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Creating a stellar sales force with Chris Hanley

Every office needs a sales manager – it’s the hardest job but the most rewarding.

No matter what we do in sales – as sales people, sales trainees, sales administration - sales people need a leader who's focused on the little cogs that make the big wheels move in the sales department. Listings don’t just happen; they need thousands of minutes, of hours, of effort to make them come together under the stewardship of a sales manager.

Chris Hanley from Byron Bay First National and REA’s Building an All Weather Business knows the full story of sales management. He says, “I've made every sales management mistake that you could. I know it's the hardest job in the shop. I think it’s a thankless job in some shops, because you've got a principal who has a sales manager who’s responsible for driving results. If the results aren't there, then the sales manager can often end up being blamed.”

However, Chris believes that sales management is also the greatest job and he has seen and worked with the best. He explains, “It’s the job, in my view, with the most satisfaction. It’s the job that allows someone to really test his or her character. It’s a job that allows you to do the greatest thing you can do in any business - watch and help people grow.”

When should you engage a sales manager?

Chris says, “I think if you’ve got three or four staff, you can certainly have a sales manager, and he or she will be a selling sales manager. I don't know that the size is so important. If you had a small team and a sales manager, you can teach or train them as you grow into a bigger team.”

Who best suits a sales management role?

You need someone who genuinely likes and is interested in people. Chris says, “If you’re out there and you’re a sales manager or you’re a principal and one of your staff walks up the hallway towards you, and you know that he or she has got a myriad of questions to fire at you, and you just want to close the door and bolt it, or go to the pub, then you’re in the wrong position in your company!” Chris believes, “If you're thinking about employing a sales manager, or you are a sales manager and you don’t get a real kick out of watching and helping people grow; if you really don’t get satisfaction out of watching people start with you when they’re young, earning $40,000 a year and go onto $150,000 a year and change their life; if you don’t get a satisfaction and happiness out of that, then being a sales manager is probably not for you.”

Coaching not managing is the key

The greatest sales managers in any industry are coaches. Chris explains, “Coaches don’t take the field. The greatest coaches don’t list and sell - they often list and do a bit of selling, but again, there's no definitive answer because it depends on the stage of the business. Sales managers know when to come in, when they get involved in a deal, when they are needed. They know the touch points.” He continues, “Coaches love questions. Coaches love challenges. Sir Alex Ferguson who coached Manchester United for 27 years never gave a position to anyone who wasn’t a sore loser. When I first saw that, I thought, ‘Wow. That describes half the real estate team that I have met during all my years’. When I thought about it, it’s actually true. Sore losers are people who don’t like losing, and all great sales people don’t like losing. If you want to be a great sales manager, you got to study coaching, not management. The way to make management easier is to coach people to be better, not to manage them to be better. Coaching is about improving the skills. It’s about listening to the staff. Managing to me is still a word that’s more about bossing them around. For me, all the great sales managers, and all the great people who build big sales teams, are great coaches rather than dictatorial managers.”

Self-motivation is important

A sales manager must be self-motivated. Chris says, “You won't hear ‘thankyou’. Being a sales manager is lonely and thankless, but you don’t do it for that reason.” Further, there will be no cavalry. Chris warns, “No one is going to come and save you. At the end of the day, at the end of the month, the only thing that matters for sales managers is the results, and sometimes you've got to play ugly. By playing ugly, you’ve just got to focus on things, and we just had five and six years of it, where the results, the listings, and the sales are the most important things, and you’ve got to do whatever it takes.”

Follow the four-letter plan

Chris believes the four-letter plan will get you through. He explains, “P-L-A-N: Prospect, List, Adjust, and Negotiate. If your day doesn't involve training or coaching or focusing on prospecting or listing or adjusting or negotiating – if it doesn't involve those four things, then you're not doing the right thing and you're not focused on the dollar productive activities.” He continues, “A sales person should only be doing these four things. He or she shouldn't be putting in a sign, or taking photos, or writing ads generally, or floor plans, or the myriad of other things that sales people do.” Get specialists in to do all the other things. Chris says, “We have specialists – really, really fantastic admin people who do the marketing, who do the work with the lawyers, who do financial management, who look after the settlements. All of these people do specialist jobs, and then we have two photographers that work for our business, and then we have the people who do designs, and we have the people who make our floor plans and so on.”

Sales people must focus on what they are good at – SALES. Every office needs a sales manager.


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