Barriers to Effectiveness
Through company-provided training, intuition, or personal experience, effective DMs understand what tactics drive sales and
can effectively implement them. Their approaches include conducting more two-day work sessions, providing broad coaching support
outside of field days, and taking prompt and aggressive action on poor performers. Other DMs face three key challenges to
implementing effective approaches:
- Administrative work cuts into field time.
- Mirrored geographies—in which multiple reps sell the same products to the same customers in the same zip codes—and co-promotion
blur rep accountability for results.
- Underdeveloped coaching and performance management skills limit impact on rep development.
On average, DMs spend a quarter of their time conducting field visits, which they recognize is not enough. So what gets in
the way? Time spent at company meetings, analyzing district business, responding to e-mail, completing required reports, recruiting,
training, conference calls, travel, special projects, realignments, technology issues, preparation for district meetings,
and so on. The most effective DMs find ways to minimize these challenges. They rapidly dispense with administrative requirements,
quickly deduce business trends from key reports, conduct travel efficiently, and push back on field time conflicts. But other
DMs need more help. (See "Where Are Your DMs?")
Where Are Your DMs?
External co-promotions and mirrored territories also create significant challenges for DMs, who may find themselves with multiple
DM "partners" overlapping their district. Or, they may have one partner with reps, products, and target lists mirroring their
own. In the first case, it quickly becomes impractical to engage with all partners, and in the second case, it becomes difficult
to accurately assign credit (or blame) for business results. After all, accurate performance assessment drives ownership.
DMs recognize that developing reps begins with delivering feedback, and they struggle with this aspect of their job. Perhaps
the easiest situation DMs encounter is when they observe reps performing well. But, only 71 percent of DMs believe they are
highly skilled in providing positive feedback. If almost one-third of DMs are insecure about their ability to deliver positive
feedback, then less comfortable settings are sure to present challenges. (See "DMs' Self-Assessment”)
In fact, only 47 percent of DMs self-assess that they are proficient at providing negative feedback, and only 55 percent perceive
that they "manage poor performers" well. Poor performers drain a DM's time and energy—and they deliver poor sales results.
Consider a territory with a $6 million quota: 90 percent goal attainment (poor performance) costs $50,000 every month in lost
sales. To resolve that problem, a DM needs to invest time in coaching and performance management, and potentially recruit,
hire and train a replacement. Prompt and effective action on poor performers can mitigate the cost to the organization.
Increasing DM effectiveness requires organizational commitment—sales training and management development, regional management,
and senior sales management all contribute.