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from Systema

Sales Managers:

How Would Your Salespeople Rate You?
By Brian Snader

No one knows better how sales managers are applying their managerial skills than their salespeople. That's why one division of a major pharmaceutical company recently asked its 500 sales representatives to assess the skills and performance of the division's 78 sales managers.

"We wanted to do a better job of skills assessment," said their Vice President of U.S. Operations. "And we wanted something that would allow managers to put together their own personal development plans."

A Case History

The procedure was relatively simple. The pharmaceutical division sent an assessment tool to each salesperson, asking them to rate their sales manager's performance in twenty different managerial skills. The same assessment tool was sent to the sales manager's regional manager for a top-down perspective, and to the sales manager himself or herself to include a self-assessment.

The assessments were forwarded to Systema Corporation for tabulation and analysis. The results were returned to the sales managers in the form of a confidential report, complete with benchmark comparison data from Systema's database of more than 10,000 sales manager assessments. In addition, the pharmaceutical division received an organizational profile to help identify the strengths and weaknesses of its sales managers as a group.

Organizationally, this process helped the pharmaceutical division identify a weakness in not encouraging upward communication from its reps. The company also learned that its salespeople wanted to be better informed on strategic decision making, to get an idea of where the company would be in years to come. Both weaknesses were then addressed in management training sessions.

Sales managers were encouraged to share their personal results, at their discretion, with their regional managers and their salespeople. Each sales manager then built action plans for personal development including, at minimum, the top two areas of developmental need indicated by his or her personal profile.

Even the VP of U.S. Operations was enlightened by his assessment. "I need to better articulate performance expectations for people who report to me, and provide feedback on how people are meeting those expectations," he concluded. "I'm something of a visionary, but I don't always get into the details of how those visions can be carried out."

The value of a sales force's input regarding management performance is always impressive. Regional managers are typically not close enough to what's happening on a day-to-day basis in their sales districts to accurately assess a sales manager's performance...a fact born out by the frequent differences between regional manager and sales rep assessments of any given sales manager. In fact, bringing assessment results to a regional manager's attention can help a sales manager correct the regional manager's unduly low misperceptions of the sales manager's performance, where they exist.

How would you rate?

Listed below are ten out of hundreds of questions developed by Systema Corporation for salespeople to answer regarding their sales managers. How do you think your salespeople would rate you?

Does your sales manager:

  1. Discuss goals in addition to quotas with your group to be sure they are clear?
  2. Encourage you to express your opinions and participate in decisions?
  3. Plan and organize the sales effort systematically?
  4. Give good, knowledgeable answers to question about your compensation policies? The products themselves? Specific selling skills?
  5. Offer coaching to help you improve your on-the-job performance?
  6. Let you know where you stand and how you are doing your job?
  7. Keep track of your performance in terms of both dollars and quality of relationships built?
  8. Give praise and credit for good sales efforts?
  9. Develop cooperation and a sense of loyalty among members of your sales group?
  10. Build group motivation and morale?

"Legend in your own mind?"

If you feel confident that your sales representatives would give you high ratings on each of these questions, you could be an exceptional manager-or, you could be fooling yourself, a "legend in your own mind." Only a confidential assessment of your management behavior by those you actually manage can tell you whether your high opinion of yourself is realistic.

Facing the weaknesses in your own skill set can be tough, but just remember that it also gives you a tremendous benefit: reality checks put you in a far better position to bring your sales force forward. The skills measured in Systema's assessments are the skills that predict success and that, over time, translates into dollars.

Want to learn more?

For more information on on how to assess management, sales management, and selling skills within your sales organization. E-mail us at:

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