Many first-time sales managers were former top sales reps, and often the next step career-wise is to use that productivity and success in management. The hope is that they can coach others on what they know to help their reps follow in their footsteps. But management is an entirely different ballgame, and requires a much different skill set than selling alone. In some cases, even years of selling is not enough to prepare someone for managing a team of sellers. The good news is, you can develop the skills necessary to become a good sales manager.
Here are a few skills that you can and must learn to become an effective sales leader that drives results.
Develop your team by exposing them to new thinking
In order to train and develop your team, you need to learn how they operate. One great strategy is to spend time teaching your salespeople to research and get to know their prospects together in order to come up with the best, most tailored prospecting approach. To be a great manager, you must ensure that your team is always growing professionally. Perhaps you bring guest speakers in to help teach your team specific skills. Your team will recognize when you invest in them, and it will make for a more productive, happier environment.
Tip: Did you read a book that helped you? If not, check out this list of top selling books and pick one. Buy it for the team and have a “book club” to discuss how it applies to your company.
Establish S.M.A.R.T (Specific, Measurable, Attainable, Relevant, Time Related) sales goals and clarify expectations for your team early on to ensure everyone knows what’s expected of them. You cannot hold your reps accountable if they do not fully understand your expectations. Make sure you’re being clear when those expectations change and goals shift, and keep your rigid expectations to a minimum so that reps do not become overwhelmed.
Tip: Have a mix of both activity goals (such as calls, live connects) and results (such as accounts won).
Don’t lead from the front, lead from the side along with your reps. Go on calls with them, show them how to get the job done, teach by example. There shouldn’t be any task that your reps do that you are above doing. A good manager gains respect and trust from his or her employees by contributing his or her all and takes responsibility for the results of the entire team. Another tip is to be hands on with customers, making sure you are highly visible to them and willing to help out with the relationship building. Including a manager on a call is a great way for your team to use as leverage when trying to reach difficult prospects or customers.
Tip: You could identify an executive at a prospect company that you then reach out to in order to help your rep penetrate the account.
As a sales manager, you need to be able to deal with whatever the day throws at you without losing your composure. Business is not straightforward – it’s constantly changing and evolving along with market trends, technology, and the economy. This unpredictability means that as a manager, you have to be okay with changing direction, despite having put time and effort into another approach. Lead by example, because reps will generally see change as a hindrance to their success. A good manager must be able to manage and show the value of change to their team. Often times, change will be what gets you and your reps closer to success.
Tip: Anticipate change and block 30 minutes per day of react time late in the day so that you can use it to help your reps tackle what they ask for help on.
If you want to learn how to be a good sales manager, you need to pay attention to your own personal development, and deliberately work towards embodying the characteristics of a good manager. Management skills can be difficult to master, but once you do, they are skills that you anywhere you go in your professional career.