Sales Managers Must Evolve to Thrive and Guide

Recently, I read an article in Modern Distribution Management that really struck a chord. In it, the author April Nowicki looks at how younger sales reps prefer to work versus how more seasoned reps prefer to work. Refreshingly, this wasn’t a baby boomer vs. millennial showdown piece. Rather, it made some insightful observations.

sales managers must evolve

Namely, it centered on the changing role of the sales manager as these two different sales personas co-exist on one team. Older sales reps are more independent, relying on their decades of experience to know what to sell, who to sell it to and what price to charge. Younger reps, lacking that experience, need more process and crave more coaching to be successful. As sales teams evolve, sales managers must evolve their style, and their teams, to meet the needs of the new team and prepare for the inevitable exit of more seasoned players.

To Nowicki’s point, this can be a huge challenge. Older sales reps want less guidance, enabling sales managers to take on larger teams. As teams grow, managers spend more time firefighting and reacting. But a younger sales team needs to have a clear vision of the team’s mission, how they fit into that vision, and specific feedback on how they can improve. Managers must find a way to provide younger reps with the guidance they crave without alienating or condescending the older reps who prefer more independence.

Therein lies the challenge: It’s impossible to direct our teams’ every move, but we also know they won’t succeed with complete autonomy. Where should a sales manager strike the balance?

According to the author, technology and data offer ways to level the playing field and help managers better-lead their teams:

“Every company must accept technology-driven changes or risk being at a critical disadvantage in the marketplace.”

I couldn’t agree more, leveraging technological tools like predictive guidance helps companies execute their growth strategies through the sales force. This has never been more important than in B2B sales forces where the challenges of a flux in management style is compounded by increasing portfolio complexity. Product proliferation (100,000-plus products is no longer uncommon) and the rise of micro-markets make it virtually impossible for a rep to really know all of the customers, let alone understand what products and services they most need. As management devises increasingly sophisticated and targeted strategies, front-line managers and reps struggle to incorporate these top-down priorities into their day-to-day selling tactics.

By providing situational guidance and structured flexibility, [Read more…]

Building Material Manufacturer Dynamics: Construct a Plan for Profitable Growth

Recovery in the building material market from “The Great Recession” has been relatively slow, with the industry still feeling the effects. Leading economic indicators for the market projected 2014 to be a growth year, with total industry sales expected to increase by 7.5 percent. Yet, winter-weather challenges in the first quarter hit the industry with delayed projects and transportation setbacks. According to the National Association of Realtors Chief Economist Lawrence Yun, housing starts in 2014 in the U.S. are expected to total 1.4 million. In 2015, housing starts are projected at 1.5 million, just shy of the 1.7 million needed to rebalance the market. In Europe, industry executives are cautiously optimistic about slow, but positive, forecasted growth and stabilization in the construction market. Yet, growth remains behind U.S. levels.


In non-residential construction, according to the American Institute of Architects’ (AIA) semi-annual Consensus Construction Forecast, “a survey of the nation’s leading construction forecasters is projecting that spending will see a 4.9 percent increase in 2014 – down from the previous estimate of 5.8 percent, with next year’s projection holding at 8 percent.” Growth in the commercial/industrial sector is expected to lead the way.

While 2015 is forecasted to be a relatively good year for building material manufacturers, concerns remain about rising material costs and energy costs. The winners coming out the recession will be the ones able to earn more wallet-share than their competitors, and do so profitably by using price as a mechanism to help manage these rising costs. However, that’s easier said than done. How do manufacturers ensure that organic growth and profit goals are executed upon in the field through each and every decision?

Sales people need guidance about where to find opportunities to expand share, and once they find them, how to quote a price that will hit profit goals and still win the business. In this whitepaper, we will discuss the challenges inherent with gaining more share profitably, and how companies can use the data they already have to align sales reps’ decisions with financial priorities for 2015.

To find out, download the full building material manufacturer industry trends report.


MindShare 2014: Top 10 Takeaways

Last week Zilliant hosted 150 customers, prospects and partners in Austin, Texas, for two days of sessions and networking on how to rise above average in their business. Topics included inspirational keynotes, business transformation, change management, enabling sales people with guidance and optimizing business in a continuously-changing world. Below are the top 10 quotes overheard at the conference:

MindShare 2014

Zilliant MindShare 2014

1. “Bottom line, when you have the opportunity to rollout a new strategy, take the people path. You’ll naturally be thinking of budget, ROI, strategy and the sales team, but change management should be a core competency as well.”

—Director of enterprise sales training at a national foodservice distributor

2. “During implementation, we brought in the seven most visible people from each geography, they were also the most adversarial, to learn and become advocates for the project.”

—Director of pricing effectiveness at a national auto parts distributor

3. “There are four things that matter in outmaneuvering average: Attitude (it determines behavior), behavior (it determines influence), influence (it determines outcomes), and outcomes (they determine leadership).”

—Lieutenant General (Ret.) R.L. Van Antwerp & Chief of Executive Development, The Flippen Group [Read more…]