One of the best things that ever happened to me in my career was when I was given responsibility to manage an external sales organization.
Previously, I was general manager of a business unit inside the company, and we had a matrixed sales organization. In other words, we fought for resources with the other business units.
It was really obvious to me the value a great sales manager made to your success.
There was Ken who ran Asian sales for us. Ken wasn’t technical (which I think is a huge asset in technical sales), and Ken and his team knew their accounts inside and out.
The market share we enjoyed in Ken’s region was around 80%.
So I was kind of bummed when the company reorganized and Ken gave up the Japan territory. The new sales manager was David.
David had previously run West Coast sales. So I had lunch with David before he moved to Japan.
I remember David telling me that he viewed our products as “commodity” products. I knew our market share was going to suffer.
Sure enough, our market share was cut in half and our gross margins went from 80% to 50%.
The value of a great sales team can not be overstated.
You see the value in great sales management when your sales and gross margin are cut in half just because of a change in sales management. And you really get an appreciation for sales when you manage a sales team.
Great sales management isn’t easy.
That’s why I was so lucky to be given the opportunity to manage sales. You really get to see the art and science to being a good sales manager.
It’s pretty easy to see who the successful and unsuccessful sales people will be:
The art of sales is in having really good listening skills and adding value for your customers.
The science of sales is having a rigorous sales process, being methodical and detail oriented.
Conversely, the weak sales people are just like you’d expect them to be: Big talkers with poor listening skills and no real methodology.
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