Please show me your prospect list

Dear Ken Keller,

Two questions for you, I hope you don’t mind.

I have taken a “hands off” approach to managing sales in my company. Since hiring a sales manager I am not involved in day to day activities but I sit in on some meetings and have a touch base meeting with the sales manager every couple of weeks.

As I watch the sales reports, I don’t see the hoped for increase. For a bit I saw a flat line and now I see a slow decrease. How do you think I should address this?

Second question, we need to hire someone to take over current account management, which is a different set of skills than to prospect and close. Do you have any ideas on how to intelligently interview for this kind of candidate? — Allan T.

Dear Allan,

One of the main responsibilities of your position as owner is to “inspect what you expect.” It is clear you are inspecting some of what is going on results wise with the sales team but you need a wider point of view.

The more open your communication and the more you share your thinking with your sales manager, the better the relationship will become. You did not say how long this sales manager has been on the job or how he or she are managing other aspects of their responsibilities. You have kept a close eye on the results, which is critical but does not go far enough to turn the situation around.

Right now more information is necessary and you need to discuss how to best gather, analyze, present and make useful decisions based on it with your sales manager.

My recommendation is that each of your sales team members create a “pipeline report” that includes what prospects are at each stage of the sales funnel: suspects, prospects, presentation, objections, closing and post sale. This is a simple way to see where each sales person, and the company as a whole, stands on any given day.

You will be able to turn this situation around but it will take some patience. If you don’t have that, maybe you could jump start the process by simply asking each of your sales people including your sales manager, “Please show me your prospect list.”

When you do this you can expect to see panic or confirmation that your sales team is on the ball. If you see panic, expect your blood pressure to rise. That doesn’t mean those without prospect lists are bad or lazy. You need to see it as a learning opportunity as part of expecting and inspecting. Any prospect list you do receive you should seek clarification when you have questions.

As to your second question, I would hold off on hiring anyone on the sales service side until you see what your pipeline looks like. It is likely the person you want to take care of current accounts may already be on your sales team and having someone make that transition would be less expensive and less disruptive than hiring form the outside.