During one of our recent Sales Management seminars I had an interesting conversation with a veteran sales manager. His comments revealed a sentiment shared by many managers. He said, “I think that I’m a great sales manager. At least other people seem to think so. But things have changed so much since I started doing the job, I’m not really sure how to determine whether I am a great sales manager or not. What should I do?”
The role of Sales Manager has become a much more complex function.
Many frontline sales managers are struggling with assessing whether they are performing their role and achieving sales optimization in the best possible way. Part of the challenge is that sales managers are expected to perform a multitude of complex management and leadership functions while also helping their salespeople sell. Most are quick to admit that they have so many other responsibilities to perform that they are frequently overwhelmed by the sheer number of tasks they need to complete in a workday. The additional roles frontline sales managers must often fill include: Coach, Strategist, Politician, Communicator, Educator, Recruiter, Closer and Technologist.
Our sales management training and the operating system we teach have become so popular because we help sales managers understand the total scope of their responsibilities. Learning about current strategies and best practices helps sales managers develop a process to drive peak sales team performance. Even if you have yet to experience one of our sales manager training programs, there are still steps you can take to improve your daily work flow and eventual outcomes.
A great sales manager is one who understands, accepts and does what is needed and expected!
Great sales managers understand that their role has changed and continues to change. They accept these changes and are willing to do whatever is needed to become the best possible sales manager. We’ve been helping sales managers achieve greatness for more than two decades and have uncovered 10 ways for frontline sales managers to go from good to great.
10 Ways to Go From A Good Sales Manager To A Great Sales Manager
- Focus on personal development
Great sales managers become great because they are constantly working to improve themselves and strengthen their abilities. It is easy to be overwhelmed by work responsibilities and forget that regularly striving to improve yourself will not only make you better but also give your team a pace of improvement to follow.
- Let go of selling
There were many things you learned to do well as a salesperson, but few of them help you become a better sales manager. According to many sales managers, when they first became a sales manager they thought their job was helping their salespeople sell more. It is only later that they realize that productivity will bottleneck unless they develop their salespeople to sell more instead.
- Take the shortcut to sales growth
The shortcut to selling has always been the salesperson. By developing salespeople, frontline sales managers dramatically improve sales performance. In the same way that salespeople focus on the customer and their improvement to create sales, we suggest that sales managers focus on the salesperson and their improvement so the salesperson can do their job more effectively.
- Become an information driven strategist
In the past, sales managers provided sales coaching based primarily on their experience as a salesperson and manager. Great sales managers today rely on information reinforced by technology to develop sales coaching recommendations. Great sales managers embrace technology and use it to improve the selling competencies, processes, and strategic planning of salespeople.
- Teach, coach and manage to a customer centric selling process
Repeating the same mistakes will never cause anyone to get better. And, continuing to sell using traditional selling steps rather than customer diagnostics and buyer-seller intelligence will not significantly improve sales. We live in an age where the customer is king. Not only are customers deluged with choices, but they are more educated, sophisticated, demanding, expectant, and impatient. Salespeople must be taught how to sell in this customer-centric world. Once you’ve decided on a selling methodology that will support your company’s and customer’s needs, then you should teach, coach and manage to that process with your whole sales team. Consistent customer focused selling processes, strategy and language will improve coaching sessions and salesperson ability.
- Benchmark, analyze and assess both salesperson work and performance
People know when they are part of an elite, high-performance team. Great managers have high expectations for themselves and others. Great sales managers are willing to give the training, coaching, and support needed to improve salesperson effectiveness, but they also hold their team members accountable for consistently improving behavior, activities, competencies and results. Great sales managers do what is needed to improve team members and expect them to rise to meet or exceed their expectations. And, if someone can’t or won’t keep up with the expected development and improvement of the team, then the frontline sales manager is willing to make the tough decisions.
- Hire only the best fit for your team
Elite, high-performance employees prefer to be around other elite, high-performers. In addition to holding people accountable for improvement, great sales managers maintain a working list of high-quality potential job candidates. Great sales managers must be adept at finding, attracting and selecting the right individuals for their team. Many millennial candidates consider up to six different job opportunities before settling on the one they want to pursue. Sales managers must be great at recruiting and selection.
- Don’t look back, look forward
Things that made sales managers successful in the past won’t keep them successful in the future. There are certainly things that every sales manager learned in the past that help them to navigate the rigors of managing a sales team today. And yet, looking backward at the sales manager methodologies and strategies of the past is little help when managing the new, more technologically savvy and communication-enhanced salespeople of today. The values, character and work ethic which was so meaningful in the past is still important today. But the way we must manage, coach, communicate with and lead sales teams today is very different if we want to continue to improve selling success. Sales teams perform at exceptional levels when managed properly. If there is one thing we’ve learned to be true, creating and sustaining high performance is accomplished by focusing on where you’re going and not on where you’ve been.
- Support your sales team
Frontline sales managers are expected to support their sales team but not everyone seems to know what that actually requires. Consider this list of ways a sales manager can show support.
- Champion your salespeople throughout the organization. Expect the best from them and work to have others offer their best to help them.
- Work to improve internal company processes, communications and relationships.
- Campaign for resources and training. Nourish employees with development.
- Be present and accessible. Be available for strategizing, teaching, coaching and mentoring.
- Celebrate success! In the past, everyone focused on celebrating closed sales. Today’s salespeople want recognition for more of their accomplishments. Celebrate any salesperson accomplishment. Non-sales accomplishments can include learning, trying new things, skill improvements, and fulfilled commitments.
- Ask for guidance and help
One of the biggest mistakes a sales manager makes is assuming that he is supposed to know everything. We live in a world where everything is changing. Things move far too quickly for anyone to know everything he needs to know about being a sales manager or anything else these days. Great sales managers are not afraid to ask for guidance and help to accomplish their tasks and improve their abilities. Seek out experts! Find a mentor! And, if you don’t know where to start consider giving us a call at Learning Outsource Group.
At Learning Outsource Group we have had the pleasure of working with tens of thousands of successful sales professionals, managers and leaders and have continuously collected best practices and developed successful selling strategies for over two decades. If you seek guidance or help in developing your high performance and higher potential sales team, Learning Outsource Group can help. Our business is improving yours!
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Image credit: freedigitalphotos.net, Ambro
Written By: Kim D. Ward