Achieving success as a sales professional is a formidable challenge in and of itself—managing a diverse team of sales pros can often be an even more complicated endeavor. In addition to having the knowledge base and sales skills that you’re trying to foster in those who report to you, successful sales managers must also possess a lengthy laundry list of leadership skills, managerial know-how and techniques, and various other traits and attributes. When you consider all that a typical sales manager has piled on his or her plate, it’s easy to see why success in this role often remains elusive.
But if you think that great sales managers are born rather than made, think again. Due to the wide-ranging skill set that sales management demands, it’s rare to find someone who fits the bill completely from the get-go and can effortlessly hit the ground running. In fact, the majority of those who wind up in a sales management position came from either a sales background or a management background, so almost everyone finds themselves scrambling to round out their knowledge base when they first assume such a role.
With the New Year upon us, it’s a great time to take a look at your sales management skill set and expend some effort to expand your capabilities. Here is a rundown of just a few of the fundamental facets of sales management success, drawn from the work and writings of some of the leading lights in the field.
Learn how to bring out the best in your team. First and foremost, successful sales managers are great coaches who can pinpoint the motivational techniques and mentoring methods that work well for each individual team member. If you tend to fall back on a few basic coaching methods or often favor a “one-size-fits-all” approach, it may be time to consider expanding your bag of motivational tricks!
Establish—and stick to—a structure that works. Although IT sales groups often require a bit more latitude than other types of organizations, it’s up to the sales manager to define and maintain a set of standard parameters, procedures, and guidelines that make sense for your firm. Confronted with too much unfettered freedom, even the best sales pros tend to drift off-course.
Empower team members to make the right decisions. The flipside to allowing your team too much freedom is allowing them too little, a sales management mistake that many of the top experts in the field have warned against repeatedly. If you don’t grant your team enough latitude to make their own calls and respond to changing circumstances, you may be seriously circumscribing their ability to seal the deal. Still, make sure that employee empowerment is tempered by a sense of accountability.
Encourage and embody accountability. Sure, there are a lot of external circumstances that can impact your team’s sales success, but try to resist the temptation to shirk responsibility for the factors that you can’t control. Instead, adopt an attitude of accountability and encourage your team to do the same. You may be surprised at how much this one change can shift the tenor in your organization.
Pour more care into hiring and professional development. Another key facet of sales management is learning how to be a careful and strategic curator of your sales team. When it comes to recruitment, take your time and consider incorporating “action”-based interviews into your hiring process, so you can get a good look at the skills behind the spiels, as it were. Work hard to identify and help enhance each team member’s key strengths, as well as to remediate any areas of weakness, through ongoing training and education.
How did you gain the skills you use as a sales manager? What’s the one piece of advice you’d offer to someone just starting out in the field? Give us your input in the comments.