A sales manager wears many hats, including overseeing their staff, setting team goals, assisting their salespeople in setting individual goals and many more. However, the most important role of a sales manager is to lead their team, and provide the motivation necessary to everyone on their team.
The first thing to remember is that you are the leader of the sales team and it is your responsibility to provide the environment necessary for your people to succeed. That starts with getting to know your salespeople individually and motivating them in a way that gets the best out of them.
A sales manager must talk to their people, learn what makes them tick, what bothers them and so on. In short, a salesperson must know the strengths and weaknesses of each of their team members and then motivate them according to the information learned. I suggest that you have a weekly one-on-one meeting with each individual in order to review their goals, provide positive and/or constructive feedback and genuinely get to know each of your people.
Some salespeople respond best to an authoritative approach, while others will not respond to that at all and may even shut down completely. Some need to be told they’re doing a good job and respond well to positive reinforcement, while others may work better if they are left alone and communication is kept to a minimum. If you can maximize every person’s potential on your team and help them achieve their individual goals, then achieving team goals will happen effortlessly.
As a sales manager you set a goal for two of your salespeople to sell $20,000 this month. Jim is a salesperson who responds best when he is told what the goal is and is then left alone. Don, on the other hand, works better with constant feedback.
In Jim’s case, the sales manager should provide clear expectations to him and then check in every now and then, but also let Jim work without too much interference. Let him know that you are available if he needs you, but also respect how he works best.
Don will want constant feedback and that feedback could be both positive and constructive. The sales manager may review each sale or presentation, and discuss what went right and what needs to improve in order for Don to achieve his goal. Remember what works for Jim will not work for Don and vice versa.
It is vital that a sales manager build trust with those he/she is managing. Without a level of trust, even the best motivation techniques are not going to work.
Another way to get to know your staff, build trust and motivate them at the same time is to make yourself visible on the sales floor. We talked earlier about why it is important to learn what the strengths and weaknesses are of each of your salespeople and the best way to do that is to watch them work, and the best way to do that is on the floor. In addition, you will want to be on the floor to make sure that turnovers are in force and if necessary, do a take-over yourself. You don’t want to lose sales and profits if a sale is going south and you could come in and make the sale. Use these situations as a training/coaching opportunity.
Watch how they interact with customers, how they handle objections and if they are effective in closing their sales. Once you have this information, then you are in a better position to help them achieve their potential. Being on the floor is not all about finding out what your people are doing wrong, it is also about what they are doing right.
Yes, it is important to coach your salespeople and help them improve, but it is more important to catch them doing something right. When a salesperson closes a sale, tell them they did a good job. When another salesperson handles a difficult objection, make sure they know it. For many people, nothing is more motivating than hearing they did a good job. That kind of feedback will lead to salespeople working even harder to hear more positive feedback.
Part of motivating is coaching as we have touched on already. But if coaching is going to have the desired effect, then it must be done right. Be direct when it comes to coaching; it is extremely easy for people to misunderstand your message if you try to beat around the bush. For example, if a salesperson is falling behind on their goals, then tell them exactly that and provide a plan to help them get back on track. If you start with, “You are doing well but…” then you run the risk of them only hearing “you are doing well,” and not the part that needs to be improved.
Once you have communicated the issue and provided a plan to improve, make sure you provide follow up. If the salesperson improves, then let them know (catch them doing something good.) If the issue does not improve, then address it again and remember to be honest and direct.
A sales manager has many roles, and they are all important. The most important of their roles is to motivate their sales staff and maximize their potential. The best way to get that done involves getting to know your staff, what motivates them, providing coaching and positive feedback when appropriate. The most important thing in achieving all of those things is building a level of trust between the sales manager and the team. Make yourself visible on the floor, interact with your salespeople, coach them when necessary and catch them doing something good. By doing all of this you will continue to build trust and that’s when great things become possible. The best leaders are the ones who are in the trenches with the ones that they are leading.