Becoming a Great Sales Manager

 

The sales team is one of the most difficult teams to manage in any organization. There are way too many moving parts, it is subject to elements that can be largely beyond your control and there is a high level of human behaviors and emotions that can create different levels of unpredictability. Not to mention the fact that more often than not, unless you are managing an inside sales force, your team rarely performs in your presence. How can anyone become a good, let alone a great sales manager under these conditions? Sometimes the title of ‘Sales Manager’ becomes the cruel fate to a once top-performing salesperson who was promoted based on their results and not management abilities and the one time darling of the company now finds herself struggling in a field that she had once mastered. 

 

One of the first mistakes a sales manager (or any manager for that matter) will make is thinking that they must manage the people. This is interesting because most people do not like to manage others and almost no one likes to be managed. So why do we do this? Is management a necessary evil, a misunderstood function, or both? Either way, we become frustrated when trying to manage a sales team the same way we would build a sandcastle too close to the water. As soon as we think we got it right, the next big wave comes along and knocks it down. If you can’t move your sandcastle away from the waves (sales managers just don’t have that luxury), then you need some serious fortification to help protect what you are building. These 5 techniques will not only help you do just that, but they will also put you in the league of great sales managers.

 

  1. Manage the goals – This is a common mistake among sales managers as well as salespeople. There are either no goals in place, they are poorly communicated, they are rarely discussed, they are poorly conceived, or they are just not being tracked. You cannot manage any team if you are not constantly working together toward a goal.
  2. Manage the process –  You should have noticed that nowhere on this list do we mention managing the people. Manage your process and let your process manage the people. Your process is everything. How the team prospects, presents, services, close deals, documents, etc. If each person on the team does whatever they feel is best then you have no process and no means of managing the team. No wonder you are frustrated. Chances are that your results are probably inconsistent as well. 
  3. Manage the KPIs – Key Performance Indicators (KPIs) are not and cannot be your sales. Sales are the result of something you did in the past and there is nothing you can do to change it. KPIs are how you capture and measure the sales expectation and activities of your salespeople. Salespeople with good KPIs know how to manage themselves. This can be activities such as phone calls, meetings, visits, quotes, etc. 
  4. Manage the structure – Not all salespeople respond to structure the same way, but without it, they tend to get lost in their own ideas. Structures can take on simple forms such as scheduled meetings with defined agendas, reporting requirements, clear lines of supervision, and documentation. You cannot let any of these items up to chance with salespeople. 
  5. Manage the communication – To be a successful sales manager you must know how to have the right conversation with the right person in the right way. The right conversation means talking with each person on your team about what is, and is not, working (that’s a two-way street). The right way means that you have to be willing to listen and share feedback. You have to help your team grow, and the more often you have these kinds of conversations (we recommend no less than monthly) the better you and they will be. 

 

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