In the beginning of the new year, sales managers often ask the sales reps they manage for a report or business plan to address topics such as:
- increasing sales within the top 10 accounts
- opening new accounts in the territory
- meeting with decision makers in a new vertical market
- addressing declining sales in mid-size accounts
Reps receive the request. They procrastinate for as long as possible, then send sales managers emails with a few hastily written ideas. Sales managers ask for more detail. Reps add a few more sentences. The whole exercise gets lost in the day-to-day grind of running a sales organization.
Avoid that this year. Before asking the rep for any type of report, clarify your own thoughts. Be specific. Ask yourself:
- What type of information do I need to see?
- Which format would I like the rep to use?
- What level of detail do I require?
- Can employees in other departments be of assistance?
Once you've completed this exercise, you should
- Create a template -- or--
- Share a copy of a report you've used previously
Then meet or speak with each rep you manage.
- Be clear the about purpose of the report
- Explain how the information helps you do a more effective job
- Put in plain words the benefits to them of having a plan to follow
- Review a sample report or template
Just like your college professors, give them a deadline to submit a draft of the report -- especially if it's the first time you've requested one.
Review the draft with them. Be a coach. Praise a solid effort. Make suggestions for improvements. Point them in the right direction if you need additional information.
Substandard reports from the reps often trace back to a lack of specific directions. Organize your thoughts. Communicate unambiguously. Invest the time. Set standards. Inspect the product. Don't settle for less than the information you and they need to succeed in your respective jobs.