4 real-world tips for managing sales teams [from a seasoned manager]

Managing sales teams is not as easy as it seems. Not only does it require defining key selling activities and aligning a team around them, while simultaneously monitoring and course-correcting performance, but it also means effectively managing and motivating an entire team of sellers.

That last part, alone, is a full-time job. And it’s not easy. That’s probably why the average tenure of a sales leader is only 19 months. But managing sales teams comes naturally to some people, and many have found a lot of success in the role.

One of those people is Jeremy Allen. He’s the senior director of business development for Digital Success, a multidisciplinary digital marketing agency. Jeremy has more than 16 years of experience in sales and sales leadership, and he was kind enough to share some of his secrets to success. Here’s what we learned.

Real-world advice for managing sales teams

Managing sales teams requires continuous training.

Organizations spend tens of thousands – maybe hundreds of thousands – of dollars on training sales reps every year. But they invest significantly less in training people around managing sales teams.

According to research from Vantage Point Performance and the Sales Management Association, more than 50 percent of companies invest less than a quarter of their training budget in sales managers. Jeremy suggests a more rigorous selection process for hiring and internal promotion of leadership role, as well as continuing education – even for those in upper management.

That same research from Vantage Point and the Sales Management Association shows a direct correlation between investments in sales management training and overall team performance: Companies who allocated more than 50 percent of their overall sales training budget toward management training outperform their goals by 15 percent.

Managing sales teams involves motivation – not micromanagement.

One of the biggest issues Jeremy has noticed in modern organizations is that people who are managing sales teams don’t know how to sell. Instead, they merely push their teams to “sell more.”

But just as an olympic track coach doesn’t simply tell his athlete to “run faster,” modern sales managers must provide more specific motivation for their teams.

“I like to push, but there’s a fine line between being a negative force rather than a positive force,” Jeremy told us.

He’s right. Positive motivation comes in a lot of forms: inexpensive sales incentives, competition and recognition. New research has also discovered that more powerful sources of motivation are intrinsic; the desire for autonomy, mastery and purpose can also drive sales people to success (learn more about intrinsic motivators here)

Managing sales teams involves perpetual sales coaching.

Research shows that effective sales coaching improves performance. Yet, the average sales leader spends less than 20 percent of his or her time on proactive coaching. Jeremy knows this shouldn’t be the case.

“The biggest lesson I’ve learned is that [managing sales teams] is essentially a ‘never-ending coaching job,’” he explained, adding sales leaders can find something to coach on every day.

Managing sales teams means engaging in all different types of coaching, from one-on-one sessions to ad hoc account planning. Click here to download a free coaching agenda to use during those sessions.  

Managing sales teams means having two ears, one mouth.

Sales managers often think the “management” part of their title means that they should always be telling sales reps what to do and how to do it. But the reality is quite different. As Jeremy explained, sales leaders need to listen.

“Every person learns differently. Every person has things they do well and things they need to improve on,” Jeremy said. “When you understand your team and how they learn, you can increase both what they’re good at and what they aren’t.”

His advice is to really take the time to understand your salespeople, as they are much more than just a number in a system. Check out these tips for how to make the most of your one-on-one meetings with reps, where reps have a consistent forum to speak their mind and inform you of what they need for success.

Take the time to ensure you’re managing sales teams in the most successful way possible. Have any other real-world advice that you think we should add to this list? Let us know in the comments below!

4 real-world tips for managing sales teams [from a seasoned manager]
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4 real-world tips for managing sales teams [from a seasoned manager]
Managing sales teams is not as easy as it seems. That's why we pulled together four critical parts of sales management that every leader should employ.
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