Managing sales teams successfully requires the sales manager to be skilled in several diverse areas. These areas include, but not limited to: decision-making and objectives setting, organizing the tasks necessary to achieve them, leading and motivating the sales team, and problem-solving skills. Senior-level managers or executive officers may set the goals of the organization. Nonetheless, most sales managers are charged with setting the objectives of their unit to meet the goals of the organization. They are also in charge of developing a budget to support them. It is not an easy task. It is a challenging one!
Managing sales teams focuses on organizing and staffing the sales force adequately
The sales manager must make decisions about how to organize the work and who is going to handle each task. They may include broader-level decisions, such as deciding how to organize the sales force (for example, by industry, geography, or product line). Sales managers’ decisions may also include more narrow-level decisions, such as assigning specific salespeople to specific clients. Additionally, they make decisions on how to divide responsibilities for team-based selling efforts. Those responsibilities may include, for example, deciding who should handle outbound calls to qualify prospects, or who should meet and present products to clients. Decisions may also include who should follow-up and offer them sales support.
Sales managers typically play an essential role when it comes to staffing
Sales managers often work very closely with their human resources department to recruit and select new sales force members. At other times, they leave most of the recruiting and screening activities to their human resource department. The department then refers the top candidates to the sales managers for consideration and final hire or no-hire decisions.
Furthermore, managing sales teams requires the sales manager to make sure salespeople have an incentive to do their jobs well. Training and developing members of the sales team, as well as coaching them, are also equally important tasks.
Also, sales management responsibilities involve measuring and analyzing the performance of the sales force and, when needed, taking corrective actions to meet the initial objectives. In essence, this is analysis and problem-solving skills.
Therefore, once established in their positions, effective sales managers must always work to improve and expand their expertise in terms of their people management skills. There are numerous books written on this topic. For managing sales teams successfully, I have compiled eleven suggestions of essential behaviors that sales managers should demonstrate to the salespeople who directly report to them. So if you are a newly hired sales manager or one who desires to manage your sales team successfully, these are behaviors you should find actionable. They would serve you very well.
11 Important Tips for Managing Sales Teams Successfully
1. Clarify the direction your business is taking.
For managing sales teams successfully, you need to communicate clearly where the business is heading, why, and how your team will contribute to it. By discussing this, your team will have a better perspective of the issues facing the organization and how they fit in. It will show them the value of their contribution to the organization.
2. Set clear goals and objectives.
Without clear goals and objectives, you, as a sales manager, are just making assumptions about your sales team’s progress. Goals and objectives should be set at both the team and individual level. Doing an excellent job of establishing them will make bonus and merit incentive performance decisions more transparent and comfortable to communicate with your sales team members.
3. Give frequent, specific, and immediate feedback.
This shows you are interested in the development of your sales team members, how you think they are performing, and, if needed, how to improve their performance. It will also make the performance evaluation discussions go more smoothly and managing your sales team successful.
4. Be decisive and timely.
After you have the information you need, your salespeople expect you to decide promptly. This helps the members of your sales team move forward instead of wondering how they should proceed. This is straightforward, right?
5. Be accessible.
This is very critical. If, as a sales manager, you expect your sales team members to keep you informed, you need to be available when they need to see or contact you. This can be done in person, by phone, or electronically. It is essential to be accessible all the time for managing sales teams successfully.
6. Demonstrate honesty and sincerity.
When sales managers communicate with their sales representatives, especially during performance appraisals, they should use language that is specific and not vague. Masking the truth doesn’t help people develop. Be straightforward, simple, honest, open, and sincere. It has a profound effect on your sales team’s performance.
7. Offer an equitable compensation plan.
Reasonable goals and transparent communications will help people understand how they are being rewarded for their efforts. For managing sales teams successfully, the system should reward the sales representatives fairly and provide equitable compensation. Otherwise, do not expect dedication nor commitment from the team.
8. Avoid rule-making.
Great salespeople generally want freedom and autonomy. Compliance doesn’t work for these people, whereas commitment does. The better you’re able to remove the obstacles and set them up to produce results, the more successful they will be – and you will be. Don’t ever tell them what they can’t do, because they will simply focus their creativity on finding ways to overcome your rules.
9. Become a coach.
Effective coaching will help you manage your sales team successfully. For example, ask, do not tell, your high performers what to do. Ask them to put themselves in your shoes over a particular issue, and discuss a variety of possible options. Let them own the solution to whatever obstacle is at hand. Believe me; this is very effective! And a lot of studies and field experience support that.
10. Let them do what they do best.
To motivate and lead salespeople effectively, you want to think about what is important to them and what drives them. If you have employees who are not great at details and writing proposals, but they’re great at selling, then let them sell. Find someone else to compensate in some way to support them on the detail. It is also part of an effective organization in your sales team.
11. Give them pats on the back.
Well, although this may sound trivial, it is very crucial. You need to recognize your sales team. Money isn’t often the main driver, especially with top-performing salespeople. It’s really about being respected due to their achieving and getting those results. They seek appreciation and recognition.
So these are 11 tips for managing sales teams successfully. Although there are tons of studies and research, I have compiled these tips because I believe they are the building blocks of success. Admittedly, there are others. Therefore, what do you think of these 11 tips, and do you suggest others?
I look forward to your contribution.
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Sources: (1) How to Manage a Successful Sales Team, Katherine Graham-Leviss, http://www.entrepreneur.com/article/222599; (2) Sales Management – Shaping Future Sales Leaders, Tanner, Honeycutt, and Erffmeyer, Prentice-Hall, Pearson International Edition