How do you assess your sales management team? You might just look at numbers and who can close more deals and feel you have an understanding through data alone. Yet, people are more than just numbers and data. There is always room for improvement, on any level of a sales organization. And even small improvements in how sales reps are managed can yield big results for your bottom line.
So, in this blog post, we’ll cover how to train your sales managers for excellence, plus give the top tips to help them succeed.
Why Sales Management Training is Important
Great sales managers are not usually born – they’re made, with thoughtful training.
Mediocre Managers Waste Money
The old saying that ‘people don’t leave jobs, they leave managers’, is true. Having sales managers on your team who just don’t get the basics of being a good manager can have serious consequences for your sales team. You might see increased turnover, decreased morale, or just a general lack of focus on day-to-day tasks and larger goals.
All those issues cost your business money – and they indicate a larger lack of employee engagement. That lack of engagement means your sales reps are likely to be less motivated to excel at their jobs. As a result, they might just be doing the minimum to get by.
This isn’t just true of the really terrible managers either – though those have plenty of costs. Even just a mediocre manager can have lasting negative impacts on the sales team, hindering business growth.
If salespeople don’t feel that their mediocre manager adds value, they won’t take their issues to him or her. Hence they may try to do everything on their own, and the result will be that fewer deals get closed and revenue opportunities are missed.
Great Sales Management Means More Business
On the other hand, truly effective sales managers can have a positive impact on every aspect of your sales team. This is because sales managers affect every aspect of the sales function for your company.
It begins with their hiring choices – are they bringing in the best people or settling for good enough? Then the training and onboarding process – are new hires given what they need to succeed from day 1?
Managing the daily employee experience is also a critical management role. Additionally, it’s about keeping employees aligned to the bigger picture of sales goals and company priorities.
If you have high-performing managers who handle most or all of these aspects well, you’re poised for excellent sales performance. And since sales is such a critical driver of your business, increases in sales effectiveness have a disproportionately large positive impact on the future of your company.
Most Sales Managers are Made, Not Born
While a select few sales reps seem to have an innate talent for the role of sales manager, the reality for most managers is that the skills needed for success are learned behaviors. Moving from excelling at a role where you manage yourself to a role where you manage others is a complicated and sometimes rocky process.
But bumps in the road at the beginning doesn’t mean someone isn’t cut out to be a great manager someday. The skills of sales management excellence can be learned and practiced with proper sales management training.
And this is great news, because it means you can unlock management potential in your current and future managers, even top sales reps.
Principles of Sales Management Training
This is a familiar scenario for many leaders. You have a star sales rep who is a top performer, and seems to have plenty of leadership potential as well. Eventually, you promote them from an individual contributor to a management position – and they start struggling.
This is because many of the qualities that make a great sales rep don’t translate into making a great sales manager. And becoming a top sales manager is not an easy transition. Suddenly you’re stuck in between the needs and desires of your team and your leadership, and you’re getting to do much less of the sales activities that you used to thrive on.
But struggling managers just need some training. The biggest impact will come from training in the most important principles of sales management processes. Your sales managers may need help in just one area, or all of them.
Alignment to Larger Goals
As a sales rep, you’re on the front lines, with regular targets you need to hit. While some of those goals hopefully tie back to department or company targets, mostly you’re responsible for hitting those targets yourself.
As a manager, you are now responsible for making sure your team members are hitting those numbers – and that’s a very different set of priorities.
To make that adjustment, training may need to be provided on strategic thinking to help managers think of and understand the larger picture. If sales managers don’t truly understand company goals, they won’t be able to effectively communicate them to motivate and engage employees.
Individual contributors need to adhere to expectations and goals set by someone else. Sales managers need to set those expectations for others, in a clear and actionable way. Often, inexperienced managers have a difficult time balancing the need for clear expectations with big-picture thinking. This can lead to micromanagement or targets that are too vague to understand.
If your sales managers struggle to set those expectations in a way that employees respond to effectively, this could be an area for coaching conversations.
This is possibly the most important – and most challenging – part of being a manager. Giving employees feedback when they make a mistake is a difficult art to master.
But it’s critical that sales reps know when they need to make a correction, otherwise they won’t be able to perform at their best. And giving positive feedback is often overlooked, or done incorrectly. But it’s just as important as giving negative feedback.
Managers don’t just have to think about their own career development path – they also need to be doing the same for their employees. Helping sales reps think through their career options is good for the reps themselves, and also helps build a steady pool of talent for the organization in the years to come. It also demonstrates to your reps that you care about them personally, not just about their numbers.
Training in this area can help improve career development coaching skills.
Sales Management Tips
Once your sales managers have received their training, the journey to excellence doesn’t stop there. These actionable insights can help take them to the next level of success.
Here are our top ten sales management tips, whether you’re a first-time manager or a 30-year sales rep-managing veteran.
1. Hire the Right People
Building a great sales team starts with hiring the right people. There are plenty of methods and tools available to make this process easier – use behavioral assessments, hire a sales recruiter, and make sure the new person fits your company culture.
You also want to be sure that your new hire meets your needs now and in the future – are you looking to create a team for serious growth, or are you building on an already-strong existing team?
Likewise, know what you want your new hire to focus on. Are they hunting new clients or are they growing existing accounts?
Those two goals require two different kinds of candidates, so knowing before you start to hire will help make the right choice.
2. Communicate Authentically
The most important skill for a manager is knowing how to communicate well.
But it’s not enough to have a command of the sales lingo and company jargon – you need to build trust with both your sales team and leaders. The best way to do that is to communicate authentically. People (especially sales reps, who communicate extensively and have well-developed intuition) can sense quickly when they’re not getting the whole story.
If you struggle with this, you may need to lean on a communications expert at your company, possibly from an internal communications group. This person can help guide you through the principles of effective communication, specifically for managers.
3. Give Feedback the Right Way
If you try to be too kind while giving negative feedback, your employees might misunderstand what they’re doing wrong. But if you’re too blunt, you risk demotivating your employees completely. As such, it’s a tricky balance.
Improve your skills by researching the best ways to give feedback, and practice regularly with small issues and conversations until you’re comfortable with the larger ones.
4. Provide Regular Updates
As a sales manager, you’re the link between the leaders of your department, the whole company, and the employees on the frontline. Be sure you’re passing along relevant information between the two groups regularly – not just big goals or problems, but smaller successes and changes as well. This keeps sales reps and sales leadership both informed of what’s really going on.
You can provide updates at scheduled sales meetings and one-on-one meetings, send update emails, or hold quarterly all-hands sales meetings to ensure you’re providing information consistently. Don’t assume employees are getting info from another source – they should be hearing from you regularly too.
5. Invest in Your People
Successful sales managers know that creating a great sales team requires investment – of time and of budget. Invest in trainings for both new and experienced employees if you think they will benefit. Be an advocate to leaders for investing in technology that makes work easier and more efficient for your sales force.
And of course, invest time in getting to know your employees, giving them guidance and feedback, and making sure they’re taking needed time off. By doing so, everyone will be better off in the long term.
6. Give Employees a Voice
Sales managers often have to speak up to leadership for the needs of their employees. This can be nerve-wracking the first few times you do it, but your team members are counting on you.
It can be positive, like surfacing successes so your leadership knows when your team is excelling. Or it can be surfacing discontentment with a new policy or benefit. Your employees trust you to speak up for them – take that trust to heart.
7. Perfect the Process
Your sales staff will be most efficient if they’re not starting from scratch each time they begin pursuing a prospect. This is where a strong and well documented sales process comes in.
As a manager, you have the power to set up processes that streamline work (like in a sales playbook). And since you have a good line of sight into the whole team, you can take elements that are working well for individual team members and share them with the rest of the team.
8. Continuously Improve
Managing people means things are always changing. Your team composition shifts, your business goals are adjusted, and technological changes are always around the corner.
Be careful to avoid complacency – set up time quarterly or twice a year to look at where improvements and changes should be made across the team. It’s easy to stay the course when things are working – right up until they stop working and you start scrambling for a solution.
9. Coaching for All
Sales managers should be providing coaching to their team members – that’s a given. But everybody can benefit from coaching at multiple points in their career.
If you’re a sales manager and you’ve never received coaching yourself, now might be the time to ask if you can join a manager program at your company or get external guidance. And hopefully your company and sales leaders are getting coaching regularly too. That outside guidance is critical to seeing and fixing your own weaknesses and leaning into your strengths.
10. Never Stop Learning
Good sales managers are curious creatures. What are your competitors doing? What does the latest industry research say? How are shifts in the way we work today being addressed (or not addressed) at your company?
It’s easy to settle in and do things the way they’ve always been done, especially as an experienced manager. But that can mean you end up out of the loop. We live in a fast-changing world – always needing to keep up and keep learning.
360 Consulting Can Help with Top Sales Management
Not sure how your sales management is measuring up? Don’t just wait and wonder – get your free consultation by getting in touch with us here. Start the path to lasting sales success and exceeding sales records today.