16 March 2010

Business Processes and Real Management – Part 2

  1. (continued) In the second scenario, the owner or chief executive is not in charge of the sales team. In fact, the firm has generally hired an experienced “sales manager” based on this persons history and background of producing sales at some other firm in the same or a similar industry. This person has then hand-selected a team of salespeople, the sales manager often doting over them making certain that each is uniquely satisfied with their particular arrangements. This is a variation on the same prima donna theme, but with a layer of middle management.

    In both of these cases, however, the general attitude of top management at the firm is that, while they may give lip-service to something they call their “sales process,” when one digs deeper, it becomes abundantly clear that the “sales department” is really surrounding by mystique. Each hand-picked salesperson has his or her own mystical mojo that is performed in a somewhat ritual-like fashion. This mojo, when properly carried out and when not too much interfered with management and administration produces a life-stream of sales to support the rest of the company.

    In these situations, the rest of the company’s executives and managers are under the implicit understanding that “I must not mess with the salespersons’ mystical mojo or things will go badly for the whole company.” Frequently, even top executives fear treading too much on the mojo, for fear there will be bad repercussions.

  2. The second matter is that comes to mind is “sales commissions.” On numerous occasions I have asked executives, “How do you calculate and pay commissions?” A simple question?

    To this simple question, I am not infrequently given a simple answer: something along the lines of, “We pay commissions based on gross margins.”

    Simple enough, don’t you think? Until you begin to dig into the details. Then one starts hearing things like this: “Well, yes, we do pay commissions based on gross margins. But, if our buyers get a special deal on a purchase, we pay commissions on the ‘regular’ gross margins, not the actual gross margins of the sale of those special purchases.” Or, “Yes, we do pay commissions based on gross margins but, because the contract we signed with salesperson X is different from the deal we reached with salespersons Y and Z, the way we calculate ‘gross margins’ is different for each of salespersons X, Y and Z.”
So, I hear you ask, “What is the similarity between my daughter’s situation and the two examples I just mentioned?” The similarity is this: In each case the executive in charge called their decision-making a “process” (or, in the academic world, a “rubric”) or suggested that they were managing “a process” (i.e., “the sales process”). However, close inspection revealed that each decision was being made on a case-by-case basis without reliance upon a process or rubric, at all.
Note, my objection is not to the case-by-case decision-making – although I offer that this is likely not a sound approach to managing a growing SMB. Rather, my objection is to the managers’ beliefs that they are actually managing to a “process” or by “a process.”
(To be continued)
©2010 Richard D. Cushing

No comments: