Secrets of Successful Sales Managers
All too often, new sales managers land in a leadership role based on their ability to sell.
They were a fantastic salesperson who constantly hit goals and quickly rose to the top. Because of this, many don’t know the first thing about sales talent management. One of the quickest ways to ramp up new sales managers is to help them become aware of and avoid the mistakes that are commonly made by less successful sales managers.
Mistake 1. Failing to Establish a Repeatable Sales Processes
Many sales managers look to hire “self-motivated” individuals and let them loose to sell however they deem appropriate. Managers may rely too heavily on the natural talent of the sales reps to develop and close business.
Most sales managers want salespeople to be happy and independent. They don’t want to be seen as micromanagers and believe that salespeople should be able practice their “art” without undue management interference.
However, while the intention is good, the lack of a sales process means that every salesperson in the group (including the sales stars) must “re-invent the wheel” because there’s no way to share what’s worked in the past.
Successful sales managers create and document a realistic and workable sales processes. These processes describe the various stages that the buyer typically goes through and document how salespeople can move the buyer through the next stage of the sales process.
Ideally, sales managers hold monthly or quarterly meetings to share what worked and what didn’t, and fold those observations into the process, when appropriate.
Mistake 2. Hiring the Wrong People
Sales managers often hire job candidates who have no natural sales talent. Admittedly, it can be very difficult to find talented salespeople. Candidates who have worked inside other companies often have bad habits. Candidates without prior sales experience are can be something of a crapshoot. The only practical way around this pitfall is to make certain that candidates are properly assessed to confirm that they have the basic talent and characteristics to be able to sell in that environment.
Mistake 3. Depending on Salespeople’s Natural Talent
Even salespeople who are lucky enough to possess extraordinary natural talent can benefit from coaching by a sales manager, if only because such coaching provides an additional perspective as to what’s working (and what’s not) in given sales situations.
In addition, most sales jobs today require specialized knowledge such as specific information about how businesses in the target industries operate and how the firm’s products help customers within those industries. Such knowledge is not innate.
Successful sales managers therefore provide a menu of coaching options and work with each individual salesperson to determine how to overcome intrinsic weaknesses while simultaneously taking advantage of natural strengths.
Mistake 4. Trying to Motivate Salespeople
While sales is often compared to professional sports, the analogy breaks down when managers attempt to give salespeople “pep talks” rather than provide real coaching. Psychologists have repeatedly proven that one person, however enthusiastic, cannot motivate other people. All motivation is internal in the sense that individuals take action (or don’t) based upon their own reasons.
Successful sales managers realize that, when it comes to motivation, the most they can do is set up the conditions under which employees can find their own motivation as well as the hope of seeing that motivation result in achievement. Ideally, managers adopt a variety of tools to create those conditions. For example, some salespeople may be motivated by public rewards while others might be motivated by having flextime to spend time with their families.
Mistake 5. Leaving Bad Hires in Place
Managers sometimes keep failing salespeople on board, hoping that they’ll somehow acquire the necessary talent to at least become average performers. This is usually the result of the manager feeling sorry for the non-performer. In environments without assessments, this tendency can be compounded by an inability of the manager to admit that he or she is not a good judge of sales talent.
Keeping non-performers on board damages the ability of the rest of the team to perform to their potential. It creates a lower standard of performance for everyone while simultaneously lowering the group averages. Worst case, the rest of the team is forced to do extra work so that the team can make quota.
Successful sales managers continually monitor the newly hired salespeople to ensure that there’s not a problem with basic selling skills. Sales managers provide coaching on skills that appear to be lacking, but if that doesn’t work, they cut their losses. This is ultimately kinder to the non-performer, who can now find a more compatible position elsewhere.
Mistake 6. Focusing Primarily on Sales Stars
Having one or more “sales stars” on a team can be a good thing, provided the sales force manager doesn’t favor the stars over the average performers. If the manager is not careful, he or she can end up giving the stars all the hot leads and recognition while overlooking the contributions of the rest of the team.
While this often results in the stars closing business that otherwise might not be closed, it alienates everybody else on the sales team and makes it seem impossible for average performers to ever fulfill their individual potential.
Successful sales managers keep the playing field level. They hand out leads equally among the sales staff and strive to develop the potential of everyone on the team through ongoing training and coaching.
To read more about successful sales management, check out our blog: “8 Habits of a Great Sales Manager.“