Selling and managing require two very different sets of discipline. Although a significant level of experience within the environment you are managing is essential, the top-performing salesperson doesn’t always go on to make the best sales manager.
After all, if you make the step up, you’ll be selling significantly less than before (if at all) and the pressure for each sale to succeed becomes greater as the performance of others becomes even more important. You’re no longer judged on your own performance, but instead of the performance of the team around you.
When things aren’t going right, this can all too often lead to managers, who for years treated selling as their bread and butter, micromanaging their salespeople, attempting to influence their sales themselves.
This approach will never work. While in the short term you might see sales rise because you took the reins, in the long term you’ll do a lot of damage by undermining your team members.
Even worse is the fact that you haven’t improved them as salespeople by taking the steering wheel from the and putting them in the backseat, you just got them to their final destination quicker. The next time they go out alone, they’ll still take all of the same back-roads, shortcuts and wrong routes as before.
All of this simply means that you’ll end up firmly stressed, with a team that doesn’t trust you and hasn’t learned a thing.
Sound good? Great, you can stop reading here.
Sound bad? Even better. Read on and learn about the things you should be managing and how you can get the most out of each area.
There’s an entire arsenal of sales weaponry out there in the form of free apps, email plugins (TOUT) and heavy-hitting paid software, all of which can prepare your sales team for the battlefield.
It’s down to you as a manager to make sure that your guys and girls are properly equipped. It’s not use wondering why people can’t sell more if they don’t have the right gear to do so.
You wouldn’t bemoan your 8 year-old for building a Lego set the wrong way if you hadn’t given them the instructions in the first place, after all.
Any sales, performance or management software that your team use will often be an extension of the very skills you offer. Sales management systems help to organize and streamline processes, in the same way a sales manager does.
Find, specifically, an issue or issues within your department and then set out to find an app, plugin or simple software that can alleviate this issue. Technology is developed to solve our problems and make our lives easier, so you’d be a fool to put more pressure on your team by starving them of it.
Just as important as finding the right solution though is making sure that your team see the benefits of using it in the same way you do and actually know how to use it, too.
If they’re not using any of these apps, key pieces of software like BI or CRM or even email plugins like Tout and Boomerang, you’re effectively sending them on to the battlefield blindfolded, wielding a plastic sword and wearing nothing but their y-fronts.
Give them the armor and weaponry they need however, and your team can camp in the bushes with a grin on their face, with their chin on a sniper rifle and a bacon sandwich in hand, picking off sales with ease from a distance.
One of the most important aspects of managing a sales team well is managing each team member’s morale. In a job full of highs and lows, motivation and recognition needs to be handed out whenever necessary, without patronizing or making salespeople take your applause with a pinch of salt. This is why managing salespeople can often come with unique challenges.
The things that cause morale to drop in the first place are poor communication, inflexible working conditions and ambitious workloads, all of which can easily be fixed by you.
The best way to find out the cause of a dip in form, however, is to simply have a heart-to-heart with someone. Listen to what they have to say objectively and do whatever you can to help them or, at least, to show that you understand.
The ability to respond to individual team members and aid in their professional development is key for all management disciplines, but in sales, the spectrum can vary greatly.
Boosting morale where necessary without ignoring the top performers is a balancing act experienced by many a sales manager and one that needs to be executed well to keep the cogs of a sales team turning.
Of course, this is your main duty as a sales manager: to manage performance and get the best out of your team.
Sometimes, however, performance can go a little stale; what you do in these times will define how good a manager you are.
One great way to give the team the boost they need is to use gamification to spice things up. Gamification is the practice of taking your current operation and turning the whole thing into a game.
You could, for example, have random prizes in boxes, which range from chocolates to bottles of champagne. Whenever one of your team members makes a sale, they get to put a golf ball towards a portable hole.
The distance that they put from dictates how many points they get. When a rep reaches a certain number of points, they get to choose a prize.
Of course, this wouldn’t be used every day in the office, but pulling it out towards the end of the month when things have slowed down a little or on a Monday when the atmosphere is a bit lackluster in the office is a great way to boost your team’s performance while making their job that little bit more enjoyable and rewarding.
Teamwork within a sales team is a difficult thing to get right. On one hand, you want your team members to be self-driven and get on with things on their own, as well as being spurned on by the successes of those around them.
On the other, though, you want them to learn from one and other, share ideas and take on each others’ best practices so that the entire team can benefit.
One great way to do this is to instill a new commission-based system alongside the old one.
What you’ll need to do is put into place prizes for your priorities as a manager. So, for example, if new business is lacking because your salespeople are currently happy to sit on the regular sales that come in every month, put in place a reward for the first person to bring in X amount of brand new customers each month. This should help to motivate people towards that goal.
Ah, but doesn’t this just make people less of a team? Well it does on it’s own. But why not also set team goals, whereby which each member of the team needs to hit a quarterly target, and if everyone meets their targets, everyone gets extra commission, a reward or possibly even a team weekend away.
The reason this system works so well is that everyone is still individually motivated toward the small, ‘first past the post’ prize, yet, with the big prize in mind, want to make sure each other hit target.
This creates an entrepreneurial environment in which your top earners aren’t just sitting pretty on their loyal customers, but are also helping your less-experienced team members to achieve highly.
Possibly one of the most forgotten but important factors of managing salespeople is ensuring that the management itself is also being well looked after.
Having your own superiors is one thing, but learning when you need to spend time on your own professional development will only improve the way the entire team functions.
Rather than having a constant focus on your team members and their processes, remember to also focus on your own process for oiling the machine and getting the most out of everyone around you.
It’s one thing to develop their skill through the things aforementioned, but don’t forget to think about your own skills, too.
There are many courses out there, both in class and online, which can be used to take you to a higher level. Having your company invest in them not only puts you and your team in good stead for the time being, it also puts you in good stead for the rest of your career.