Ambitious sales person, without a mathematical brain, advice please!(7 Posts)
Apologies for the long post.
I'm a sales manager responsible for a large geographic area. Recently we had a change at board level in our company and the new leadership team are markedly different to the previous boss in terms of their priorities and expectations. Whereas I was previously being asked to focus on what I'm good at - long term strategy and building customer relationships, I am now being criticised (for example) for not knowing off the top of my head how much I need to invoice on a weekly basis in order to meet my annual budget.
I'm not naturally a 'numbers person', in fact my background is design, and often even when I do know the answer to a question like that, I avoid giving a direct answer because I'm so terrified of saying the wrong figure and a really stupid one - because I know my managers would leap on that and question the hell out of it. They have all of the numbers in a report, the same one I have, so they are only asking to check whether I'm up to date. I feel very intimidated. I think it's getting to the point now that my job is under threat which is why my manager has given me a frank talk. The advice was to spend time memorising my weekly budget data and to operate a financial 'best practice' where I work on all my numbers from the ground up rather than in a vague way like it appears I am doing now.
I don't know how I can ever memorise these numbers. My memory is appalling at the best of times. I'm a creative thinker and a 'big picture' kind of a person - I have strengths in other areas but numbers are my weakest spot. I can follow the numbers but it takes me a while to sit and really consider how they all fit together, otherwise it's meaningless to me. This is time spent away from winning actual sales, so for me it always comes lower down my to-do list, meaning at busy times it drops right off.
However, I'm very ambitious and I want to progress to sales director level - I want to do what it takes to get there. How can I reconcile my poor memory and lack of agility on numbers with my love of working in sales? Is it possible to get to the top without a mathematical brain?
Any constructive advice or personal experiences shared will be greatly appreciated! Thanks x
* don't know how I can ever memorise these numbers.*
Write them down and learn them.
Annual target divided by 50 will give you your weekly invoice target.
Divide it by 40 to achieve your targets by the end of October.
How many numbers are you actually expected to know? If you are a sales manager, then you need to be close to the numbers, it stands to reason.
Do you use spreadsheets? Sales items at the side, and weeks/months along the top.
Week1 Week2 etc
Target £2000 £2000 fill this in as you get your sales target set
Sales £3000 £1000 fill this in as you go
Then at the bottom, calculate the percentage achieved.
You need on average 2% of yearly sales to be achieved each week.
So at any time, week 16 you will need 32% of sales to have been achieved. Sales to date divided by yearly target times 100 gives you your percentage to date.
Then you can update each week, in your diary and have those figures to hand for your directors.
Remember - if that's the info they want then get close to that info! Otherwise say bye bye to your job.
Alternatively, assign one staff member the task of calculating the figures you want and give them half a day each week to calculate it all, and get it to you by text - before any weekly directors meetings. Then you will always have it to hand. Write it in your diary for that week. Memorise it. Use it as your phone welcome screen if you have to.
Use the tools around you to get the info you need.
It's good advice.
To answer your question, I'm being asked to know;
Budget weekly monthly annually (I set this myself so I'm very familiar with the annual and monthly figures, the weekly tracking is relatively new)
Invoiced sales weekly monthly annually
Orders in progress w/m/a
orders anticipated to come in w/m/a (again this info is coming from me)
And where all of this sits against budget i.e. how much I need to do in any given period to hit the target.
I have access to all of these figures and my working life is filled with many excel sheets of data at the moment, from all areas of the business. But I do have a consolidated report with the specific numbers they want me to memorise.
I'm on top of my orders, I just don't remember their specific value - I think in terms of 'the really large order for customer x' or, 'the small order order for customer y'. In many cases I'm setting the numbers myself, i.e. budget and anticipated orders in.
I just can't remember all the variations off the top of my head i.e. out for lunch with my manager on Thursday, he asks how much more invoicing I have to do this week to hit budget, I can't remember without checking the data sheet on my phone and this irritates him.
Anyway I appreciate your advice and I like the 2% calculation, this will definitely help to simplify the thought process behind my weekly numbers.
If you know you're out to lunch on Thursday, then Thursday am is the time to get all of that info -do a report style piece of paper if necessary and say "I've got my up to date figures for you here."
I can understand how you feel. I started a contract PA working for several directors and I get all sorts of questions fired at me about meetings and reports. There can be about 150 meetings in all of their diaries during a week... I very often cannot remember off the top of my head and have to double check.
Probably not very helpful for you but I am leaving shortly as I believe you need to play to your strengths. I feel like a square peg in a round hole at the moment.
To be fair to the business; aspiring to be a Sales Director when numbers aren't a strong suit feels like a bit of a mismatch.
But - to be fair to you, it shouldn't be a memory test. It's not bloody Dragon's Den. If you were working for me, I'd need to know that you could understand, interpret amd act on the numbers. I might "quiz" you to give me comfort. If you were always in the position to answer the questions, I wouldn't mind if you referred to an accurate "cheat sheet" to get the numbers as Long as it didn't seem like you were looking at them for the first time and you were familiar with the dynamics & next steps. So our conversation might go
Me - how are sales today?
You - good ; we're making great headway on the deficit with some meaty orders in today bringing us flat again... Ah (you refer to your cheat sheet), yes, there are orders for 12.5k widgets in so our deficit for the quarter is only 2k widgets. Big customer x is due an order later this week...
Could you build yourself a one pager that you update every day and you'd be familiar with the format so could find specific numbers quickly? This would take extra work but the more you engage with the numbers, the more natural it'll become. If you have a fundamental skill gap in this area (ability to interpret the numbers), you're going to have issues.
Also, If they're being dicks about it and making it a memory test, it may be time to start looking for a more fitting culture elsewhere...
Are you good at sales? Are you smashing your targets?
That is the first issue about whether your job is likely to be at risk.
But, not being good with numbers is likely to be limiting to your career - IME a lot of senior sales roles include a lot of time on pipeline and prospect management, %age to target etc. you simply won't have credibility if you don't have these at your fingertips.
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