Managing a sales team is a tough job.
All sales managers receive pressure from two directions: pressure from the executive level to produce numbers and pressure from their team to be good advocates.
Mastering this delicate and diplomatic balancing act is what makes a good sales manager.
Take a look at the most common bad habits that can make the job of managing a sales team even tougher than it needs to be.
Top Bad Sales Management Habits and How to Break Them
1. Poor communicator.
A good sales manager is really a good messenger. She has to be able to take criticism from upper management and present it to her team in a way that feels encouraging.
The best managers realize that interpreting communication from one side of the company for another is the name of the game, and work to facilitate cooperation between the two departments without letting their feelings get in the way.
2. Not listening to honest feedback.
Managing a team is unique work. Being good at sales does not necessarily make a person good at managing a sales team and the work required to make decisions for an entire company has very little to do with being good at managing people.
The sales manager’s primary function is to develop a clear and honest understanding of what is happening in sales, what is happening in the executive realm and then facilitate communication and cooperation between the two departments.
The sales manager’s personal work experience has little to do with how to be a successful executive or salesperson, so when either of these parties gives honest feedback, sales managers must listen.
3. Not be approachable.
Managers rely on honest feedback from their sales teams to be effective. Reacting poorly to honest criticism from your team or making cuts based on employee satisfaction is a good way to ensure your sales team is trained to keep you in the dark.
A good manager will accept feedback professionally, do what she can to improve the situation and defend her team’s interests as much as possible.
4. Getting too close.
While managers benefit from professional camaraderie with the sales team, there is such thing as getting too friendly.
Good sales managers figure out how to balance their roles as trustworthy confidante and respected decision maker with grace.
Becoming overly friendly with employees undermines professional respect, especially when other team members notice that some people are getting preferential treatment.
5. Treating salespeople with distrust.
You probably do not have to be a sales manager for very long to encounter employees that take advantage of their situations. That said, it is important that sales managers do not project their disillusion on every employee they deal with.
Treating sales team members like children, policing their activities and questioning their claims will only breed more distrust and secrecy.
Treat everyone on your sales team like adults, hold them accountable for their actions and assume that they are trustworthy until they show you otherwise.
6. Overloading the paperwork.
Data is critical for understanding the work habits and effectiveness of a sales team, but only to a point.
Do not let your obsession with tracking and procedures get in the way of productivity. Work with your team to strike a balance between maximum productivity and optimal data collection.
7. Setting unrealistic goals.
Some people are motivated by audacious goals, but just because you manage a team of salespeople does not mean that every person will be motivated in the exact same way.
Good salespeople tend to be optimistic, but too much overly ambitious goal setting might only make them feel discouraged.
There are more sophisticated ways to encourage productivity. It is your job as a sales manager to figure out what makes your team tick and play to their strengths.
8. Focusing only on the numbers.
Sales managers are on the hook for building and training teams that ultimately produce numbers and keep executives happy. But demanding numbers from a sales team without any further clarification, development or support will stress salespeople out and hurt their productivity.
Rather than telling your team to make numbers at all costs, which can actually incentivize bad sales habits, use data to help your salespeople sell smart rather than grinding away at tasks that keep them busy without results.
9. Forgetting purpose.
Sales managers are not mothers, and it is not a manager’s job to police work habits or pick up slack.
Sales managers are teachers and diplomats who facilitate communication and cooperation and guide team members toward better habits and more refined sales skills.
If you feel like your team requires a lot of whip cracking to keep up with their goals, take a step back and re-examine your own managerial habits.
10. Wasting time.
You are likely extremely busy, but not all work is equally valuable. A manager’s most important tasks are the ones that cannot be done by anyone else.
Communicating tactfully with executives, gauging the performance and wellbeing of the sales team and teaching salespeople to sell better should be the top priorities.
If you find yourself spending large amounts of time on administrative work or putting out fires for your salespeople, ask yourself why.
Delegating less important tasks to people in different departments or even to reliable sales team members can be a great motivational tool and will free up time for you to focus on what matters.
The skills needed for a sales manager to be successful are a sense of diplomacy and an ability to see and understand how the sales team effects the big picture in a company.
It is easy to forget what is important in the daily grind of managing a sales team, so keep yourself centered and on track by assessing your progress and giving your habits a tune up from time to time.
Good managerial habits combined with a solid team of Driven salespeople will put your company on the path to sustainable sales success.