation as a
management tool, not a commitment.
It is the best tool you have to demonstrate to sales
associates that they are accountable for their
Probation should be defined in your contracts as the
initial step towards performance based termination.
Performance should always be grounds for termination
in your agreements. By invoking probation, you are
freeing yourself to make whatever adjustments you
deem fit. It becomes your choice to do
something or nothing at all.
Other factors come into place when replacing sales
people. You certainly don’t want the territory to be
empty. You certainly need to find a better group to
hire. There may be competitive issues. There may
even be a sense that the sales goals were
unreasonable. Probation does not mean that you will
terminate them. It simply gives you the contractual
It also provides clear communication of your
performance expectations. By invoking the right to
terminate the agreement, you’ve made the missed
numbers a serious offense that must be addressed.
It is important that you make that statement sooner,
rather than later. Too many sales managers allow
poor performance to drag on, hoping it will change.
Probation is your tool to bring it to a head, with
the responsibility clearly placed on the rep.
Probation does not put pressure on you to act. It
puts pressure on the employee to perform.
If sales are not on track based on mid month
projections, put the firm on probation.
Probation should contain a plan to turn the
situation. The plan should define the sales
achievement and a timeframe. Both the dollars and
the timeframe should be presented by the sales group
and accepted by you. This allows them to clearly
consider what they can achieve. It allows you to
decide if the dollars and time frame are suitable.
The plan and timeframe approval is your chance to
decide if you hope to maintain the relationship or
If the sales goal is missed again in month two, it
is probably time to seek a replacement.
You territory plan should already have a wish list
of contenders you’ve collected over time.
You should always have a potential replacement in
mind for every independent group in your region.
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This is never fun, but it is part of the job.
Learning how to do it effectively saves more
hassles for you in the long run. There are
techniques to make it go more smoothly.
#1) Understand the Right
Make sure you understand your rights to
terminate. It should be clear in contractual
agreements whether it is an employee or an
independent rep or group. If you don’t
understand the legalese in the contract, talk to
Human Resources and have it explained. You need
to understand this.
#2) Document Your Concerns
Have written documentation of the
performance issues. This should not be difficult
if your sales team all have monthly sales goals
– which they should. Giving them sales goals
means your reporting documents the shortfall.
#3) Communicate with Your Team
Let your supervisor and Human Resources know
your intent. They may have policies and
procedures that will help you. With
terminations, you want to avoid surprises.
#5) Use Probation
Probation is an important termination tool.
It starts the process. It warns the employee. It
establishes corrective actions and measures.
Don’t skip the probation step. It is legal
protection for you and the company. If the
corrective measures are not achieved, your path
is wide open.
Probation does not mean you will terminate the
employment. It simply means you documented the
Do not expect an employee to be helpful
after termination. Prior to the event make sure
you have files backed up, status of the
territory or accounts current, pipeline reports
and any information that you may want. After the
termination is too late. Discreetly get the
information you may need beforehand.
Understand what property is where and what
the company policies are regarding it.
Understand what will become of computers, cell
phones, keys, flash drives and any other
physical material that is under the control of
the employee. The employee will want
to know if any of these tools are available to
them or must be returned to the company.
Don’t chase assets you don’t want. Nobody wants
to use someone else’s cell phone.
Be prepared with a check and a written
document on any outstanding financial
If there is money owed the employee, have a
check. If it is outstanding commissions
provide them with a written statement of how it
will be paid and when. The employee will not
remember the discussion. It is a kindness to
provide it in writing.
#9) The Termination
Start with the words, “We’ve decided to
terminate our arrangement. We can talk about all
the reasons for it, but the decision has been
Too often managers start by explaining the
problem. The employee then begins to refute or
attempt to resolve the issues and you end up in
a discussion to save the job. Don’t lose control
of the situation. Start with the end.
Terminate them in the first sentence.
Be calm, kind and professional. There is no room
for anger. You don’t have to ‘prove’ it is the
right decision. There is no need to be
Realize that this is a difficult situation for
the employee and their family. They will be
angry, scared, defensive and perhaps even
vengeful. Don’t rise to that. Be empathetic to
the problem you’ve just handed them.
Recognize that terminations are seldom a
surprise to an employee. This is particularly
true for one that has been put on probation.
Though they may have expected it, they didn’t
expect it today. Be sensitive to this.
Be prepared to discuss the reasons, but the
employee probably won’t ask. They will just want
to get out of that room. In
fact, they won’t remember much past your first
#10) The Location
Select a place that is private and away from
other employees. The person may need some time
and space to compose themselves after the
Whenever possible, do the termination face to
face. An employee deserves that respect and
If face to face isn’t possible due to distance,
use the phone or video conference. It is
appropriate to terminate the relationship the
same way it was managed. If you managed by
phone, you may terminate by phone. But do
not terminate with an impersonal email.
Companies have done that and they are legendary
for their insensitivity.
An employee deserves the respect to discuss the
situation and ramifications.
There are lots of ideas as to what day a
person should be terminated.
Some say Friday so they have a weekend to get
themselves together to face Monday.
Some say Monday so they have the whole week to
In any case, mid-afternoon, about 2:00 or 3:00
is the time.
It is after lunch with enough time for the
employee to clean out their desk and be gone
before other employees are leaving. You want to
discourage the morale drag of having the
terminated employee leaving with others. It is
also a courtesy to them to let them slip away
#12) Severance, but no notice
Yes, the employee deserves all the severance
you can afford to help them navigate the time
between jobs. But you do not want them working
for ‘2 weeks’ after termination. No good will
come of that. They should be gone the day
they are terminated.
Terminations are not easy to do. Spend time
with your own associates and support group after
the termination. You’ve just shouldered a
responsibility that no one wants, but everyone
understands. Be easy on yourself and spend some
time with folks that understand.
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