Why young sales managers sometimes fail stephen remedios


Published on

A note on my experiences leading young managers in their first few years as sales managers...

Published in: Business, Education
1 Like
  • Be the first to comment

No Downloads
Total views
On SlideShare
From Embeds
Number of Embeds
Embeds 0
No embeds

No notes for slide

Why young sales managers sometimes fail stephen remedios

  1. 1. Why Young Sales Managers Sometimes FailLast night was a rather emotional night. It was my farewell. As the evening meandered into thewee hours of the morning, I found myself reflecting on some of the experiences I have had overthe years. Why I struggled through my initial years? Why young sales managers strugglethrough their initial years? Not really bad managers, but so many whose initial performanceand leadership though adequate, is uninspired and uninspiring, and who simply dont seem tobe able to produce a team of successful, capable and entrepreneurial field force? This is truer inmy personal capacity than anyone else I know. I was a disastrous manager in my first 18months as I muddled through some of the mistakes I will list later in this note. While there maynot be an easy answer to what makes a world class sales manager, I sure as hell know whatmakes a bad one, having been one. I have spent 5 months as a BLT in Madhya Pradesh, 30months as a sales manager in Karnataka, 25 months as a regional sales manager, and 15months in the sales center of excellence and 18 months as a customer marketer. I have seenover 30 sales managers at close quarters and the progress of many managers from their earlydays in the organization as BLT through to leadership roles later in their career. I know a thingor two about sales and leadership. So here goes my attempt to share some thoughts on thisquestion.Right on top of the list is the attempt to be a ‘stereotype’ HUL ASCM. A very serious fault, this,and fairly common among managers who, either because of inexperience or unsuitability forjob, are insecure. The organization has minted world class leaders for years on end, and the ‘HLLWay’ of doing things is at times quite overwhelming for a young manager starting out in alarge organization. This need to be ‘the ASM’ results in a desperate attempt to play the tune indifferent keys to different people, hoping that one will sound right. One day the manager willthunder, "Do it or you will be in trouble!" If this doesnt work then on the next day the samemanager will purr, "Please do it, or I will be in trouble!" A manager who blows hot and cold likethis loses all respect and engenders a cynical attitude in his team.The second stumbling block is the tendency to have a single view - the salesmans point ofview. The manager was once a salesman himself, while in training, and the temptation is greatto take the salesmans side against the company in any confrontation, no matter what the factsare. After all, the salesman is a person, easy to relate to and identify with, while the company isan impersonal, monolithic giant. There is also a sneaky feeling that standing up for thesalesman is an easy way to get the whole team on your side, loyal and steadfast against THECOMPANY. Alternatively you are young and you strongly believe you need to fight for yourpeople. You need to find a fine balance between taking the TSO’s point of view and betweenespousing and championing for the company’s point of view whenever these are in conflict. Thechoice almost always needs to be based on an objective recognition of reality and your valuesystem.Some go the other extreme. They fail to represent the salesman. This seems to be a completecontradiction of what I have just written, but there is a distinction to be made between takingStephen.Remedios@gmail.com / +919686719691 Page 1
  2. 2. the salesmans side against the company (which is inexcusable) and truly representing the salesteam to the company when there are suggestions, ideas, problems, or genuine grievances to beaddressed. This is a failure in upward communication, and it happens because the managerfears that his own position will be jeopardized. This is a very dangerous breakdown incommunication. People quickly resent it if they feel that their manager is afraid to act as theirspokesman to the top. People leave the company and, as always it is the good people who go.Insecurity often finds great comfort in hiding behind higher authority. That brings me to whatmust be one of the most stupid mistakes young managers make. Overwhelmed by the size andscope of the assignment and afraid to take responsibility for an instruction themselves, theywill say," This has got to be done - the big boss says so." Some of the more recent refrains Ihave heard make it even more inanimate – “THE CDLT has DECIDED”. This clearly implies, "Idont personally agree with this instruction, but it comes from on high and I suppose it has gotto be done." Terrible! And the consequences are just as terrible: a sulky and rebellious team.What would you think of a man who, if he doesnt agree with an order from the top, wontfight it at the top? You are more likely to earn the respect of your team by making a strongrepresentation, and telling them that you are now fully aligned to the course of action.One of the most critical areas where a new manager falls short is their failure to set standards.I would ever punish Aidan or Dylan for drawing on the walls of the house if I had not first madeit clear that such an expression of artistic genius was unacceptable, yet many managers blametheir people for not complying with policies and procedures when these have not have beenspelled out in the first place. Your team has a right to know what you expect of them, and theirperformance depends greatly on how well you set out the standards you expect him to follow.The faster your team gets your standards, your values, your belief systems, the better.Another emergent trait from a fundamental insecurity is the futile attempt to try to pleaseeverybody. Faced with conflict between two people, or two departments, they try to find asolution which will not offend either party. There is only one solution and that is the right one,and it often offends one side or the other. Very well, this is where human relationships come in.But authentic human relationships are not about soft-pedaling in order to please everyone.Effective leadership is not about winning a popularity contest. What usually happens with thecompromise solution is that we please nobody - and we still dont have the right solution.Finally and most importantly, many young managers fail to set an example. That probably is thereal secret of why managers fail. They fail because (and this is the last time I shall say it) youcannot fool the people who work for you, and unless you practice what you preach, yourpreaching will be in vain. Ralph Waldo Emerson was on the money when he said - There areonly three ways to teach - by example, by example, by example. Alan Deutschman is spot onlisting numerous examples in his book – Walk the Walk.We often talk of the importance of planning and organization and our people can see that weourselves do not plan and are not organized. We preach that we should always put people firstand yet keep people waiting till well beyond office hours for a five minute chat. We stress thatStephen.Remedios@gmail.com / +919686719691 Page 2
  3. 3. the company pays them for a full working day and they see us arriving late and leaving early.We hammer them for a poor company attitude and after three drinks on a Friday night; westart a diatribe against the company with the whole team as audience.Marcus Buckingham will argue that there is one fundamental insight that can supporteverything that I have said before. While I don’t have the luxury of a few million researchquestionnaires and interviews, I will hazard a guess. The one reason young managers fails istheir inability to live in consistency with that they are saying. You are in the limelight, rightthere in the centre of the stage, visible to your team at all times, and believe it, they arewatching you. I discovered to my utter horror that some of my sales team would call my areastenographer to ascertain what time I would come in to office. I would always insist on beingat the RS point at 9:00 in the morning, and they were looking to check whether it was a façadeor just my way of being. You must be above reproach. You stand on a higher level than theirs,and they expect you to conform to higher standards. It is the burden of leadership, but one thatyou must learn to shoulder with responsibility and conviction.We all know that top management expects more of us than it does of the sales force, but whatwe often forget is that the sales force expects it too, and unless they see it, clearly andconstantly, they lose faith in us, and they resent it when they find that the feet of their idol aresolid clay. That is the bad news.The good news, and you are surely intelligent enough to figure it out, is that all we need to dois turn this picture around. If managers fail because they dont set an example, is it true thatmanagers succeed because they do?Yes, Yes, Yes! My experience of the last 10 years has put me in close and continual contactwith young managers. I know them. I know how they think and how they act. I know theirtriumphs and disasters, their weaknesses and their strengths. I know their deepest fears, thethings that keep them up at night. Among these young managers are those who dont knowany of the things I have written in this note, who break all the golden rules of managementthat we memorize in business school, who are not, God help them, the most intelligent - andwho yet run a successful, engaged, and entrepreneurial team. Why? Because they lead byexample, by example, by example and that is their secret.I dont know if you have ever realized just how important your job is in the HUL marketingorganization. The old cliché is that in a FMCG company the most important job is that of thesalesman, because nothing happens until somebody sells something. This may be true, but it istoo facile. The real truth is that a salesman is only as good as the person directly in charge ofhim - and thats you. I dont say that anything in this note will make your job any easier,because managing salesmen can never be easy. I do however say that if any of this helps you toavoid the bigger mistakes in the early part of your career, and if you manage by example, youmay just make it.Stephen.Remedios@gmail.com / +919686719691 Page 3