Managing people, not sales

May 1, 2002
Rick Goff

Rick Goff is a district sales manager with the ophthalmology division of Peapack, NJ-based Pharmacia Corp.

Pharmaceutical Representative

Advice for new managers.

I am a sales manager - at least that's what my business card says - but I don't manage sales. It's somewhat of a misnomer. True, I'm responsible for sales results, but the reality of my job is that I manage salespeople.

As a "salesperson manager," people often ask me about my management style. I haven't thought a lot about this, for I am often the most unstylish person I know (just ask my wife)! But after close to thirty years in the sales business as a rep, manager and business owner, I guess I do have some philosophies. They're not brilliant or earth-shattering, but they come from experience and putting myself into the salesperson's shoes. Here is some of what I've discovered:

•Â Hire and train the best. Your most valuable assets are your people. Products, distribution, pricing and support cannot in themselves ensure success - only your people can!

•Â Define your customers. These are the people who can contribute the most to your success. Then, define your secondary customers, and so on down the line. Your first consideration, however, is to satisfy your most important customers, the salespeople who report to you. If they fail, you fail.

•Â Clarify and communicate your objectives (what you want done and when). Eliminate excess rhetoric. Then measure and share results and coach, coach, coach your salespeople to success.

•Â Set the example. People rise to the expectations set for them. People fail for two reasons: They either do not know what to do, and so need additional training, or they choose not to do what they are expected to, and thus are detrimental to the entire organization.

•Â Embrace change. The only constant in business today is change. People grow with and through change. Open up, step out and get out of your comfort zone. It's not easy, but you need to be the first to accept change, and others will follow.

•Â Create a teamwork environment. Yes, usually salespeople are compensated on what they do individually, but I've never met one who wouldn't share his or her opinions, habits or successes. We all want to be part of a winning team and help others along the way.

•Â Be fair, honest and consistent. That's all your people ask of you. It's hard sometimes, and we are all human, but the way you treat your subordinates defines your real feeling for their value.

•Â Develop your replacement. The most satisfying aspect of any type of management is the development of people. Push them, make them step up and out, and force them to grow, for through growth you satisfy both your personal and your corporate responsibilities.

So there it is, you're ready to be a sales manager. Just remember one thing: If you manage the salespeople well, the sales results will always follow! PR

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