Sales management is one of the most difficult jobs out there. Your responsibilities span the organization -- along with the VP or director of sales, you're working with people in Product, Marketing, HR, and so on.
Most importantly, managers are responsible for the individual and collective success of their salespeople. Rallying reps to hit their quota is no easy task, especially when every team member is motivated by different things.
If you want to succeed in this role, adopt these key habits of great sales managers.
How to Be a Good Sales Manager
1. Shadow your reps every day.
As a sales manager, you have an infinite number of things you could be doing. However, you should make time to shadow your reps each and every day. Why is this activity critical?
First, you can observe and then pass on best practices. Your top-performing salespeople might not know exactly what they're doing to be so successful. But since you're spending time with everyone, you can pick up on common trends and outlier behaviors.
Second, shadowing your reps lets you catch issues immediately -- rather than several weeks or months down the line when they're not hitting their number.
Third, you'll save precious time in pipeline review. You won't need the same amount of explanation or context as when deals are completely foreign to you.
Fourth, it tells your sales team that your biggest priority is their deals. They'll reward you with their loyalty, commitment, and respect.
2. Always be recruiting (ABR).
One of the biggest mistakes you can make is waiting to recruit until you've got an open spot on your team. Usually, you won't have quota relief -- which means every day that position isn't filled, you're falling behind. Many managers end up settling for someone mediocre because they don't have time to find a great candidate.
To avoid this issue, spend an hour every day recruiting, no matter what your headcount is. Go to networking events, ask your contacts for referrals, interview salespeople, add connections on LinkedIn, and so forth. You'll have a ready pipeline of potential reps when the time comes.
Consistently recruiting also encourages your current salespeople to keep working hard. After all, they'll know they can be replaced if they stop getting results.
I don't know a single sales director who wouldn't hire a superstar even if you've got a full roster. If you find someone amazing, you can ask to hire her.
3. Be obsessive about your time.
Time management is huge in this role. In fact, many sales managers are specifically trained in managing their time.
If you have an open-door policy, I'd get rid of it immediately. Schedule “office hours” instead: Two 60-minute blocks per week during which anyone can drop by your desk or shoot you an email and get a response.
For separate questions or requests, tell your reps to book time on your calendar. This will free up hours of your schedule. Rather than pestering you with every issue that comes up, your salespeople will only present the most important ones. They'll figure out the minor questions on their own or wait until office hours.
I also recommend steering clear of Slack and other instant message platforms. These tools enforce LIFO: Last In, First Out. In other words, the most recent message tends to get the first reply. It's unproductive and unfair.
If you currently use a chat tool, shut it off for one week. Then review how efficient you were. I guarantee you'll have gotten more done.
4. Be a micromanager.
Micromanagers often get a bad rap in business but as a sales manager, it's key to performing your job well. You need to be in the weeds and know what's happening on your sales floor so you can effectively make management decisions.
A sled dog racer doesn't get to sit in the back of the dogsled and watch their sled dogs race to the finish line of the Iditarod. Your sales team needs a leader, one that doesn't sit back and watch their team do all the work. And your leadership in one-on-one meetings and on the sales floor will show them you're there for them, to advise and coach.
This will also alert you to issues at their start. If you're not paying close attention to your reps and their activities each day, you might miss important details that could help you address an issue before it gets out of hand.
5. Always include a finish line.
Great sales managers always include a finish line when they introduce new ideas and strategies to their team.
For example, let's say a sales manager's priority is for their reps to be proficient in the product. They have an idea to set up a lunch-and-learn session with their sales team and the product manager who explains the product to the reps in detail.
If they have one lunch without any clear goals and takeaways for the lunch, the reps will question the purpose. Why should they take time out of their schedule for meetings like this in the future?
Instead, the sales manager could present the sessions to their team like so:
"We're going to have lunch-and-learn sessions with the product manager for [product name] so we're proficient in the product we're selling. We'll start out with two sessions over the next month, then we'll evaluate what you've learned and see if we should continue this program."
Setting clear timelines and goals will help you roll out strategies effectively, and reps will take you more seriously because you follow through on your ideas.
Implement these habits into your sales management routine, and you'll see the difference in your team's performance. And to learn more about sales strategy, check out the steps to create a sales plan next.
Does your team need a boost? Give them the skills they need to transform their approach to selling. Jeff's public workshops will inspire and motivate reps at any career stage.
Originally published Feb 19, 2019 5:00:00 PM, updated February 20 2019