Although February is best known for ‘Valentine’s Day’, if you’ve been following me over the past week or so, you’ll also have heard about a new celebration that I am suggesting called the ‘Sales Managers Day’.
I even created a short video that highlights the responsibilities of a Sales Manager from the management’s perspective. However in this post, I thought I’d discuss the habits and qualities that makes for a great sales manager from the sales teams perspective.
Having reported in to a few sales managers in my career and also having had a sales management position myself, I have become acutely aware of what makes a great sales manager.
Here are seven signs that you’ve got a great sales manager.
1. Your sales manager earns your trust
Authority, credibility, respect and the buy-in from sales team comes naturally once the sales manager gains the trust of his/her sales team. The two most prominent ways in which this trust is gained is when the sales manager comes across as COMPETENT (i.e. knows about business strategy, competitive analysis, industry trends, sales planning and execution challenges etc.) and secondly, comes across as someone who CARES for their sales team.
Although the latter might seem a bit fuzzy, but sales people know when that is the case. For example, when their manager has fought hard to get a decent commission scheme approved, or when the manager has gone around different departments to rally consensus for something that will make selling easier, or when the manager takes the flack for missing the number and not point finger on any under-performing reps, or even when the manager has vetoed some nuisance process or bureaucracy that would hinder as opposed to help the sales team.
2. Your sales manager knows what motivates you
Contrary to popular belief that sales people are only motivated by money, a great sales manager understands that in addition to financial rewards, different salespeople are also driven by a number of other factors like variety, significance and growth etc. Therefore a great sales manager takes the time to build strong relationships with each member of their sales team, learns about what really drives each rep and then helps each rep to achieve those professional and sometimes even their personal goals.
3. Your sales manager is your professional coach
A great sales manager places a high priority when it comes to accompanying you at a customer or prospect sales call. Before the sales call – they help strategise; in the meeting – they only speak when you need them to or when you give them the nod; then after the sales call they provide constructive feedback and suggest best ways to address any shortcomings – you might not always like what they say but deep down you know that all they want is to stretch you outside your comfort zone and help you become better at what you do.
Great sales managers don’t fill out a professional development plan once a year, instead they capture your strengths and your weaknesses on an ongoing basis and provide relevant support and coaching throughout the year.
4. Your sales manager sets clear expectations and does not micromanage
Micromanagement is not only a perfect recipe for demotivating sales people, but it also risks stifling the sales teams ability to be creative, do things differently, solve problems on their own, try new and innovative ideas etc. Therefore a great sales manager clearly communicates the goals, what is expected of you and when; this applies to both the sales results (i.e. forecasts) and the activities that produce those results (i.e. pipeline), after that they let you get on with the job. A clear understanding on both sides about the metrics and KPIs that will be used to measure performance makes for a professional working relationship and a more objective conversation at weekly catch up calls and monthly forecast meetings.
Oh yeah, and great sales managers don’t bother their salespeople with requests to fill out countless spreadsheets for different activities and data, instead they rely on getting up-to-date information and reports directly from the CRM.
5. Your sales manager is a problem solver and a ‘change management’ expert
For a sales manager coming up with great ideas isn’t difficult, what is difficult is getting the sales team to accept new practices and willingly change their behaviours. Great sales managers don’t just announce a new way of doing things and then sit back. Instead they create a support mechanism with tools, training, technology, clear processes and reinforcement to make the ‘change’ stick, and also do all this in a way that minimises the disruption for the sales team.
Great sales managers are like radars on the lookout for issues (both internal and external) that might cause problems for their sales team. When unexpected problems do occur, they happily take away the problem from their reps, in order for the reps to focus on the important task of selling.
6. Your sales manager creates a team wide culture of continuous learning and improvement
Intensive one or two day sales training courses or seminars are helpful but what great sales manager also do is integrate different ways to reinforce old learning and also introduce new ideas and concepts in an engaging and friendly way – for example through micro training sessions at each sales meeting, or quarterly mini kick-off events.
In addition, great sales managers don’t just focus on sales skills, they encourage and facilitate for their sales teams to develop wider career enhancing skills like building their business acumen; it could be as simple as buying a dozen business books for their sales team to read and share, or purchase subscription for online business courses, or if budget permits, even sponsor the executive qualification for a keen salesperson.
7. Your sales manager knows how to celebrate and make winning ‘fun’
Sales managers are aware that sales is a high pressure environment not least because they too experience this pressure on a daily basis. Great sales managers understand that the best way to relieve some of this pressure is to reward and celebrate wins – even the small ones. This recognition, be it in the form of incentives, or prizes, or a round of drinks or just a special praise… all these not only help in creating a positive, fun and cohesive work environment but these little boosts also inspire commitment and encourages everybody in the team to up their game.
Now… this is by no means an exhaustive list, but if your sales manager meets most of these criteria, then you are a fortunate sales person. In that case I also think you will love reading 10 things to do on Sales Managers Day.
If you are a sales manager then consider this as a mini check-list for becoming a top sales manager who salespeople would love to work for and remember (fondly) long after they’ve stopped working for you.