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by Anneli Thomson, Managing Director, Sandler Training

Have you ever lost a great salesperson? Maybe you’ve seen more than one slip away? As sales managers, our role is to guide the team to create change – change that can keep valuable salespeople on your team. Like most successful outcomes, this is achieved with specific systems and processes. The key element is our ability to provide leadership that will inspire free thought that results in productive behaviours to ensure the company vision is achieved.

Our perception and experience gives us a certain view, but sometimes the solution is outside our perception. When we have new challenges we tend to look for the solution in a familiar manner and the result can be history repeating itself. If we treated new situations in a new way, what might happen?

The cliché has been used many times but if we think outside the box, we’ll manage toward future changes and stay ahead of the curve and the competition. As a twenty-first century manager, do you don’t want to rely on the tried and true techniques of the past? The status quo may be the most comfortable but it will not help you keep pace or more importantly, keep ahead in a rapidly competitive business world. And that applies as much to the mom and pop retailer as it does to the corporate corner office.

The first thing is to determine where you need help. It can come from your staff, colleagues, customers or consultants. Start by developing a list of situations or problems that need to be addressed. Use your staff and management to help in the process. Have a ‘no rules’ brainstorming session to uncover the biggest issues that hold you back from achieving your company vision. WARNING: This is not a solution session and there are no bad suggestions. I did lie however, there is one rule, all suggestions must be with in your power to change. You can’t do anything about the weather, the economy or the international exchange rate. You may also want to find a neutral party to facilitate the session. You certainly should not be leading the discussion.

Once you have the comprehensive list you must have an action plan. Typically you’ll have more issues than is reasonable to deal with so you need to prioritise the list and get consensus on which items should be dealt with first. The go forward step can be to assign or get volunteers in groups to meet and develop a strategic solution plan for each item. For things like production issues the priority choice may be based on the feasibility of creating the new market or the potential scope and size of the market. Moving further toward action steps, you may decide to do formal or informal market studies or investigate similar situations already in place in comparable-sized markets.

The sooner you put a change process in place the better. Your biggest challenge is staying ahead of the curve rather than reacting to change. Generating new ideas and investigating their viability keep the drive and excitement in an organisation. Not every idea will be a winner you eventually adopt and maybe most will fail to be implemented; but discovering that one next improvement will keep you surging ahead. Change does not happen. Change must be managed.

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