Filling in the Gap for Sales Managers

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Mar 21, 2024 by Sean Luce

Sales managers benefit from a 360-degree review
How would you rate yourself as a manager in the following critical areas of sales management?

Personal Development
Development of Others
Task Management
How would your sales reps rate you? How about your peers (traffic director, program director, etc.)? Your boss? One process, called a "360," is a complete boomerang of evaluation from your direct reports (subordinates), peers, and bosses. Skill-set development is accelerated for sales managers who are open-minded to an analysis from these groups.
The "recreational" sales manager shies away from any kind of feedback. This is the sales manager who doesn't lead by example, who sits behind the desk and barks out orders, who doesn't train and, for the most part, doesn't instill trust in his or her sales reps. Credibility is low, and motivation is weak.The staff of such a manager most likely has high turnover, and the inmates run the asylum.
The flip side is the sales manager who clamors for knowledge, especially when it comes as feedback from the troops. The "Alexander" sales manager (named after Alexander the Great) leads from the front line, successfully motivates others, listens, cultivates individual talents, and builds personal relationships with staff.
Here's how the 360 works:The boss notifies the staff and peer groups that they will be evaluating the sales manager with a scale of 1 to 5 on 70 skills, completing an online review that will take about 20 minutes. The sales manager responds to the same 70 items, also with a 1-5 rating. The survey summary comes back to the boss, who reviews the results with the sales manager.
Look for the gaps between "direct reports" (salespeople), "peers," and "bosses." Sometimes more than one boss can give input on the survey. The gaps are flagged; now the development begins for the sales manager.
Critical areas from the ratings may show the clear strengths of the sales manager. Build on these strengths! Next is a breakdown of areas where the sales manager needs to work. Below is the summary of a recent 360, outlining strengths and "development zones," as I like to call them.As you read this, imagine how valuable this kind of feedback could be to your development as a sales manager. It can be a reality check, too.

Thinks creatively
Instills trust
Listens to others
Delegates responsibility

Ask for help when necessary. (This comment zeros in on a problem hibernation when the numbers are not at goal.) Take action, instead of procrastinating. (This sales manager puts off starting the big project because it seems overwhelming.) Establish priorities. (This sales manager needs the discipline to say no to things that divert attention from the highest priorities.) With this sales manager, there's a lot to work with; now begins the process of development. The boss acts as a mentor, facilitating online critiques directed to each developmental area. Follow-up mentoring may take six months to a year, when another 360 is done to see if the sales manager has filled in the gaps.
Below are some of the skills noted in the 360. Rate yourself on a 1-5 scale, then ask yourself whether you're ready to be rated by your sales reps. Use this 5-point scale:
1-Never demonstrates this skill
2-Seldom demonstrates this skill
3-Sometimes demonstrates this skill
4-Usually demonstrates this skill
5-Always demonstrates this skill

Solicits ideas, suggestions, and opinions of others: 1 2 3 4 5
Covers an issue thoroughly without overdoing it: 1 2 3 4 5
Keeps promises: 1 2 3 4 5
Makes expectations clear: 1 2 3 4 5
Empowers others to find creative solutions to problems: 1 2 3 4 5
Is flexible in dealing with people with diverse styles: 1 2 3 4 5
Anticipates and plans for change: 1 2 3 4 5
Brings capable people into the group: 1 2 3 4 5
Makes timely, clear-cut, firm decisions: 1 2 3 4 5
Keeps a positive outlook: 1 2 3 4 5

How did you score?
Here are some personal observations from doing 360s: Make sure the sales manager has been there at least one year.The staff, too, should not be brand-new. Don't witch hunt with the 360: Explain that there are no names attached to the survey. Each person should feel free to answer without reprisals. Remember, this is a tool for development, not destruction. For more information on the 360, e-mail me at the address below.


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