You always know when you're talking with somebody who has spent a lifetime at their trade, honing their expertise and developing insights that are powerful, and practical.
That was what it was like talking with Kevin F Davis, author of the upcoming book The Sales Manager’s Guide to Greatness. This is Kevin’s third book on sales management, with a particular focus on business to business companies. I recently interviewed Kevin about the book, and I learned a lot during our discussion so wanted to share some of it:
Q: There are already a lot of books about B2B sales out there. Why did you write The Sales Manager’s Guide to Greatness?
A: It’s true, there are many books about sales. But there are not many resources for B2B sales management, as opposed to sales itself. Only 59% of companies have budgets for sales management training. And half of those training dollars are spent on general management training programs. That means that 7 of 10 sales managers don’t receive any training on how they should do their jobs. Sales managers have enormous influence on the entire sales team. But they aren’t getting a lot of support to do that job well. As a result, they often have a bad influence on the sales team rather than a positive influence. I hope this book will provide a useful resource for sales people who are making the transition into B2B sales management roles.
Q: You’ve structured the book as 10 essential strategies. Why that structure?
A: It was important to me to make the book digestible. There is so much advice out there. But people just can’t absorb and act on it all. I wanted to focus on the 10 things you really need to know and do for B2B sales management greatness. I was trying to cut away all the noise, all the non-essential elements. I’ve seen too many situations where a sales person is given a quota that is simply too high for where they’re starting out. An intimidating and overwhelming quota. As a result, they don’t even try to hit it. That’s what I am trying to avoid – someone opting out or ignoring the advice in the book because there’s just too much of it. Instead I focused on the 10 essential strategies that are most important to success.
Q: One of the challenges that small and mid-sized companies struggle with in hiring sales people is that their businesses are often not considered ‘sexy’. So the next generation of sales talent isn’t necessarily attracted to work at these companies. Do you have suggestions for small and mid-sized B2B companies on how to attract and hire the right sales people?
A: The best way to attract sales talent is to make a commitment to create it. The best sales person is someone who’s slightly underqualified for the position. Because they have the fire. And if your company is the next step up in their career path. Other companies set their standards too high, they’ll only attract lateral movers, which means they’ll only attract those who want to leave their current situation, which you have to wonder about.
I advise to hire for attitude and ambition. Hire someone who can grow. If a B2B company has a good sales management function, it will attract those who will become strong sales people. They might not be great sales people yet, but they are coachable and can become great, if they are coached well. That is the opportunity for small and mid-sized B2B companies; if they have a good sales management program, they will be able to attract the raw talent and grow them.
Q: From your experience, what is the role of marketing in the eyes of the sales team?
A: There are two schools of thought. On one hand, there are many sales teams who think of marketing’s role as ‘generate more highly qualified leads’. That’s a fairly tactical viewpoint.
The other school of thought is more strategic. They see marketing’s role as helpful at all stages of selling, from raising awareness and generating leads, through the sales process, and especially for nurturing prospects who aren’t ready to buy. In the book I talk about prospects who ‘leak’ out of the funnel at various stages. Smart companies use strategic marketing to re-engage those prospects. The most common reason for losing a sale is not that the prospect bought from a competitor, but that they didn’t buy at all. So marketing can be powerful to re-engage all those companies who haven’t yet made a move.
The Sales Manager’s Guide to Greatness is well-written and full of practical advice. If you’ve recently promoted a sales person into a B2B sales management role, or if you’re about to take on that role yourself, I recommend checking it out.