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« Sales Manager or 3rd Grade Teacher? | Main | Where have all the deals gone? »

More on the 3rd grader

Lot’s of responses to the last post… many from sales reps who strongly agreed.  Quit wasting my time… either help me do my job or at least get out of the way… get rid of the dogs that are slowing down the entire team.  Quite a few from owners too… here’s a copy of a representative one:


I have been following you for quite a while John, and it is almost scary how much my thoughts mirror yours (and believe me, I am not very good at blowing smoke up peoples asses).


You are right on target with the 3rd Grade Teacher vs. Sales Manager analogy.


As our businesses have evolved over time from "patting a guy on the ass and telling him to return with his truck empty" to a "PFP, goal driven business involving complex layers of data", most of us have failed to make the necessary changes in qualified people to support these new goals. We need motivators and trainers on top of our organizations, not 3rd Grade Teachers reviewing MTD and YTD Sales history on a monthly basis. Our future success lies in the proper training and motivation of our front line sales teams, and our ability to “think outside the box”.


Your analysis on the CARE Act and the slippery slope we are on in terms of the 'Temperance Argument' is right on target also. It is very dangerous reasoning, and we should stick to 21st Amendment/States Rights vs. Dormant Commerce Clause and toss out the irrelevant BS jammed down our throats by overzealous attorneys. Our strength lies in our multi-generational history of providing good jobs and treating employees like human beings, and being involved in our communities, both politically and philanthropically.


Thanks for your fair and balanced approach to our businesses!


Obviously I agree with his kind words but perhaps the most important part is the last paragraph, especially the last sentence.  THAT is our strength.


As for the 3rd graders, one of the most powerful points repeatedly made by the sales and delivery reps was the one thing THEY required most was for THEIR manager(s) to become better at management.  One put it eloquently… “why is it always MY fault and the focus on changes I must make.  I’ve got a better solution… why doesn’t management get better at their jobs so they quit screwing up mine!”  Ah, the wisdom of that view from the street.  As I always note in re-organizations… it is impossible for an employee to be a good manager of their time or resources if their boss is NOT a good manager of theirs.  No matter how hard the employee tries, the boss’s lack of management will ALWAYS damage their planning.  Quite often they sooner or later just give up.


There are many areas where management can improve but one of the biggest complaints here is that wonder of modern technology, email and instant communication.


A common complaint from the reps is they are inundated by needless email communication… a virtual flood of instant communication from both their managers and their suppliers.  These sales reps have a very valid point.  There are only so many minutes in day… one can “use” them attempting to accomplish a goal or one can “use” them reading and responding to needless communication.


I have touched on this issue before in a post titled Technology and Building Mangers which can be found by clicking here and a follow-up titled Instant Communication and Poor Management which can be found here. 


The ability to communicate immediately has allowed terrible management practices to take root in many organizations.  As many of you know, some of your supplier’s personnel are the worst offenders. 


In routing sales or delivery there is no such thing as a “free” stop… even if it is right next door to another stop.  EVERYTHING takes time… and it is often more than one thinks.  The same is true for instant communications… it takes time to read each one of those emails… it takes time to respond… and it adds up.  Each person reading this article knows how much time email communication consumes.  For many of us the first hour or more of our day is consumed by it… with many more minutes eaten up throughout the day.  Think of your reps on the street… if they get only 10 emails per day and are expected to respond to each, that could easily be 50 minutes or more… that’s an hour out of a 9 or 10 hour day... over 10% of their work day.  That’s a lot of time.  And many complain of receiving FAR more than 10 per day… often with each sender wanting an immediate reply… remember these folks aren’t sitting in their offices, they are out on the street… either on the road or at an account.  Unless it is very important, they simply don’t have the time to constantly read and respond… especially to things which are not both critical and time sensitive.


Just because technology ALLOWS us to communicate instantly doesn’t mean we MUST communicate immediately.  Look in the mirror… are you regularly sending the same person or group multiple emails in a single day?  Let’s just pick an arbitrary number like 5.  If you are, ask yourself why?  Yes it is easier for the sender to zip off an email whenever a thought stumbles through your brain ;-) but unless it is an emergency, perhaps a better course of action is to wait and accumulate these thoughts and THEN send only one email… or better yet, wait and actually see the person and ask them your question.  Person-to-person communication is much more effective, consumes FAR less time, is less prone to misunderstanding, and is actually the basis for effective management. 


Technology is a wonderful thing which provides enormous benefits but it can also be extremely detrimental to proper management and interpersonal interactions.  Use this technology to your advantage but don’t let its overuse harm you or your team. 



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