5 Simple Choices That the Best Sales Managers Make

Gregg Schwartz

Many people think sales management is complicated and mysterious, that there's some unknowable process to becoming a great sales manager, or that great sales managers are born, not made. It's true that talent and hard work and people skills are all part of the mix of succeeding as a sales manager, but for many of the best sales managers, success is a matter of choice. That’s right: you can choose to be a great sales manager, just by making a few simple decisions that anyone in any organization can emulate.

Here are five choices that great sales managers make – and you can make these same choices too:

1. Encourage entrepreneurial attitudes and create an entrepreneurial sales culture. The best salespeople are entrepreneurial at heart – they love to create opportunities; they want massive, unlimited upside; they thrive on challenges and they’re willing to take big risks as long as you let them grow and prosper and reap the rewards. Great sales managers understand this, and they choose to create an entrepreneurial culture within the sales team. What does this mean in practice? Give your top performers free rein. Show your sales people the upside of great performance, instead of bogging them down with too many process-oriented constraints and limitations. NOTE: Giving people “free rein” doesn’t mean that you should take shortcuts or allow unethical behaviors; even your top performers still need to be held accountable for upholding the best standards of the organization. But sales managers need to decide every day to try to unleash more of their people’s potential instead of standing in the way of success.

2. Have tough conversations early and often. Everyone on your sales team needs to know what is expected of them and what the consequences are for non-performance. Sales is a hyper-competitive business, and that’s fine! But your sales team will prosper if you build a culture of accountability and transparency from Day One, even for (especially for) the lower performers who will need to be let go or managed out. Lower performing sales people need to know where they stand. This doesn't mean you have to be a jerk, but you have to be transparent and deliver guidance and feedback ASAP to help get people back on the right track. And if the time comes that you need to fire some sales people, it should not come as a surprise to anyone. Help people move on to a different organization where they will be a better fit, and keep encouraging productive competition and permissible levels of churn within your team.

3. Lead from the front. The best sales managers don't stop selling just because they're managers – they're still working the phones and closing deals and leading by example everyday. Your sales people will respect you more if they see you picking up the phones and getting involved with demos and otherwise helping to shepherd deals through to completion. Moving to sales management doesn’t mean an escape from the work of sales – it means heightening your performance and becoming more of a leader of your peers.  

4. Keep your sales team immune from organizational politics. This is easier said than done, but it's still a choice you can make – fight hard within your organization to keep your sales team independent and liberated from negativity or bureaucratic inertia. The best sales people tend to hate organizational politics and they want to be out in the world talking to customers. Your job as their manager is to protect them from the worst aspects and influences of your larger company culture; let your sales people stay focused on selling.

5. Keep learning. This choice might be the simplest and most important of all! Be an enthusiastic adopter of new sales technologies, sign up for training, keep being curious and finding new ways to inspire your team. Many of the best sales people are relentlessly curious and self-taught experts in their field. If you show your team that you still have an unquenchable curiosity and desire to get better at your profession, the rest of your team will want to raise their game as well.

Being a sales manager is a tough job, and many factors of success might feel like they are beyond your control. But the truth is, there are several key elements to your success as a sales manager that come down to making some simple choices. If you decide to build a strong entrepreneurial culture, practice transparency, lead by example, preserve your team’s independence, and keep learning every day, your team will be more likely to thrive.

Gregg Schwartz is the Director of Sales for Strategic Sales & Marketing, one of the industry-founding lead generation companies servicing the B2B marketplace. Gregg has developed and implemented hundreds of lead generation programs resulting in millions of dollars in revenue for his clients.