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Why You Suck As An Inside Sales Manager

April 20, 2015 · Jeremy Boudinet · 5 Minute Read

Thanks for coming in. Have a seat. It's time for a hard conversation about the three reasons you suck as an inside sales manager.

I'm sorry we're having this conversation. You've been a valuable member of this organization ever since you got here, but as you know, the numbers your team has been generating are simply unacceptable.

Why You Suck as an Inside Sales Manager

Alright, you can relax. (For now). You're reading this article, rather than hearing your boss utter those solemn words and knowing what's about to come next. The good news is that it's not too late to turn this ship around. The bad news: You need better numbers and you need them now. The question I pose to you: What are you going to do to save your job?

I'll tell you: You're going to figure out what you're not doing. And then you're going to start doing it, fast. There's no time to waste. Andele, hombre, and make these fixes.

Reason #1. There's no structure to your sales process.

The following chart is from a January 2015 Harvard Business Review article entitled, "What Top Sales Teams Have In Common."

inside sales process

If you're among the 75 percent of underperforming respondents who is neither closely monitoring nor strictly enforcing a structured sales process, you're shooting yourself in the foot. If you're an Inside Sales manager, where the process is even easier to automate / monitor, and strictly enforce than it is in field sales, you have next-to-zero excuse for not making that a top priority, ASAP.

Don't blame a lack of proper technology. Don't blame your sales people for not following the process you've established for them. Take ownership of your process, and if you don't have one, get one

Your people need direction and it needs to be the right direction. You cannot create a scalable Inside Sales organization without a well-defined process that your people will follow. If no one is on the same page, then taking this action alone will begin paying immediate dividends. You need to harness the energy of your sales people and direct it like a focused, powerful beam towards revenue-driving activities.

Reason #2. You're not holding reps accountable.

Another chart from the Harvard Business Review article:

inside sales accountability

Some great advice from a successful VP of Sales who ran high-performing, Fortune 1000 sales teams:

"It's much easier to start out as a manger by being an asshole. You set the tone, you let people know you mean business, and you set clear expectations. Then, over time, you relax a little more. You let your guard down, and people will respect you AND they'll like you. Whereas, if you start out too nice or too friendly, and you don't hold people accountable, when it comes time to put the hammer down or let the axe fall, they're going to feel like you betrayed them, because they were under the impression that you gave them license to follow the wrong process or miss their numbers. It's much harder to go from a nice guy to an asshole than it is to do the opposite."

The VP of Sales made it clear: being an asshole is about commanding respect, not instilling fear. Leadership is not pacing a scaffold while cracking a bullwhip. Leadership is setting firm, fair and open expectations from the get-go. The benefits are clear, especially when two-thirds of high-performing organizations are consistently measuring individual performance and holding people accountable.

Another key note from the VP of Sales: "Your people need consistency." You can't make numbers a priority one month and then completely disregard them the next. That sends mixed signals to your sales team and leaves them blaming you, not themselves, for individual performance.  

Reason 3. You're not firing fast enough or putting people in a position to succeed.

One more chart from the Harvard Business Review article:

inside sales manager

When it comes to terminating poor performers, almost half of high performing organizations will let that slide for six months, tops. As an Inside Sales manager, you should make sure that, starting today, you're not being too lenient on your new hires.

Let me qualify that statement by adding that it's also up to you to put them in a situation where they can succeed. Make sure your on-boarding and all-around sales processes are properly established and effective before you turn your office into Sleepy Hollow. 

Redemption for Inside Sales Managers

If you have a poorly-defined process, or if you've set up a process that is neither effective nor scalable, you're going to be firing a lot of people, wasting valuable potential talent, undercutting your ability to recruit capable new hires, and paying a premium on employee turnover.

In other words, you're going to be in management hell, and your sales organization is going to be a black hole of low revenue and shattered dreams.  The bottom line: Get your process set up, hold people accountable, give them an opportunity to succeed, and terminate poor performers more expediently. 

I know this has been a rough conversation, but I'm glad we were able to have it while there was still time. Now get back in the ring and show your organization just how capable of a manager you truly are.

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