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Being a sales manager is one of the hardest jobs in the sales profession. You have a million plates in the air. You need to manage up the chain as well as manage your sales team to get the results the business needs. What does it take to manage and coach your sales team to success?
You cannot be available for everyone, every minute of the day and also get your job done. Managing your team is all about helping people to grow in a way that makes sense to them and spending your time wisely. It’s not necessarily about getting the immediate “win” – it’s about figuring out how best to maneuver through many moving parts. Here are a few tips to help you become an effective sales manager.
You’re faced with tons of administrative reporting and meetings that require your attendance. But make sure you regularly assess whether or not you’re taking enough time to coach. What percentage of your time should you spend on coaching? Sales and Operations research has shown that 3-5 hours per month is optimal for performance coaching. Are you spending that amount of time per sales rep, or overall?
Keep in mind that you’ll also want to use your coaching hours wisely. Spend too many hours coaching, and you end up suffocating your reps, which can actually hurt performance.
Are you focusing all of your coaching on low performers? Do you spend any time coaching your top performers or do you leave them be, assuming they are good to go?
When it comes to low performers, start by determining if they had a will problem or a skill problem. If it’s a will problem, then the sooner they move on, the better it will be for everyone. But if an under-performer is truly in need of skills and coaching, then give them the they need.
It may be a surprise to you, but top performers actually love coaching. They know a lot, but they don’t know everything. And therein lies the key: willingness to always listen and learn. I’ve coached many a top performer to help them get out of the weeds and see things a bit differently. This ultimately gave them the opportunity to adjust, improve and be happier in their jobs.
Are you merely telling your sales reps what to do? Or are you testing their critical thinking and empowering them to come up with options, solutions and improvements on their own?
Telling your staff what to do may be faster and easier, but it is certainly not as effective. Reps will naturally keep coming back to you, again and again, to ask more questions. And, if every one of your direct reports come to you for advice and you are not available, then you become the bottleneck. They will just sit and wait, believing they cannot complete all the things on their action plans or to-do lists without you.
Your job as a sales manager is to encourage your team to learn and grow by thinking through the best ways to resolve issues. Ask them open-ended questions to get them to think things through. If they come up with the same thing you were thinking, that’s great. They may also come up with a totally different answer, but one that works just as well. If it’s good for your customer, good for your company and good for you, then you’re heading in the right direction – even if it’s not exactly what you would have done yourself.
The only way to coach your sales team to success is to properly assess and diagnose your team’s sales competencies and skills, and create a joint improvement plan to help them get there. Once you agree on a coaching plan, break it up into bite-sized chunks to get small, frequent wins and successes. Create team ownership and accountability by having each rep identify what they will do in one week or two, and then report back on what they did, changes they made and results they attained. Nothing is better for morale than seeing a big smile on someone’s face when they realize they are better today than they were the day before.
As a sales manager, it’s your job to help your sales team be successful. It may seem like it takes more time than you have, but once you teach people how to think and empower them to make their own decisions, then you will swap the time you’re taking to tell them what to do with taking that time to actually coach them. It will be hard at first, especially if you’re in the habit of immediately answering their questions. Spend your precious time focusing on the right things, have a solid action plan, and don’t stand in the way of your sales reps’ growth.