Being a sales manager is a whirlwind experience, especially for those who were once successful sales reps themselves. Transitioning into a leadership role requires a whole new set of skills and strategies.
Fortunately, there are valuable best practices that can help aspiring sales managers excel in their positions. In this blog post, we'll explore 14 essential best practices and tips from experienced sales managers at HubSpot.
Best Practices for Sales Managers
1. Lay a robust foundation.
Craft a strong operating model for your team that serves as the bedrock for successful sales strategies.
Hailey Linz, Corporate Sales Manager here at HubSpot, shares, “My top tip for aspiring sales managers: Lay a robust foundation for your team by crafting a strong operating model. Sales management isn’t just about envisioning strategies; it’s about meticulously assembling the components necessary for execution. A solid operating model is the bedrock upon which successful sales strategies stand tall and deliver exceptional results.”
Your skill as a manager is only as good as your foundation. If you can refine your process and strategy and present that to your team from the beginning — you're sure to start off on the right foot.
2. Motivate your team in personalized and culture-wise ways.
Understand each sales rep's motivation, build a culture of feedback, and keep them accountable for their success.
International HubSpot Sales Manager, Fancy Lai, shares her experience, “The best sales managers I have had the privilege to work with balance between finding a sales rep's motivation, rooting for them, building a culture of feedback and keeping them accountable so they can reach their success.”
You not only want to push your reps to try their best for the good of the company, but you want to tap into their personal motivations and provide them with the encouragement they need to reach their goals and yours.
3. Establish a highly supportive network to avoid burnout and provide necessary support.
Lai continues on to say, “One thing I wish I had known is the sheer mental and emotional energy it takes to be in this role; the constant task switching between coaching, interviewing, strategizing, presenting, organizing, etc. really takes a toll on you. I highly recommend having a supportive network or tools in place to ensure you don't burn out.”
How can you help someone else when you‘re already feeling underwater? While managers are expected to uplift those around them, it’s important to take a step back and know when to get a helping hand. Establish a network within your organization to prevent fatigue so you can better support others when they need it.
4. Recognize that your processes are crucial.
Define and track clear and measurable processes such as:
- The sales process that your reps follow.
- Your forecasting and pipeline management process.
- Your interviewing and hiring process.
- Your process for diagnosing issues and coaching your people.
Without clear, trackable processes it can become impossible to balance, improve, and measure your team.
Pro Tip: For new managers, try enlisting senior managers at your company or even your VP to create or adapt a document of the processes you will use.
5. Practice servant leadership.
It's easy to fall into a pattern of saying things like “do this for me” or “help me hit the number” or “can't you see how much I need you to deliver right now?”
None of these are the right way to think about managing people. When managing a sales team, it becomes far less about you, and much more about your team. If you're truly skilled, you can help individuals feel empowered enough to not only deliver for themselves, but for their team.
As a manager you'll be successful if you can get your people into this mindset. I also think this is where a sales team is the most like a sports team. Major leaguers certainly play for themselves in many ways, but the best ones play for the team. The best coaches are the ones that drive this behavior across the roster.
By prioritizing the success and well-being of their team, sales managers can cultivate a high-performing sales force that consistently achieves goals and drives organizational success.
Focus less on yourself and more on empowering your team to deliver for themselves and the team.
6. Help your team help themselves.
When service managers take on the role of a mentor and coach, they empower their team members to develop their skills and knowledge independently. This approach encourages individuals to take initiative, solve problems, and make informed decisions. By guiding rather than doing the work for their team, service managers enable their employees to build competence and confidence, which leads to improved job satisfaction and performance.
Focus on mentoring, developing, serving, and holding your team members accountable rather than doing the work for them.
7. Always be hiring.
Sales managers can proactively address future hiring needs and maintain a pipeline of potential candidates. This approach allows managers to be more selective and strategic when filling open positions, ensuring that they hire the best fit for their team and company culture
Build a pipeline of talented people to join your team from day one to avoid hasty hiring decisions. The wrong hire ends up costing you, the company, and your team a ton of money and angst.
8. Prioritize where you invest your time and energy.
Recognize that you can only handle a certain number of issues at once and focus on areas where you can get the best return on your time.
When you find your rhythm, you can maximize your impact on sales targets and goals, work efficiently, allocate resources effectively, manage time more effectively, and take a proactive approach to achieve better results and make the most of available resources.
9. Embrace shared accountability.
By encouraging everyone on the team to take responsibility for their contributions and outcomes, sales managers empower their salespeople to take ownership of their performance and work towards shared goals. This shared accountability promotes a culture of transparency, trust, and continuous improvement.
10. Connect people to a cause, not just a company.
Inspiration is what makes the whole company tick, and it‘s made up of a combination of our customers and our employees’ motivations — not the activities themselves. This is a point worth fixating on, and will make it easier for you, as a manager, to answer the question, “how're we doing?”
Help your team understand and embrace the “why” behind their work, including the impact on customers and their personal goals.
11. Focus on developing your people.
Your legacy as a sales manager is not just about hitting numbers, but also about the growth and success of your team members.
Increasing the skills and capabilities of the sales team directly impacts their performance. When sales reps are equipped with the necessary knowledge, techniques, and strategies, they are more likely to excel in their roles.
12. Build mutual trust and respect over time with your leadership.
A positive work environment where individuals feel valued and supported, and sales managers that facilitate a productive environment pave the way for that success.
13. Recognize and celebrate the achievements and growth of your team members, even after they move on from your team.
Celebrating the successes of individuals, even if they no longer work on the team, demonstrates a culture of support and appreciation. By recognizing their achievements, sales managers show that they value the contributions and growth of their former team members.
This ultimately leads to higher employee engagement, better performance, and a stronger team dynamic.
14. Keep the importance of cultivating and developing others in mind as you navigate the day-to-day challenges of sales management.
I‘ve watched reps move from one team to other important roles in our company, while others have moved on to become managers themselves. I can’t quantify how important this is to me — and when it's all said and done.
It's not only humbling to think that you can be a part of that progression — but eye-opening. This is what it's all about, right? You take relatively inexperienced, motivated people and you develop them, building mutual trust and respect over time. You inspire them and lead them. They move onto a place outside your team, but with so many more skills and abilities than they came in with.
Sales Manager Tips
Before you go, take away these tips from Corporate Sales Manager Aoife Murphy:
- Engage in active listening. “In the hybrid work environment, you might be one of the few internal colleagues with whom a sales representative regularly communicates. It's crucial to actively listen and follow up on any questions or challenges your team members may be facing.”
- Embrace data-driven approaches. “In today's world, especially within a platform like HubSpot, we have access to numerous data sources. It is essential to use data to make informed decisions, identify areas for improvement, and optimize your sales strategy.”
- Utilize emotional intelligence. “Understanding your team's needs and concerns is vital for effective leadership. It enables you to provide tailored support and motivation to individual team members.”
- Cultivate a growth mindset. “Everyone in sales should adopt a growth mindset. This mindset empowers us to find solutions for ourselves, our business, and our customers. It also allows us to remain adaptable in a sales landscape that is constantly evolving.”
Become an Effective Sales Manager
It‘s easy to lose sight of this in the day-to-day of managing, but worth thinking about if you are in or planning to be in a management role. If you love to cultivate, you’ll love managing.
Editor's note: This article was originally published February 2014 and has since been updated for comprehensiveness.