Like most things in business, the art of sales is a delicate balancing act that changes from company to company and situation to situation. I can’t give you any single hard-and-fast rule as to when it is appropriate or not to bring a sales manager into the process. I think this goes back to the idea of adaptability. You need to know how to read what’s happening around you and make the necessary adjustments.
I think that alongside how early management gets involved is how often they have to be a part of the sales cycle. I’ve been in situations where managers and even VPs get involved briefly early on, mostly as an introduction and then don’t return to the process until it is necessary. I’ve been part of year-long sales cycles where the sales manager got involved in month two and then not again until month 11. It’s all about figuring out what’s appropriate to the situation.
The top brass at your company can make certain promises and answer questions that you as a salesperson or sales manager either don’t have the authority to make, or don’t know the specific answer to.
I recall when I was finishing a deal with Mellon Bank that took nearly five years, one of their VPs point-blank asked our president what would happen in the event that our company was sold to somebody else.
Our president assuaged their fears and said that service would not be interrupted in any circumstance and we were fully committed to support them.
The following Monday morning we were sold to Cisco.
Creating A Plan
In both my roles, as a salesperson and when I went to the other side as a sales manager, I would lay out a game plan when it looked like a deal was coming together.
I found that it helped putting together a map of the potential sale, part of which included those moments when the sales manager, or higher executives, should get involved. That allowed me to be prepared when it was time to bring them on board.
As the sales manager, I tried to let the salesperson take the lead and conduct business at the proper speed for the individual account because I was too busy to micromanage. I know the case was the same for the managers above me.
I thought that bringing the managers and executives in on deals, especially when we had to travel and be face-to-face with the client, was a lot like having bullets in a gun. You only want to fire them when you’re close to the target, and you need to make it count. If you bring the president of the company to every meeting, it makes your company look very small and the client likely wonders why they don’t have more pressing matters.
You can certainly count on a deal taking proportionally longer based on the size of the client you’re dealing with and how many people it will take to bring in on the deal.
Depending on the salesperson and the deal, I usually had one-on-one meetings weekly or monthly to discuss the deals they were working on. If a deal had red flags, the salesperson was struggling, or they were new to the process, I sometimes checked in daily. It doesn’t take much for a deal to fall apart, and you don’t want to be the one to have to tell your boss upstairs why your team failed.
The sales process has to remain fluid and the team must stay flexible and adapt to what is necessary to close the deal. Your company is in business to make money and as long as either you or your team are hitting their numbers, your approach is likely working.