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Your Best Before Date


Written for the Nova Scotia Business Journal

I was in a coaching session with a sales manager recently. He looked like he was worn down and after a few years of, as he put it, baby sitting he was clearly tired and was past his best before date. I’ve noted in this column previously that I believe that the sales management position is the most demanding in the company. The question is, are you working on the right end of the problem?

There are two areas that are a must if you are going to do the job of sales management. The first is hiring and it’s the most important thing you do. Get this part wrong and the problems compound and shorten your best before date. Hiring salespeople is unlike any other hire and it can be time consuming and confusing. The first thing is lessen the time it takes. Tell potential candidates to call between certain hours to have a telephone interview. Qualify them on their ability to communicate. Many salespeople can be very charming and it’s natural that we end up liking them because we are influenced by their visual presentation. We end up making ‘gut’ decisions and unfortunately our ‘gut’ is usually wrong.

When you have a short list that passed the telephone test bring them in for a one-on-one full throttle interview. One that challenges them with specific questions and scenarios where they have to provide answers and solutions. Be fair and tough. Lay out your expectations and what the accountabilities are. Don’t sell the job. It’s okay to be friendly and nurturing but never sell the job. If you want resilient people test for it in the interview. If they can’t take it in the interview, how will they do it on the job?

Accountability is a critical element of sales management. Each person on your team should know what is expected of them. It includes everything from the selling process they use to the development plan systems used to show how they will achieve their revenue projections. There may be slight modifications but the basic plan is defined and followed. Bus drivers follow a route plan and follow time schedules, and every other successful job follows proven systems.

It’s our job as sales managers to guide this process. It makes for success, and it will extend your best before date.

©2013 Sandler Training Inc. ( is an international sales and management training/consulting firm. To attend a free session of our monthly Sales Leadership program, call the Sandler Training at 902-468-0787 or e-mail