A Focus on Inputs

Sales management is a leadership role. More directly, anyone who wants to succeed in management should think of themselves as a leader. What a leader does is create a future state through the effort of those they lead. Understanding the difference between management and leadership is to look at the difference between inputs and outputs, something most sales managers and leaders don’t spend enough time considering.

One of the duties the sales manager has is to forecast the pipeline for their team, reporting up to the leadership their progress on attaining their goals. Forecasting is a necessary task and duty of the sales manager, but it is managerial and not leadership (especially if, like some organizations, this is the daily responsibility).

The sales manager also must ensure that the necessary opportunities are created and won. Some sales managers perceive this duty as requiring them to close the deals for their salespeople. This is not to say that closing deals is not sometimes necessary, nor that it isn’t also an opportunity to teach, train, and develop their salesforce. Was it true that sales managers were closing deals to teach true most of the time there would be nothing to write here? However, making sales calls for your team is not leadership either.

The sales manager’s role is to generate the outputs by working on and with the inputs. The inputs include organizing, coaching, training, and developing the sales force. It means ensuring they focus on the right outcomes, and that they have the skill sets and toolkits and mindset to succeed in generating those outcomes. It means troubleshooting deals by asking questions and causing their salespeople to use their resourcefulness and their situational knowledge to determine what their choices are, as well as how to make a good decision and execute against it.

Hiring the right people is to work on the inputs. Training and developing people, also inputs. Coaching is to work on inputs. Demonstrating the capabilities that the sales force needs, and helping them become more valuable to their clients is to work on inputs. Growing a team of 52 percent caps SMEs is to work on inputs. Ensuring that time and energy is being spent on things that matter is to work on inputs.

Reporting is an output. Forecasting is an output. Reviewing territory and account plans is an input. Building pursuit plans to win dream clients and helping establish a cadence for all of the client interactions a salesperson might have is an input. Reviewing opportunities is to work on inputs, it’s the game you are playing.

The ideas here always make me think of football. It would be as if the head coach’s job was to call the owner of the football team after every set of plays on offense or defensive to report the score. I imagine the owner and the coach both talking about the score, with the football team staring at the sideline looking for help and direction. The score is already visible to both the coach and the owner, but the only way to change the score on the scoreboard is to focus on playing the game as effectively as possible and with the intention of winning.

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