Friday, October 25, 2013

Do You Really Need a Sales Manager?

Every modular home factory has growing pains in the beginning. The pain could be the thought of failure or it could be trying to figure out how to keep the explosive growth under control. Either way it is pain.

The modular home business is not a cookie cutter business. They come in all sizes and shapes from some of the largest like Clayton and Champion through the large modular only factories like Excel, Handcrafted and others to the new kids on the block like Blu Homes and Method Homes.

Every single one has had their share of growing pains. During that growth, many if not all of them have had a Sales Manager in place. Watching the industry as I have for many years, I’ve seen them come and go, move to another factory after they were let go by their current factory and I’ve watched in wonder as some tried to change everything they touched with little or no success.

So the real question is “Do you really need a Sales Manager?”

The answer is YES...sorta.

First you need to look at how many people will be reporting to the sales manager. If you have less than 5 sales reps, you probably don’t need a dedicated sales manager. This doesn’t mean that the factory doesn’t need one; just that it doesn’t need a full time manager. If your full time manager has 5 full time sales reps working either remotely or in office, what are the their duties? Do they take attendance? Maybe they call each one daily to check on their sales effort from the day before. Maybe stomp out a fire.

Instead of a full time sales manager for this few reps, you have two very good options. The first is for someone in upper management to take over the job along with their own duties. It’s not like sales people call in every 15 minutes with problems. If they did, you would probably let them go for being incompetent. In this case the upper management person is in direct contact with people in all departments that can actually make things happen. Even the company owner is a great choice because problems are solved on the spot in most cases.

The second option is to have one of the sales reps be named Sales Manager while continuing to work with a reduced number of home builders. This sales rep is given an increase in salary to offset any resulting loss of income. Then give them a percentage of each rep’s sales. This part time sales manager would be the channel through which information would pass between management and the sales reps.

However, if your company has more than 5 sales reps or is doing a lot of business with builders and developers all trying to buy from you, then having a full time Sales Manager does make sense.

If you decide to promote from within your sales ranks you need to do it properly. The first thing you do is look at each sales person on your staff and evaluate if they have what it takes to “manage” the other sales reps.

Too many modular home factories make the mistake of promoting their best salesperson to sales manager only to lose sales and find that they now have a bad sales manager. Don’t do this!

Some senior sales reps feel they are entitled to the position without doing a thing to prepare for it. They feel they know enough about sales to impart their wisdom on the others or they may be burned out selling and simply want to sit behind a desk until they retire. Don’t do this!

So where do you look for a new sales manager? This is a trick question. Don’t look for a new sales manager until you have decided two very important things. What is their role in the company and what are their qualifications for that role?

The first part is tough. What do you want from a new sales manager? Without sitting down and writing out what their responsibilities along with goals and metrics to insure things are working properly, you are setting your company up for just another so-so sales manager that will need to be replaced in a year. Simply writing down “increase sales” is like a football coach getting his team together on the first day of practice and “let’s go score some points…do whatever you want to make it happen.”

The goals must be obtainable. Don’t give your new sales manager a sick or dying patient and expect them to find a cure overnight. If your company is hurting, maybe set the first goal simply to stop the bleeding with the builders. Then move on to the next goal. All goals have to be agreed upon by both parties. Enticing someone with a large increase in pay over what they had without giving them goals is the best way to fail.

Along with goals are the responsibilities of being your sales manager. List each one and make sure the new sales manager understands exactly what you want. It is important that the new sales manager knows that a larger salary and possibly a commission is not just sitting in a chair waiting to put out fires.

The second part of finding a good sales manager is a little tougher.

  • Has the candidate done anything to prepare them for the job? Have they successfully run small projects with measurable goals?
  • Have they proven they understand the sales process for a modular home factory? Bringing in someone from a non-construction background is OK if you’ve exhausted all other candidates.
  • Have they taken any management courses or read books about management? How do you find out? Ask them. Reading one good management book is better than not reading any.
  • Does the candidate show good teamwork ability? Would the sales reps respect both the new sales manager and your decision to hire them? Hiring a bad sales manager reflects badly on whoever hired them. Ouch!
  • Do they have a proven track record of helping others? How can you expect a sales manager to succeed if they don’t?
  • Trust your gut. When it comes down to whom you should hire, trust your years of being in the business. If nobody gives you that warm feeling in your tummy, keep on looking. That is a much better solution than promoting or hiring the wrong person.

When you need to hire a new sales manager, make sure you enter into the process with everything you need to make the best choice. 


Anonymous said...

Problem with the typical Sales Manager is that he or she has to look like they are constantly busy in order to qualify the position. Hence, in order to look busy they create " busy" work. First, its call reports, then its " competition " reports then some other type of report so that when they all come in from the reps, they stack up on the Sales Managers desk and he or she then constantly stresses how much work they have to do while pointing at the stack of meaningless reports. In actuality, the only report required is sales. If you turn in sales ( after training), then your job is secure as a sales person. If you do not turn in sales, then its out the door! Very Simple!

Anonymous said...

I could not agree more. I have only seen one, maybe two effective sales managers since I started in this business. One quit after butting heads with the owner and other left to become modular home builder.
I would love to how many current sales managers have any training in management or sales other than being a sales rep.

Anonymous said...

There is a assumption with most employer's that is an employee is a good sales person that person automatically makes a good Sales Manager and that is not true in most cases.

Talking about our industry specifically, the number one problem/concern I have seen is there isn't very much training tools for our industry.

Thomas Hetherington said...

A sales manager has responsibilities to ownership and to his staff: to ownership what is going on and meeting attainable goals. To the sales staff helping them to be successful with their skills and talents. Sales people need supervision because it is not about one at at time activity or lack of but, creating sustainable daily business.