Sales Managers Juggle Competing Interests

Balancing the demands of the home office and the needs of a widely-dispersed wholesaling staff can be very challenging for a sales manager, according to a Cerulli Report.

The report said the constant need to negotiate a path between the company’s overall relationship strategy and the wholesalers’ desire for independence is a recurring issue.  “This represents a constant skirmish with field sales teams as to the proper balance of wholesaler independence versus firm-level objectives,” Cerulli researchers said.  “When inflows abound, sales management is reluctant to upset the apple cart. However, when assets fall due to outflows or market activity, firms are more likely to apply more institutional control.”

A sales manager also has to trust a widely dispersed sales team and maintain vigilance. In an effort to deal with this issue, Cerulli said some asset firms are conducting pre-employment personality screenings and selecting wholesalers from internal sales desk so the employee’s long-term behavior can be observed. “No matter how much sales managers worry about compliance, they cannot be with each member of their field team every minute, so it is imperative that the sales manager has full confidence in the judgment of any staff before they are put in the field,” noted Cerulli.

As “coach” of the wholesaling staff, sales managers are called upon to communicate home office mandates to the wholesalers.

“In this scenario, sales managers are able to able to turn the opportunities identified by key account managers into actionable sales plans that wholesalers can realistically undertake in the field,” Cerulli explained. “Having once been wholesalers, out in the field, themselves, these sales managers have the unique ability to lead the implementation of effective field tactics. In effect, they are converting ‘Here is what I’m hearing…,’ into, ‘Here is what we need to be doing…’.”

Finally, Cerulli cautioned that sales managers should deal with field issues first and then with home-office concerns.

“While it is certainly useful to have sales managers contribute to home-office strategy, it cannot come at the expense of spending sufficient time with field staff,” Cerulli argued. “Just as an adviser’s most productive time is spent with clients and prospects, a sales manager’s usefulness is measured in time spent coaching wholesalers. At some point spending ‘too much time in the tower’ becomes counterproductive, and the sales manager will begin to become less relevant in assisting field staff. In order to assure that they maintain their effectiveness, sales manager should take the perspective of building their schedules around their field responsibilities rather than slotting field opportunities around home-office commitments.“