The role of a sales manager has undergone a huge shift, if not a complete transformation, over the last several years, as the art and science of sales has morphed to accommodate a more informed, proactive consumer. Sales managers are still responsible for everything from sales figures and quota management to keeping clients happy and reps motivated. However, their role has expanded from the singular executive who closes the sale, to the coach of a great sales team that consistently knocks targets out of the park.
So what do successful sales managers do that average ones don’t? The really good ones approach their role with a mindset that helps them consistently deliver desired sales results:
- They are flexible and innovative. Sales managers usually carry loads of experience with them, accumulated over their years in the field. They know from experience that certain things work and certain nothings don’t, yet are not afraid to try new things. They experiment. With everything – incentive programs, sales strategy, motivation, coaching techniques – until they find the sweet spot where it all comes together.
- They work with their teams. They understand that they are only as successful as their team. They take the time to work with each member and get to know them – their natural abilities, goals, dreams, and desires – and help each one build a plan to succeed.
- They believe in fair, not equal. They understand that not all sales people have the same abilities. There is always the top 10 to 20 percent who bring in the bulk of the business, whereas the rest of the team is a mix of average and low performers. It is the sales manager’s job to help the achievers consistently hit their targets and coach the others to bring up their game a notch or two.
- They understand how to motivate people. The best sales managers care about the incentive plan, as they understand the true value of a well-designed one. They take the time to work with Finance, HR, and other departments to create an effective plan, which rewards salespeople appropriately to increase their motivation and performance, along with modifying the behavior of poor performers. They craft the plan in such a way that it is transparent and has processes built around it to raise and address payout disputes efficiently.
- They value regular coaching. Not everyone is a natural at selling. Even the best sales people falter at times, when faced with sudden market change or increased pressure. The best sales managers know when and how to coach reps to improve their performance. They carve out time for regular team coaching to develop new skills, and if required, arrange one-on-one training for reps who may need something specialized. Coaching topics include building relationships, communication, the latest product information, and tools for improving efficiency. Research over the years indicates that high-performing sales organizations coach 15 to 20 percent more than those with low-performing teams.
- They foster two-way communication. Rather than long meetings where the sales manager does all the talking and everyone simply nods in agreement, the best sales managers value two-way communication. They take advantage of one or more collaboration tools to ensure continuous and timely communication. This ensures that two-way communication becomes a part of the team’s routine, a platform where concerns and ideas are heard and addressed. This avoids panic and confusion that ensues among reps when an ‘emergency’ or ad-hoc meeting is announced.
Great sales managers are flexible and innovative and know how to motivate their sales force.
They leverage the best platforms to touch base with their teams frequently and easily. They keep the one-on-one feedback channel open as well, meaning they are ready to listen to individual concerns as much as they are willing to set common goals and monitor team performance.
All sales managers come up with their own ways and methods to motivate their teams and ensure increasing revenues. But there are some who take this ability up a notch, and turn sales management into an art form. They are leaders who create more leaders, and in doing so, are able to hit all the quotas and numbers.