Many sales leaders attempt to manage their team simply by looking at the team’s numbers.
They constantly look at how many opportunities are in the pipeline.
They track the number of appointments, proposals and, of course, the number of sales made for the month.
Then, the manager will attempt to hold their team accountable for maintaining some pre-determined level of results.
The problem is you can track numbers, but you can’t manage them.
You can observe your team’s results but, by that point, there is nothing you can do about them. Worse still, numbers can be a very poor indicator of actual growth and progress.
Think about it: who makes more cold calls?
The new sales development rep in their first year? Or the 20-year veteran closing 100 times more business than the rookie? More is not always better, especially when it comes to selling, prospects, and pipeline.
Managing a team of sales reps with varying motivators, egos, behavioural styles, really is no easy feat.
If you’re a sales leader, you know that it can be a complex and challenging role that requires a range of management skills to be successful.
Over the years we’ve discovered that highly effective sales managers possess a set of skills and characteristics that tend to make them stand out from the crowd.
So, how do some sales leaders continually lead successful and goal-oriented sales teams while others repeatedly hit roadblocks, obstacles, and brick walls?
Here are 10 management skills that set some sales managers above the rest.
1 | They lead by example.
Nothing builds and sustains credibility like a sales leader who leads by example.
To keep a sales team performing, sales leaders must lead by example and establish an environment that facilitates congruence, cohesion, confidence, communication, and success.
2 | They pick their team.
The #1 skills sales leaders must develop is recruiting.
Unfortunately, most sales leaders rarely hire on a daily, weekly, or even monthly basis. Anything you do sporadically is going to incredibly challenging to develop impeccable skills in.
Recruitment is not an event. Recruitment is a culture.
A great sales leader who can find, train, and retain the right sales talent will improve team performance, and sales results.
“A rising tide raises all boats.”
Picking the sales team carefully means knowing what the most important traits of successful salespeople for your business are, and where to find people that have those traits.
3 | They avoid micro-managing.
Too often sales managers rely on deadlines and metrics to drive performance, which can quickly morph into micromanaging.
Don’t get me wrong, Performetrics are important, but the best sales leaders do not ‘back-seat drive’.
Effective sales leaders understand how to work alongside their team members showing them the ‘hand-holds’, rather than ‘holding their hands’. These sales leaders’ coach and mentor their salespeople.
They adjust motivation and reward tactics to align with individual preferences.
4 | They know when (and how) to coach.
The overarching goal of coaching is to make individuals and the team better.
For sales leaders, mastering the skill of coaching is particularly important.
In fact, I strongly believe that the title Sales Manager should be actively changed to Sales Coach - at least internally.
Highly effective sales leaders realise place the highest priority on coaching. They know it builds confidence among team members. They know that focusing on coaching saves time, it does not take time.
They seek opportunities to provide feedback that will make their salespeople better. They don’t hesitate to drop everything to help salespeople address the problems and embrace possibilities in their daily work.
On the other hand, great sales leaders also recognize when salespeople don’t need or want to be coached. They adopt a ‘light-touch’, so that these individuals can get on with their high-priority tasks.
5 | They don’t create complex process.
Every team needs a clear sales methodology and goals to accelerate sales team performance.
The best sales leaders know that “Winging it” is for the birds.
However, highly regimented, complex sales methodologies can confuse salespeople.
The process should only be as complex as it absolutely needs to be. An effective sales manager knows how to enable, explain, and support a sales process. They know how to make it easier for salespeople to understand and relate to, without them feeling like they are ‘chained up in a straitjacket and dunked in a tank of water’.
6 | They communicate clear expectations.
Sales teams work best when they know exactly what is expected of them and when deliverables are due.
Though key performance indicators (KPIs) or Objective Key Results (OKRs) vary from company to company, sales reps should know exactly what happens when they meet expectations and what to expect when they miss.
It is the responsibility of the sales leader to ensure their team fully understands expectations.
People should know, at all times, what is going to keep them ‘hired’.
Equally, people should know, at all times, what is likely to get them ‘fired’.
7 | They pay attention to negative patterns.
Highly effective sales leaders think ahead and pay particular attention to team morale.
These sales leaders can spot negative patterns and trends before they become culture, and a far more significant issue.
When paying attention to small changes in salespeople’s performance, the sales leader can be proactive with coaching and mentoring before the trend becomes the culture and is too late.
8 | They enable their team by protecting their time.
Great sales leaders practice good time management habits and eliminate unproductive demands on salespeople that don’t directly drive revenue.
This makes the most of the sales team’s time and shows the team that their sales leader genuinely cares about and respects their time.
9 | They can see the big picture.
Salespeople are responsible for their own quotas and accounts, whereas sales leaders must organize the whole team’s needs.
Successful sales leaders can step back and analyse the big(ger) picture before making decisions that will impact the entire team.
They create the departmental vision, define the departmental mission, and help the team align themselves alongside that.
10 | They look for ways to make it fun.
Sales is tough! Regardless of role.
Sales leaders who genuinely care about the happiness of individuals on their team tend to achieve more with their salespeople.
These sales leaders understand the importance of showing appreciation and celebrating wins often.
Making work fun boosts productivity and helps to alleviate the constant pressures that come with sales.
The best sales leaders aren’t perfect.
But they do understand the management skills that make certain sales leaders stand out from the crowd.
They do invest in sales leadership training that aligns with their needs and helps them to achieve their ambitions of being a great servant leader to their sales teams.