The internet seems to be full of desperate cries for help regarding gaining – or improving – sales management skills. Today when I was reading through some business-related forum, I stumbled over it once again. And since it’s been building up in the back of my head for some time now, today I decided to do my bit on this topic.
So what are the qualities of an A-list sales manager? There are hundreds of answers to this question (or at least 7), but ultimately none should be taken as as gospel. A manager needs to understand the sales process perfectly, he or she needs to be able to set realistic but firm objectives, be a good role model and be a friend or a boss, depending on the situation.
It’s tough to get these down to a fine art, but you can start with placing these strong foundation stones to your sales manager role:
First of all, educate yourself. Keep track of the constant market shifts and turns, keep an eye on the marketing strategies of your company and your competitors and stay up to date with the latest HR processes and coaching techniques. It sounds like a lot to bite through and may seem irrelevant at first, but you need a detailed and up-to-date knowledge of all these areas to do your strategic planning, to be able to assemble a team of A-players and to keep them on their best performance level.
An equally important task is to educate your sales team. The wrong (and easy) path for sales management is to become a number enforcer, waiting behind your desk until the right numbers appear no matter how they’re obtained. This approach is only putting constant pressure on your salesmen. It’s an inefficient way to lead people that only leads to stress and frustration on both ends.
A good manager is literally a part of his team. He or she takes the time to make sure he and everyone around him understands the sales pipeline and will be able to define the sale process from start to end, from finding the initial leads, over spotting the possible opportunities up to the conversion and close. It is absolutely essential that both you and your team are on the same track, and that they always understand fully what you expect from them and vice versa.
The effective patterns of motivation have changed in the 21st century, according to the career analyst Dan Pink. And I can’t but agree. The traditional “carrot and stick” model is no longer an effective way to get people to their top performance levels and keep them there for the long haul, especially in working environments where a great deal of cognitive action is required.
So how do you make people work harder and better for you? The answer is surprisingly painless: make them like their job. Let them feel the impact their work has in a big picture, highlight their personal role and responsibility. Leave space for autonomy, applaud success and offer constructive help in the case of a setback. Once you manage to get people excited about seeing the results of their job, you’ll notice that even the most mind-numbing activities will be done with a whole lot more of enthusiasm. Or at least a whole lot less mind numbness.
People can get money for doing any job out there, but getting a good feeling of accomplishment and unity with the business culture out of it, that’s something that makes getting up in the morning much easier.
There are many more things to elaborate on, on the road to becoming a decent manager. You could’ve already guessed that from the first paragraph of this post, and I might come back to those other important manager roles in my posts to come. These two, however, have proven to be the universal foundation for building towards your and your team’s success.