When executives are first introduced to Sales Process Engineering, they naturally assume that this new approach to sales will be tough on salespeople.
But, interestingly, it tends not to be. Salespeople adapt quickly. They enjoy working in an environment that’s custom-engineered to multiply their productivity.
The individual who really suffers as a result of this transition is the Sales Manager.
While the Sales Manager may approve of SPE in theory, in practice, they find themselves presiding over an environment they no longer understand and, as a consequence, an environment they are ill-equipped to manage. Without executive foresight, this is likely to result in the sales function becoming rudderless at the very time you are trying to chart a new course.
This final chapter discusses management requirements of the new model – as well as the special requirements of the transition to SPE.
Why does management exist
It doesn’t hurt to start our discussion by reminding ourselves why management exists.
We touched on this in Chapter 2, when we recognized that division of labor creates the requirement for management. When team members narrow their focus to a tiny sub-set of tasks, the responsibility for the synchronization of the environment as a whole needs to shift elsewhere.
Enter, the manager!
In practice, managers tend to be responsible for more than just the internal synchronization of their functions. They are also responsible for:
- Maintaining the integrity of their domains: this translates into practical activities like hiring and firing, controlling expenses, ensuring procedural compliance and so on
- Managing the interface between their functions and other organizational functions
In the modern organization, management has become stratified:
All but the smallest organizations evolve three levels of management – each with quite a different set of responsibilities:
- Line management: the direct management of individual contributors (supervision)
- Functional management: the management of a department
- Executive management: responsible for long-range decision making and the architecture of the organization
Management and the standard model
In traditional environments, we tend to encounter managers at both the functional and executive levels.[i]
If the organization is large enough to have an executive-level manager with sales responsibility (a VP of Sales and Marketing, for example), we typically find that these individuals are very capable – and ideally placed to champion the transition to the new model.
However, where functional managers are concerned (the standard-issue Sales Manager), we tend to find that these individuals are either quite poor or quite exceptional (and they rarely fall anyplace in between!).
We have the design of the standard model to blame for this.
As we’ve discussed previously, the hallmark of the standard model is that salespeople operate as autonomous agents. Of course, autonomous salespeople and sales managers are two incompatible concepts. Salespeople either march to the beat of their own drums, or they don’t.
Sales managers develop two methods for coping with this conundrum.
The first, most common, method is to avoid managing salespeople in the traditional sense of the word. The sales manager who adopts this approach tries to establish themselves as a coach or a trusted advisor to salespeople. When there’s a requirement for the sales manager to exercise some control, they will attempt to exchange some of the goodwill they have established with salespeople for a concession or two. They’ll call-in a favor, in other words.
The second method is to pay lip-service to salespeople’s autonomy but to ignore it in practice. The manager who adopts this approach will use the force of their personality to overpower their team members’ autonomous ideals and rule them with a mix of fear and grudging respect.
Sadly, a manager who has adopted the first method will find the transition to the new model very difficult (if not impossible). Unfortunately, their history with the sales team has resulted in the establishment of a number of negative precedents. Even if salespeople can put these precedents behind them, the sales manager very often can’t. Continue reading “The Machine > Part 2 > Chapter 11: Managing the sales function” »