Being a top sales rep does not automatically qualify you for a management position. You'll quickly learn that a sharp cracking of the whip won’t magically increase your sales figures, nor will it help earn you respect amongst your peers; what may have worked for you isn’t necessarily applicable to your whole team. However, that’s not to say you can’t find a way. Whether you have recently found yourself in a managerial position, or are simply looking to improve upon what you already know, here are a few qualities found in every (scratch that, most) good sales managers.
It may be an age-old cliché found in every managerial, relationship-building guide known to man, but there really is nothing more important. How? You must start by following up your talk, with action. Earn your team’s respect. If you have scheduled a meeting, be there, on time. Don’t turn up 5-10 minutes late; it looks bad and reflects poorly on you as a manager. If you’re going to set rules, make sure you enforce them. Finally, and perhaps most importantly, never, ever lie to your sales team. If you’ve made a mistake, own up to it. Don’t cover it up. Everyone makes a mistake at some point in their working life, and your sales team needs to know they can come forward to you, in confidence, should such an eventuality happen. Trust in your team and it shall be returned.
Whether it’s positive or negative, your sales team needs to know how they’re progressing. When they close a difficult sale, let them know it, otherwise they will begin to question why they’re putting in the graft. As you well know, everybody likes their ego tickled and stroked every now and again and why not? It doesn’t take much on your part. However this approach also needs to be balanced – but delicately. Don’t whip out the naughty stick every time a forecast is missed. That doesn’t help. Instead make sure to break down the issue; do they have too many clients? Do they need a more mobile CRM? Whatever the issue, ascertain what went wrong, why and work with them to fix it.
Set realistic, yet challenging goals
Salespeople are the most competitive people out there. If you meet a rep that says otherwise, they’re lying, or they’re in the wrong profession. The way to channel this natural competitiveness is to set targets, short-term and long-term goals. Having a mixture helps; a little bit of carrot and stick, if you will. Attainable targets for that sense of pride and those a little farther afield, just so they have something serious to aim for. Also, why not stir up a little competition amongst the ranks, like a weekly leader board. Churn the butter; nobody wants their name at the bottom of a list.
No good manager sits behind their desk all day. Yes, you have administrative duties that your team may or may not be aware of, but that’s not their problem. You need to be seen, to be visible, to lead by example. Roll up your sleeves, pick up your rifle and bayonet and head back to the trenches. Take a little time to go and coach your reps out in the field. Accompany them on a couple of sales visits. Show them how it’s done, provide some constructive feedback and witness the results. They’ll appreciate the active interest you’re taking into their work and who knows? It could also help you, too. A refreshing reminder of what it’s like to be out there, on the road, selling. It definitely won’t do you any harm to try.
Finally, make sure your being open and transparent with your team. This isn’t just about being honest with them on a performance level (that should be a given) but about the team’s operation on a corporate level. As a manager you are privy to the unseen; budgets, customer relationship feedback, operational planning. While there are things that are obviously to be kept behind closed doors, just think about what can be shared, how it can help your team and why. Don’t be unresponsive, be proactive and ensure your staff remain engaged and aware of the part they are to play in your company’s future.
There’s no golden-brick road to sales management success, unfortunately, as the journey’s made up from a collection of personal experiences, unique to you. Embrace them, review them, and accept them as part of the constant learning process that comes from managing a team.
Keep these 5 tips handy and I assure you, you won’t go far wrong.