Here’s a list of ten things you can do to become a rock star sales manager. Following this recipe will help you lead your team to their best ever results, and it will help you turn in your best ever performance, too.
Sales management is a leadership role. You aren’t managing a team as much as you are leading that team (I’ll have more to say about this later). If you want your team to care deeply about succeeding, about making their number, about creating value for your clients, then you start by caring about your salespeople. Show them you care about them individually.
The relationship you have with your salespeople should be a good coaching relationship. Since we’ve already established that you are going care deeply about their well being, you will already have the platform of trust that allows you to help your salespeople see their own blind spots. Good coaching is a careful balance of being non-directive and helping the salesperson learn some things on their own and being directive and telling them what you need them to do. Learn to coach the individuals on your team.
You may have thought that you took care of the need for continuous training by hiring salespeople with experience. You didn’t. All salespeople benefit from acquiring new ideas, new skills, and a further grounding in fundamental principles of good selling. Don’t ever stop providing training.
The main challenge for a sales manager is finding the time to invest in their team. Your organization is going to make serious demands of you. And what your company wants from you is important. They want reports, information, more reports, your attendance at meetings, and even more reports. At the end of the day (or quarter), you are going to be measured by how well your team does. Serve your team first. Invest your time and energy there. Be efficient in providing your company what it needs, but know it won’t make the number go up. Put your team’s needs first.
If you want your sales team to create value for clients, let them see you create value. If you want your team to persevere, let them see you persevere. If you want your team to develop themselves as professionals, let them see you developing yourself. They are going to be what you are. Be the example.
You may have found yourself in a sales management role because you did well in sales. Maybe you even closed some really big deals. You will not succeed in sales management by being the super-closer. You are already spread to thin, and your quota (read: the combined quota of each of your team members) is too large for you to make by trying to close their deals. You may need to help with some “must win” deals, but you aren’t the super-closer.
Your job as a sales manager is to create “independents.” If your sales team has to come to you for every answer, you aren’t going to succeed. Your role as a leader is to create people who can succeed in doing their job well without your help. This doesn’t mean that you won’t help them. Instead, it means you help them gain the competency to make good decisions on their own. The last thing you want or need is dependents. It will make you feel needed, but it will ruin your results. Make them independent.
It’s easy to believe that more activity will automatically equal better results. That’s because there are so many salespeople for whom this is true. But more poor activity isn’t the right answer. When you look at low activity, recognize that part of the reason it is low is likely that the salesperson isn’t effective and lacks confidence. Focus on fixing the effectiveness problem first. People like doing things they do well. Good sales management is a careful balance of activity and effectiveness.
Your sales organization is going to do things that make it tough for your team to succeed. They have good intentions, but don’t always recognize the effects of their decisions. You have to stand up to the organization and protect your team when necessary. But, once a decision is made, you never complain down. You support the decision and you march. Give air cover when necessary.
If you’ve gotten this far, it’s important to remember what you learned from your best sales manager. What did she do that helped you succeed and grow beyond anything you imagined? What made her special? It’s also helpful to recall what you learned from your worst sales manager. What did you tell yourself that you would never do if you were a sales manager? Now is your chance to apply those lessons!
Use these ten ideas as a list of prompts. Review each item and make an action plan around each one of them. Then put them into practice as fast is humanly possible; your team’s success depends upon it.