The sales manager plays a critical role in determining a sales organization’s success or lack thereof, and that pressure and responsibility requires a unique personality and the willingness to wear many hats. Leading a sales team to high performance levels isn’t a “one size fits all” task, as successful leadership in one company’s culture may not produce the same result in another.
High performing sales managers are skilled in adapting their leadership style to fit the needs of their unique sales team. While this flexibility is key, there are 5 things that every great sales manager should be putting to practice, regardless of the sales team they are leading.
The best sales managers never stop recruiting, even when their team is full. This constant vigilance for top talent happens both internally, with the ability to recognize future superstars, and externally with outside recruiting tactics. Without a full bench of potential recruits, sales managers run the risk of holding onto poor performers out of necessity, and are forced to scramble when they desperately need to fill a position.
Sales managers expect their reps to have a pool of well qualified prospects, and they, too, should have a pool of top talent that is continuously replenished. Lunches, coffee, and LinkedIn are great tools for establishing and maintaining connections, while taking notice of the existing talent in junior and inside sales are ways to build your bench from within. Recruiting is more than just an action, it’s the strategy for developing business into the future.
Leading with Passion
An all-star sales team is still reliant on direction, and that is why the sales manager must be a strong leader above all else. As the Commander in Chief, the leader of a sales team sets the tone for the culture, and a sales manager that leads with passion will inspire high performance.
Coaching and mentoring is crucial, but each sales team and each rep will be motivated differently. A strong sales manager will understand their people (Innermetrix® Coaching Reports are helpful here) and adapt their coaching style to drive the most effective sales culture for the organization. A sales team will look to their leader in both hard times and periods of success, so it is crucial that a sales manager models the ideal behavior and acts as a lighthouse, always present to guide their team in the right direction.
Developing Sales Strategy
The sales manager sits between senior leadership and the sales team, and must establish a high level of communication with both. While they spend most of their time managing down to their people, collaborating and building relationships with top leaders is crucial to setting company strategies and getting goals accomplished.
There must be a focus on internal alignment with all areas of the organization, but marketing especially. This means setting goals that are in line with the marketing strategy, and striking a balance between the short term and long term goals they have set for their team. It’s easy to get caught up in the day-to-day administrative activities, but high performing sales managers are aware of when they need to step back and work on the business as opposed to working in it.
Developing Sales Tactics
Not only does the sales manager hold responsibility for the “big picture” sales strategy, they are in charge of the day-to-day, tactical side as well. What is the correct messaging reps should be delivering? What customer segment does the sales team need to be targeting?
Small steps lead to leaps made towards the goal, so top sales managers know they need to focus on the metrics that drive sales, and the activities that must be coached against in order to get there. Attention to tactical details and a strong focus around processes is key to tracking and improving performance.
Selling (And Knowing When to Step Back)
While selling may not take up the majority of a sales manager’s time, it is still something they should be contributing to. Whether it’s working with reps in the field or with strategic clients directly, the sales manager should maintain a presence and be visible to customers, standing in as the face of the company and positively representing the organization and its values.
Striking a balance between how involved a manager gets in every account is key, however. By intervening too often, managers run the risk of mis-positioning their reps, and creating a dependency for them to “close the deal.” It is important to get involved when necessary, but always as a coaching strategy and chance to improve a rep’s performance. Top sales managers don’t let themselves get caught up in what made them successful, but are instead rewarded by contributing to the success of others.
High performing sales managers have many roles to fill and a large amount of responsibility resting on their shoulders. Balancing those roles and responsibilities and adapting their leadership style in the most effective way is what separates the average performer from the best.