Be a Better Sales Manager with These 3 Tips
Sales professionals face one of the toughest challenges when it comes to future promotions and advances in their career. Great salespeople get noticed when achieving success in their craft, at which point offers for promotion to management can then follow. The thinking is sound: if you can consistently beat quota, why not lead a team to do the same? Yet these individuals with strong sales acumen often don't become a better sales manager.
The challenge is that your skill-set must evolve when moving to management – training should follow this promotion, but often doesn’t. This issue exists in other fields, but it seems to be more pronounced in sales. If you are a sales professional that has experienced success in your career and are now looking at a promotion to management, what can be done to be a better sales manager?
Here are a few pointers that might help ease your transition.
Being a Better Salesperson Isn’t the Same as Being a Better Sales Manager
The first important concept to embrace is that your role has changed from being an individual contributor to driving a group’s performance.
This is a big deal. Will you still be involved in moving deals through the pipeline through closing? Of course. But, this can no longer be your primary objective.
A great way to illustrate this point is to convert this concept into an image, which I have attempted to do so in Chart 1. Of course, no two jobs are the same, so no two successful sales professionals will spend their time the same way either. And, time allocations will vary by industry. But, keeping it at a high level, the concepts shown below helps point to how the role of an individual contributor changes when being promoted to being a manager.
Given this shift in focus and responsibility, what are some tips on how to be a better sales manager and make a successful transition into sales management?
The first concept is that you need to be mentally ready to start doing a new job. Be open to spending your time differently during the day, and embrace this change. You have a new job, so set the mental expectation that it will be different.
Having achieved the right mindset, here are three concepts that when applied together, will help you to be a better sales manager.
1. Embrace an “Always be Learning” Mindset
We all get the emails or “snail” mail promising a new way to achieve greater success in our job, shared as an online webcast, an event to attend or as a company meeting. As a sales manager, you need to attend some of these.
You need to start devoting more time into process improvement and not just hit “delete” to the next invite you get on one of these learning opportunities. Of course, by the fact that you are reading this blog post, congratulations. You are already on your way to embracing this strategy.
The next step is to identify those learnings that might make sense for your team, and to then share and execute upon them. Of course, this is difficult given the time importance allocation chart I shared. This type of activity is seldom at the top of any sales person’s agenda – especially those who are higher performing.
Here is where good judgement must be applied, and why this skill is so important while in a management capacity. Be selective, be concise and choose carefully what topics and concepts that would make the best sense for your team, for your industry and for your organization.
Note that formal training programs, events or books are not the only way to identify opportunities for learning. Opportunities for learning can appear almost anywhere, and be as simple as saving a few steps when inputting an order to a shared company directory where great images are located for inserting into sales proposals.
The concept here is to have this mentality whereby you are always on the hunt for new methods or processes that can simplify, streamline or somehow improve the efficiency of your team’s activities. Remember – it isn’t just you that will be positively impacted by this change, but your entire team.
2. Share Accolades and Best Practices
This could be referred to as being a “cheerleader” for your team. We all appreciate being recognized for the effort and results we accomplish. It doesn’t matter what your role, seniority or experience. Everyone can benefit through encouragement that we are doing the right thing. This is just human nature – we are wired this way.
Good sales professionals understand this concept very well. When big deals close, they are usually quick to send out a note to the team, business unit or even the entire company (depending on the size of your firm) thanking all involved for making the sale.
The reason is simple – large deals require a group effort. If you don’t appreciate all the time invested by your co-workers, they might not be as ready to support you next week when you need their help again.
Being a better sales manager means making a point of not waiting until a big deal closes to thank your team. Opportunities for public recognition include the celebration of any success, and to take note of when someone put in a good effort. One of the lessons I learned from reading Jack Welch’s book Winning: The Ultimate Business How-To Book is that great leaders always recognize success achieved by their team – and never blame their team for missing a goal, owning that themselves. Is this a practice you embrace?
3. Ensure Process Consistency Across Your Team
Once a new learning, sales strategy or process improvement has been identified, it is now your job to ensure that process is replicated across your team. Better yet, share this learning with other sales teams across your organization.
This is an important concept, and one that really separates management from staff. Your overall goal is that of achieving sales success – at the company level – not at your individual quota level.
Of course, it is still critical to get as many on your team to achieve quota. You, as a manager, will likely have your own quota metric too, one that is likely based on a certain percentage of your team getting their numbers. If the team does well, so too will you.
How can you be sure that everyone on your team is adhering to the best practices you have identified? How do the learnings you identified get executed upon? Given the often regionally distributed nature of sales teams, this can’t be simply achieved from walking down the hall. Tools are needed to achieve this objective - such as what is provided by Prodoscore - that fortunately are now readily available and easy to use.
Time should be spent in a consistent way. Tasks should be prioritized, based on what week of the month it is, or if quarter end is approaching. A quick and easy way to accomplish this objective could be the difference between achieve team success, or not.
The effectiveness of these three concepts lies within how well you can incorporate them together as an integrated concept or strategy. When combined, you have a powerful process that can be replicated to amplify performance and be a better sales manager.
The more praise that is shared with others, the more willing they will be to hear what you have to say and be open to new ideas. New concepts can then be implemented and accepted with greater success, helping to drive more to a culture of process improvement. Success will then breed more success. And, all of this can be accomplished without having to be on every sales call or micromanaging your team.
These concepts can provide an excellent framework to becoming the coach your team needs to grow as an organization, and feed greater self-confidence and performance. It is then at that point you have achieved a win-win for everyone, and are now in line for executive sales management!