As your business grows, you may decide to bring on another salesperson or two to bring in the business you want. As soon as you add the first one to your team, you have to become the sales manager. Recently we hosted a Sales Management PowerMeeting, attracting dozens of remodelers who either have a sales team or are planning to create one soon.

The meeting agenda featured a panel that included Mike Wood, sales manager for Callen Construction, in Muskego, Wis. Callen has two sales teams: one focusing on exterior products and the other selling design/build services.

Wood is a no-nonsense kind of guy who has been sales manager for more than 10 years. He believes it’s essential for a sales manager to do three things:

  1. Create the system. The more salespeople on your team, the more important it is for you to develop a system that includes lead tracking, closing ratios, pricing policies, and commission structures. “I think of it like sending all of them down a long hallway in the same direction,” Wood says. “They can move to the left or the right a bit, but eventually they will hit a wall and can’t go any further. A system is the wall.”
  2. Give sales reps freedom. “Even though a system is important, it’s not meant to be a straitjacket,” Wood says. “You hired these folks because of their individual skills, their personality, and their enthusiasm. Allow these elements to shine.”
  3. Hold them accountable. “I want to know if a salesperson is succeeding or not, and I don’t rely on my gut to tell me,” Wood says. “I take a big view of the numbers and have our reporting system built around the outcomes that I want.” But to get those outcomes, Wood also seeks to tie the sales results to a personal motivation. “These folks face rejection every day, so they need a strong reason to keep going out there,” he says. Once the goals are set, Mike watches the sales results each week and each month.

“Some managers track activities that drive sales,” Wood notes, but he doesn’t like that approach. “When we focused on activities like networking, cold calls, etc., I got tons of stories from the salespeople. There were plenty of excuses as to why, even though they were doing the activities, the sales weren’t there.”

Now, he says. “I focus on the outcome. If the salesperson is meeting the goals, and customers both internal and external are happy, I leave it alone. If there is a problem with the results, then I’ll use the metrics to dig in and uncover the problem.”

Wood recalls one salesperson who wasn’t hitting her sales goals. “When I looked at the comparisons, I could see that she had the highest percentage of no-appointment leads–leads that were not deemed as good enough to qualify for an appointment,” he says. “We met to discuss it and discovered that she was qualifying much too hard. Why? Because her time management skills were weak and she only wanted to spend time with qualified prospects. Unfortunately, this eliminated some viable prospects.

“But because we had the metrics, we were able to see the discrepancy, find out why it was happening, and then train to fix the problem,” Wood adds.

Hiring salespeople can be an effective move for your company … but only if you know how to manage this highly valuable team. 

Victoria Downing is president of Remodelers Advantage, an organization dedicated to helping remodelers build high-performance, profitable businesses, and home of the industry’s largest peer organization, Remodelers Advantage Roundtables.