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How to Become a Better Sales Manager

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As a sales manager, you know that the success of your team largely hinges on your effectiveness as a leader. And to be an effective sales manager, you need visibility into what you team is achieving.

In this article we discuss many tips and ideas that can help you on your quest to become a better sales manager for yourself and your sales team.

Tips to Avoid Micromanaging Your Salespeople

Are you guilty of micromanaging your team?

If so, it is important for you to learn how to stop micromanaging and start leading your team in a way that inspires and motivates them to achieve top sales results. The following management tips will help you accomplish that with ease.

1. Hire the right salespeople.

Often, a sales manager will begin micromanaging because they do not trust their team. To avoid this, make sure every salesperson you hire is trustworthy and capable of selling effectively. You can do this by using a proven hiring process that includes a sales personality test to help take the guesswork out of hiring.

When your team is comprised of Driven, hard-working salespeople, you will feel more confident in their ability to work independently and feel less tempted to micromanage.

Bonus: Read this blog post to learn 10 unusual sales interview questions you can ask to uncover a candidate’s true potential and make good hiring decisions. 

2. Empower your salespeople to succeed with the right tools.

If you are micromanaging one of your salespeople because they have a track record of producing less-than-impressive sales results, be sure they have all of the necessary tools to succeed before you take disciplinary action or reprimand them in any way.

Start by sitting down with your rep to ask what could help them improve their sales results. If they do not know, you could make a few suggestions, like:

You might find out that they are struggling to sell due to an ineffective sales process that has been established by management, technology that is too slow or some other problem that you can easily resolve. From there, you can empower your sales rep by giving them what they need. That way, they can sell more, and you do not have to feel like you need to micromanage due to poor results.

3. Encourage open communication.

If you do not have healthy working relationships with your salespeople, they may feel hesitant about talking to you. As a result, you could feel like you are often left out of the loop, which can make it tempting to start micromanaging.

You might feel like micromanaging your team is the only way to get information you need, but it is not. Instead, you should encourage your salespeople to communicate openly with you about their successes as well as their struggles. Focus on building healthy working relationships with them, and let them know that they will not be reprimanded for communicating with you. They should all feel like you genuinely care about helping them reach their fullest potential.

4. Understand that every salesperson will not have the same approach to sales as you.

If you see that a salesperson is not using your preferred approach to selling, you many think micromanaging them is the best way to resolve this issue.

However, it is not.

What you should do instead is understand that there is more than one way to sell effectively. If a salesperson’s approach is different, but effective, allow them to use that approach and give him positive feedback based on the results achieved. If the approach is particularly effective, you may even want to ask your rep to share their tactics with your sales team – this will make them feel successful at work and help your team produce better sales results overall.

5. Provide clear instructions for sales tasks upfront and make sure you have been understood.

When you see your salespeople repeatedly neglect to complete tasks the correct way (or at all), you become understandably frustrated. And sometimes that frustration can even turn the best sales managers into micromanagers.

Before you start keeping a closer watch on your team to make sure they are working the way you want them to, ask yourself whether you have given them the information they need to succeed. You may find the way you are explaining tasks to your salespeople is ineffective and that is why they often struggle to meet your standards.

If that is the case, talk to your salespeople to pinpoint which parts of the way you deliver information needed to be improved. From there, you can make changes to the way you give instructions so that there is no need to micromanage your team – they will have all the information they need to get the job done right the first time.

6. Analyze yourself to determine why you are tempted to micromanage.

So far, we have discussed many reasons why you might be tempted to micromanage. If none of them have applied to you, try to determine why you feel the need to micromanage.

Once you figure out the cause, you can start working to eliminate that cause so you do not have to react to it by micromanaging. This will be better for you because it will reduce your stress and workload, and it will also be better for your team because they will feel like you view them as competent and able to succeed at sales.

7. Realize that everyone makes mistakes.

No matter how great of a sales manager you are, your salespeople will fail from time to time. Maybe they will forget to follow up with a lead, fail to close an easy sale, show up to work late or do something else that might make you question hiring them in the first place.

When that happens, remember that everyone makes mistakes on occasion. Even your best salesperson may fail to follow up with a lead if they are overwhelmed, fail to close a sale because of technology issue that arose while talking to a customer or show up to work late due to a family emergency. All of those failures are understandable.

It is important to be sympathetic and determine the cause of the failure before you start reprimanding and micromanaging your team. Of course, you should never let your team get away with too much to take advantage of your kindness, but do remember that they are human beings and that human beings are never perfect all of the time.

Next time you are tempted to micromanage, follow the management tips outlined in this section instead. By doing so, you will become a more effective sales manager capable of leading your team to success.

Does Your Sales Team Need More Structure?

building-sales-team-structure

According to a survey conducted by the Harvard Business Review, there are five things that set top-performing sales teams apart from average and low-performing sales teams.

Of those five things, the two that are most actionable are:

  1. High-performing sales teams tend to “employ a more structured sales process” and
  2. “Hold their team members to a higher level of accountability.”

As a manager of a sales team, a well-structured process can help you set and meet sales planning objectives more consistently, identify problems within your team, motivate your salespeople to achieve greater success and hold them accountable for their performance.

What Is a Structured Sales Process?

Most sales experts agree that there is a process that every sale goes through whether the salesperson and the client are aware of it or not. The process tends to follow the same format every time. Identifying the process and learning to understand it is valuable to anyone who wants to be good at sales or teach others to sell.

The sales process itself generally follows this cycle:

  1. Generating leads/prospecting – this encompasses everything from cold calls to web contacts — any activity that your sales team does to find potential clients.
  2. Qualifying leads – this is the process your company uses to determine whether a lead is actually a potential client, including researching the lead, running credit checks or learning their budget.
  3. Recognizing needs – the stage of the process when a salesperson asks questions and develops a relationship with the prospect, tailoring your product to fit the prospect’s needs.
  4. Providing a solution – this is the offer/pitch stage of the process, probably the one to which your company currently pays the most attention.
  5. Managing objections/negotiation – the prospective client will almost always have a concern or want to negotiate, so it is best to plan for it.
  6. Closing – when your salesperson has reached an agreement with a prospect, they have to fill out paperwork and make a record of the deal.
  7. Supporting – depending on your company’s process, this may be out of the hands of the salesperson, but tracking it is important for understanding customers’ behavior and needs post-sale.

A structured sales process will break down the steps of selling and identify best practices for each stage of the cycle.

Salespeople should be required to track their leads using whatever method works best for your company. There are many sales tracking software solutions available, but a well-organized analog method (binders, dividers, markers and files) can work for smaller sales teams if necessary.

Why Structure is Important

Data
The first thing most good diet plans recommend is keeping a food journal for a few weeks, because data can be very powerful and motivating.

If your sales team is not performing to your expectations, your first reaction should be to collect data. With thorough records of leads, prospects and closed deals, it will be much easier for you to identify where your sales team’s weaknesses are and work to correct them. Data makes sales planning much more accurate and makes goal attainment more likely.

Motivation
Driven salespeople are extremely goal-oriented and competitive. A highly structured sales process makes it even more satisfying for your team to check off requirements and see leads progress through the cycle in a concrete way.

Additionally, having benchmarks for every step of the sales process gives you as a manager more opportunities to incentivize and encourage competition, most of which are just as motivating as (and not to mention cheaper than) those closing commissions.

Clear Expectations
Salespeople perform best when they are given some measure of independence and ownership over their career. As a manager, that can be a scary thought, but when you take the time to build a well-structured sales process, you will feel less of a need to micromanage your team.

With a structured process, tracking sales then becomes the only thing you need to keep your salespeople on task. It is a bit counterintuitive, but more structure means more freedom for you, and when you step back and give your team breathing room, they will feel empowered to own their success.

Easier Training
Having the sales process laid out in detailed steps makes training new hires very simple for managers and much less overwhelming for new salespeople. Even experienced salespeople can benefit from reviewing the basics that they might have forgotten.

sales-people-presentation

Your Company is Unique

Understanding the sales process as it applies to sales in general is not enough to make your team excel. To make the examination of the sales process worthwhile, you need to think about the practicalities of each step of the process as it applies to your specific company, your specific location, even your specific team. There might be aspects of the process that go very quickly for your team and others that require much more effort.

As a sales manager, you should work to refine your process constantly, based on the data and feedback that your sales team collects. Developing a structured sales process means becoming an expert on your product, your client, your salespeople, and the nitty-gritty logistics of your sales. It is a big task, but laying good groundwork will make your job much easier in the long run.

Hold Salespeople Accountable

As you put the work in to create a structured sales process for your team, you should ask your team to meet you in the middle by adhering to the process, by keeping good records of their leads and owning both their successes and their failures.

With thorough records of past sales and failures it will be easy to turn disappointments into learning experiences for you and your team.

Highly-structured sales processes enable managers to step back from the day-to-day whip cracking, which will motivate salespeople to take ownership of their own performance.

Tap into the natural competitiveness of your Driven salespeople by making the proper tracking of sales into a contest with prizes or a group reward if everyone completes their tracking perfectly. Once you have accurate data from your sales team, accountability comes naturally because they can sit down with you to look at a record of their efforts.

With the right sales team, a structured sales process will work like a dream to keep your people motivated. The success of a structured process, however, is dependent on building a team that has Drive. Salespeople with Drive have the Need for Achievement, Competitiveness and Optimism required for success in sales.

Driven salespeople are motivated by structure, but if your team lacks Drive, no amount of structure will make up for it. Sales aptitude testing used at the beginning of the hiring process is the best way to build a team that has what it takes to thrive in a structured sales environment.

A sales team with Drive, combined with a structured sales process, is a recipe for record-smashing success, which is what every sales manager should strive for.

Bad Habits of Good Sales Managers

As you have probably already realized, 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.

Bad Habits of Good Sales Managers

10 Bad Sales Management Habits and How to Break Them

1. Poor communicator.

A good sales manager is really a good messenger. They have to be able to take criticism from upper management and present it to their 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 they can to improve the situation and defend their 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.

Speaking of motivation, let us take a look at some tips we believe will help you inspire your team and others around you.

3 Valuable Tips for Becoming an Inspiring Sales Training Manager

become-inspiring-sales-training-manager

Did you know that less than one-third of employees feel engaged at work?

That means the remaining (over) two-thirds do not feel engaged, enthusiastic and/or committed to the work they are doing.

Thus, as a sales training manager, you have quite a challenge on your hands. Sales trainers are responsible for working closely with other sales managers as well as upper management in order to create an effective training strategy that will allow a company to improve. You also have a duty to help your sales reps learn the skills they need in order to grow your business.

But have you noticed your sales team’s performance drop significantly lately?Does your team seem unmotivated or unable to sell on a regular basis?

If so, then maybe it is time to reassess your tactics as a sales trainer and find out what you can do to inspire your team to feel fully engaged and reach their true potential.

Check out these 3 valuable tips that will help you become an inspiring sales training manager.

1. Improve your communication

Communication is extremely important when it comes to running a successful business. In fact, statistics show that businesses with effective communication are 50% more likely to have lower employee turnover.

Not only that, but in one study 33% of employees said a lack of open, honest communication has a negative impact on employee morale.

Therefore, as a sales training manager, it is important to find a way to clearly, consistently and openly communicate with your sales team so they understand:

  • They can come to you for guidance and advice when they need it
  • How to overcome their selling weaknesses and improve their sales techniques
  • The true benefits of selling as a career

By communicating to your sales team using this approach, you can develop a strong team that is committed to excellence and committed to selling your company’s products or services.

And if you can sell your team on performing their job well every day, you can become an amazing asset for your company.

Here is a suggestion to help improve communication between you and any struggling salesperson:

Spend some time shadowing a rep and discussing the results of their sales calls. This will allow them to find their own mistakes and develop strategies that will help during the next sales opportunity.

Ask your sales rep questions relating to the call so they can analyze any errors they might have made and offer some suggestions to help them improve.

When you allow your reps to evaluate themselves, they can begin to develop into true sales professionals who can close sales confidently and consistently.

2. Practice self-awareness

There are probably few people who enjoy hearing that they need to become more self-aware.

If you are self-aware, then you should already be reaping the benefits. If not, however, this is not a knock on your character or abilities as a sales trainer—it is just a helpful suggestion that will get you further with managing your sales team.

So why is self-awareness so important?

Being more self-aware allows you to stay grounded and focused. When you are grounded, you become more efficient at staying on task, and you are also able to connect with your team more effectively.

But learning how to become more self-aware is not always simple. So here are a few tips on how you can improve your self-awareness:

Know your strengths and weaknesses.
Sometimes it is difficult to admit you are weak in a particular area of your work. But being self-aware means knowing your limitations, and more importantly, asking for help when you need it.

By doing this, you are not displaying your weaknesses—you are proving that you are a team player and results-driven.

Understand your emotional triggers.
When you act out against someone in anger, you may not realize that you are losing control.

This lack of control is a sign that you might lack self-awareness. You see, when you are self-aware, you are able to identify your emotions as they occur.

With the ability to sense when you are experiencing an emotional trigger, you can process information logically (instead of emotionally) before communicating with your sales team, which usually yields positive results.

Maintain boundaries.
For every good sales training manager, setting boundaries is a necessity—it is also what countless managers tend to struggle with. Why is that? Because as a leader, sometimes it is difficult to know when you need to guide with a firm hand or a soft touch. Sure, you want to be kind to everyone, but you should not be a pushover.

At the other end of the spectrum, you should not intimidate your team into working harder or making more sales, because it will usually end up in a negative experience for you and your sales reps.

Either way, it is important to set boundaries with your sales team so that they respect you as a leader.

Where should you start?

Create some structure by holding regular full-group or one-on-one meetings (or both), and make sure to hold them consistently. During these meetings, make sure to set an agenda and take advantage of this opportunity to learn about your sales team’s strengths and weaknesses.

Clearly let your team know what you expect from them, how important it is to accomplish their goals as a team and how it can help your overall business grow and succeed.

When you set boundaries like these, it shows your team that you value your company and all of the hard work you put in every day.

3. Focus on your Team

As a manager, you are only as good as your team. And at the end of the day, salespeople want to get something for all of their hard work.

So here are a few ways to show your team that you appreciate them and their efforts:

  • Show them respect – Rewards and bonuses are all great, and many sales reps will require that alone, but your team as a whole will likely improve their productivity if they know that you respect their hard work and dedication.
  • Avoid micromanaging – Just as you do not want someone breathing down your neck during work, your sales reps share a similar dislike for this practice. A true leader knows when to step back and let their team do what they are good at.
  • Encourage their growth – Encourage your sales team’s growth by suggesting things that will improve their personal development outside of your company walls. You can let your salespeople know about upcoming marketing events or encourage them to read personal success books that can show them the path to success from another person’s perspective.

Overall, being an inspiring sales training manager is similar to being a productive sales rep, because it requires focusing on others.

By improving your communication, practicing self-awareness and focusing on your team’s needs, you can give them a huge boost in confidence and productivity.

And as you shift your focus to how you can help them do their job well, your team will respect you and be inspired to follow you through even the most challenging of times.

In Conclusion

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.

Remember to avoid micromanaging, create a structured sales process and avoid the common bad habits, like poor communication and setting unrealistic goal, and you will be well on your way to being a great sales manager. Successful sales management does not happen overnight. Practice these techniques and you are sure to be a better sales manager in no time.

And as a result, your sales team will flourish.

Sales Hiring Simplified!

Hire top-performing salespeople with The DriveTest®. Get started now with one free test.

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Sales Hiring Simplified!

Hire top-performing salespeople with The DriveTest®.

Get started now with one free test.