“It is indeed wonderful that so simple a figure as the triangle is so inexhaustible
in its properties.”
— A. L. Crelle
When I was in school, I questioned the value of studying geometry. But today, it makes a lot of sense to me. In fact, an equilateral triangle mirrors many of the daily challenges of a frontline sales manager.
The frontline sales manager triangle – customer, business, and people
An equilateral triangle has three equal sides and three equal angles. Let’s map these three equal sides to the FSM’s core areas – the often competing areas of customer, business and people.
Customer: This area is all about customer-management strategies, their implementation and execution across the sales team. It covers customer definition and segmentation, territory and account management. Understanding the customers’ typical challenges, their context, the relevant buyer roles and how they want to buy are key criteria for designing tailored engagement and growth strategies. This knowledge has to be mapped to the individuals on the sales team—their specific expertise, skills, competencies and talents (see below)—to make the right resource allocation decision.
Business: The business area is all about executing the concepts and frameworks sales operations has implemented, for example in the areas of sales funnel management and reporting, performance management, and compensation plans. FSMs have to implement and to execute these concepts with their sales teams. The FSM’s special focus in the business area is funnel management and forecasting. Based on their regular coaching sessions with their team members, FSMs get the necessary clarity on current leads and opportunities to generate accurate forecast data. The foundation for coaching is the availability of leading indicators that measure the performance of the sales activities that are directly managed, influenced and measured by the FSMs.
This area describes the FSM’s most important role, the role as a frontline sales leader and coach. Whatever team the FSM is leading, sales performance begins with knowing each individual and understanding their current level of skills, competencies, knowledge and expertise to determine the best strategies for resource allocation, professional development and coaching. Whatever has to be executed in the customer and business area, the seeds for success are planted in the people area, based on a thoughtful coaching approach. Apart from the individual coaching, the FSM has to build a collaborative, sharing and learning culture across the team. Inspiring A-players to share their best practices allows everyone to learn from everyone else. Performance management is another key area, based on sales operations’ criteria. Performance management cannot shirk the tough calls on resource allocation, hiring and employee dismissals.
The FSM triangle provides a framework to balance the three often competing areas of customer, people and business to increase sales productivity and to drive transformation. The triangle’s foundation is based on core principles and values that work as a guideline across the triangle. This foundation is about conscious collaboration and performance accountability.