I was lucky enough to spend a day with a young Territory Manager recently. He’s been in the job for a little over a year. And while he hit his numbers last year it was, as a whole, far from a huge success. The young man struggled mightily with self-doubt, confusion about the nature and purpose of the job, organization, planning, and all of the things that confound far too many qualified salespeople. The Existential Sales Crisis is a tough place to be. “What is this job about?” “Why am I doing what I’m doing?” “What should I be doing?” “If what I’m doing isn’t working then who’s to say that changing something will work any better?” “What if things get worse?” “Why won’t my clients engage?” “Am I going to get fired?”
Common concerns and in some cases they’re justified.
However, the Territory Manager that I spent time with has come a long way in terms of his attitude toward his job–and it shows. As he continues to develop in to a solid professional I’ll add the following bits of advice:
1. Plan in and plan out of your meetings. Have a plan going in to the meeting–one topic, just one. Keep the discussion focused on something you and your client can accomplish together. “Spray and pray” meetings won’t move the needle and you’ll feel overwhelmed. Worse yet the client may feel overwhelmed. Plan out of the meetings–clearly set the agenda for the following meeting so both you and the client have an understanding as to what development and results will occur. It’s important that the client sees a relevant direction as you want them to engage and commit.
2. Listen far more than you talk. Salespeople tend to be pretty good talkers (or at least they may like to hear themselves talk). But talking is not the same thing as development. It’s such a common sense recommendation. Asking great questions and then listening is a more appropriate strategy for client development. Amazing salespeople know how to ask open-ended questions, take a lot of notes, and then–maybe–reply.
3. Use your resources. Territory Managers often act as if they’re alone in the wilderness. But great organizations typically have outstanding internal and external resources intended to support the sales team. Marketing? Finances? Sales? Strategy? It’s impossible for a busy Territory Manager to master everything. Instead, design and hub-and-spoke resource model that utilizes the collective organizational strength.
4. Spend less time with your clients. That’s right. One exemplary meeting that lasts 45 min. is a better use of your time and your client’s time than a two-hour meeting that rambles on aimlessly. Use your time well–which is to say in a concentrated manner. This will also free up additional time for prospecting and planning.
5. Make time to think. Sales is a craft that requires planning, preparation, thinking, reading, brainstorming, collaboration, and revision. So make time to think. Preferably away from the office. Find a favorite coffee shop. Trick out your home office. Build in regular time to plan deeply and well for the future development agendas.
6. ALWAYS SET THE DATE FOR THE FOLLOWING MEETING WHILE YOU’RE WITH THE CLIENT! Waiting for “I’ll get back with you…” emails and voice mails will make a person crazy. Control the call, advance the agenda, set the next meeting.
Keep it simple my friend…you’re on your way! Your friend, Matt