Being a sales manager is like trying to be two places at once. You’re simultaneously expected to be both a full-time sales rep and a full-time manager. You’re responsible for hitting your own sales numbers in addition to being held accountable for the numbers of each of your team members.
It’s a tough job and a real balancing act. But, through my decades of experience I’ve identified a few key skills to execute success on every front.
1. Be process-driven.
Because sales has traditionally depended so heavily on personal connections, most sales reps are relationship-driven, but not always process-driven. However, don’t underestimate your team; most sales reps can balance both. Hold your team accountable for adhering to process, including making sure everything has a labeled status in the sales cycle and everyone is updating the CRM daily.
Decide what tools to standardize and establish protocol for interfacing with other parts of the organization like legal, finance and new customers. Set up a process that works between them. Perhaps, most importantly, implement a consistent and ongoing training process to make sure every team member is on the same page.
2. Invest in training.
Because we’re all measured against hitting our numbers, sales managers tend to run around from deal to deal, leaving little time to teach. And, in an ideal world, every sales manager wants a new rep that will be able to close within a month or two.
Unfortunately, that’s hardly ever going to happen. It’s important to remember that fishing for your junior members does little help for your bottom line and their careers with the company. Take the time to focus on training instead of the latest deal by being proactive in teaching reps what to do for themselves, instead of spending your time doing it for them. Try blocking off calendar time for the whole team to sit in on training. Don’t assume reps have the tools they need. Even the most seasoned sales staff can benefit from coming back to basics – and teaching the latest and newest tricks of the trade.
3. Understand legal.
It’s not our area of expertise, so it’s all too common for managers to not understand legal terminology or know how to negotiate business terms around contracts. Failure to understand the context of what contract markups mean can be detrimental. It’s imperative to understand and recognize the difference between business and legal issues, or else you run the risk of wasted time and a possible lost deal. Many sales managers leave a lot on the table because they don’t understand contracts. To avoid that mistake, be more engaged in setting expectations before a customer sees the legal contract; don’t leave it in the hands of the legal team.
4. Pay attention to morale.
The morale of your team is everything, so do your part to keep it high. The more opportunity you give your reps to execute, the more deals will be closed, and the more everyone is paid. Help your team with that execution by removing barriers to closing. Nothing is more frustrating to a sales person than losing deals because of reasons beyond their control.
Focus on standardizing processes, and allow yourself to be the go-between with legal to avoid hold ups. Don’t be afraid to be the bad guy when needed; you’re the boss. But, at the same time, help out when necessary to get a deal pushed through. Work with marketing to ensure your team has the right tools and collateral to execute the sales cycle. As a manager, a good portion of your time should be spent trying to remove obstacles for the team, in addition to your own deals. You’re responsible for your team’s success and subsequent happiness.
5. Balance short- and long-term goals
For many sales managers, the default focus is to spend a majority of the time on short-term goals to hit quarterly numbers. However, it’s a dangerous pitfall because you run the risk of not putting enough time into hiring and training. Avoid a myopic mindset of focusing on upcoming deadlines and make sure you have enough trained reps to make your numbers two quarters from now.
It’s so important to keep long-term goals in mind by looking beyond the current month or quarter to avoid getting stuck in a bad cycle of always barely making it. Put the time into planning for capacity, analyzing projections, and enough focus into the people you have. Unlike product, sales doesn’t have think about an investment a year and a half out, but managers should be planning for long term, while deftly managing the pressures of short term.
When prioritizing roles as a sales manager, your team should come first. Take care of them the right way, by removing obstacles, offering ample training, and providing process. As a sales manager, it doesn’t matter how good you are, or how much you exceed your quota, success will never come unless your team is thriving.
Rob Eleveld is Vice President of Sales for WhitePages PRO, a contact database that is optimized to help business users get their jobs done faster and more efficiently.