Excellent sales managers aren’t made overnight. As a manager, you’re always learning and growing along with your sales team. Every team member has a unique reaction to your management style, and it takes a great manager to navigate all those unique situations and relationships. Here are five off-the-beaten-trail tactics you can use to foster those relationships and move toward being an excellent sales manager.
1. Adopt a mentality of “helper,” not “critic.”
While some salespeople may respond well to unabashed criticism, that’s not usually the norm. Sure, it’s motivating sometimes, but you might end up with some adverse reactions, rather than all positive ones.
You rarely know what it is that’s keeping a salesperson from working to their full potential, whether it’s some frustration that’s work-related or personal. Instead of criticizing them, focus on using empathy while teasing out the problem. Only after getting the real issue out in the open can you help the salesperson to get past the issue and move on to improve their performance.
2. Consider the possibility that your management style might be part of the sales rep’s problem.
Salespeople don’t quit companies, they quit managers. People don’t immediately and automatically work well with everyone else. As a manager, that goes for you, too! Not everyone on your team will be enamored with your management style right off the bat. Just like any other relationship, it takes openness on the part of both people to make it workable.
That means you being open to receiving constructive suggestions from your salespeople. Try sending out anonymous surveys about your management style and ask for feedback from your salespeople about how you can improve. Experienced salespeople, especially, will be more motivated to implement your coaching if you are open to ideas from them on how you can be a better manager.
3. You have to fix what your sales people are doing from the very beginning.
Is your sales team having troubles closing sales? Most managers try to fix the problem by getting involved in deals as they approach the close. But if salespeople’s mistakes occurred sooner, you’re too late to make a difference.
Problems closing likely stem from the beginning of the sales process, not the end. Try coaching some deals from beginning to end so you correct mistakes made sooner.
4. Know each salesperson’s money goal or other motivation.
Your job as manager is to help your salespeople make more money! That’s why most of us work, right? We need our incomes to live the kind of lifestyle we’re looking for. Your salespeople are motivated by some sort of money goal, whether it’s buying a home, sending a child to college, buying a new car, or putting a bunch of money into retirement funds. Salespeople are motivated by that end goal, and when you ask about what that end money goal is you better understand the inner workings of each salesperson. How can we consider ourselves a motivational leader if we don’t know what motivates each salesperson? Take the time to get to know what each of your team members’ motivations are, then become a facilitator in helping each salesperson toward his or her goal.
5. Ask questions that get salespeople to think from the customer’s perspective.
The best salespeople are those that can think from the customer’s perspective, and the best sales managers are those that teach this skill to their teams! For salespeople to excel, they must be empathetic to customers.
So, as the manager, you need to teach your salespeople the skill of empathy. You do this by asking questions about the buying process during deal reviews. A few of my favorite questions to ask are:
- Where is this prospect at in their buying process and why do you think that?
- What problems does this customer have that we can solve better than anyone else?
- What are their buying criteria?
- Who is our #1 competitor for this opportunity and what’s your plan to win?
Becoming an Excellent Sales Manager, per Lou Holtz
Years ago my first employer, Lanier Worldwide, hired Lou Holtz (the legendary football coach) to come speak to our group of 100 sales managers.
Holtz told us that coaching a football team and coaching a sales team have a lot in common. He said that in football it’s easy to overcomplicate things with a massively thick playbook packed with Xs and Os. But at the end of the day, according to Holtz, your team members ask themselves three fundamental questions about you: Do you know what you’re talking about? Can I trust you? Do you care about me?
By applying the five tactics in this article you’ll have a sales team that answers “Yes!” to each of Holtz’s questions.
Kevin F. Davis is the president of TopLine Leadership and the author of “The Sales Manager’s Guide to Greatness,” which has been named the 2018 Axiom Business Book Award Winner, Silver Medal. Kevin is also the author of two sales books: “Getting Into Your Customer’s Head” and “Slow Down, Sell Faster!”