What Makes A Good Sales Manager?

Written by Sean McPheat | Linkedin thumb

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A Good Sales Manager Does These 8 Things

Every sales manager, supervisor, director or otherwise frontline sales team leader, wants to have and develop a great sales force. Everyone wants to have a sales team made up of superstar salespeople.

However, I am continually surprised at how many of those sales managers are not willing to treat their sales team like that which they want them to become. They don’t develop them, praise them, coach, or even help them at times.

There is a big difference between the average sales manager and the top performing ones. So, let’s look at what the good sales managers are doing.

Good Sales Managers Trust Their People

Start by trusting your salespeople to do what they say they will do and believe that they will. On one hand, you say you believe in the salesperson. You say you have confidence that they can achieve their targets. Then, you watch them like Big Brother! You establish rules and regulations that clearly demonstrate that you do NOT trust or believe in them at all. When you do this, you can easily stifle their potential. If you say you believe, then act accordingly. If you do not trust them then it will likely demotivate your sales team.

Good Sales Managers Do Not Pile On The Pressure

If you tell your people that you truly believe that they will hit their quota by the end of the month, then don’t start jumping on their back after the first week. You may think you are helping to “remind” them of their goal and commitment.

However, what you are really saying is, “I really don’t believe you can do this, and I must therefore keep reminding you of your commitment every 15 minutes.”

Such micromanagement of good salespeople will cause animosity and an anti-productive atmosphere.

Good Sales Managers Flex Their Leadership Style

In motivating and leading your sales team, it is easy to overlook the individuality of each salesperson. After a time, you can find yourself treating everyone the same way if you’re not careful. While there are some areas where they should receive the same and equal treatment like HR matters etc, how you lead each salesperson should be as unique as each individual is.

You must recognise the personality differences, skill levels and potential of each member of your sales team and treat them accordingly. Below are just a few thoughts to keep in mind as you build a strong sales force and lead your team to success.

Lead or Direct?

With some, you need to take them by the hand and walk them through their responsibilities and procedures step-by-step. Some people need a bit of handholding, and you must show them exactly what to do. For some salespeople, such close guidance helps them perform better.

Alternatively, for others, the “self-starter” type and the experienced professional, this kind of handholding and guidance has the reverse effect. For some the worst thing you can do is try to lead them step-by-step.

For these team members, you are best to give them direction, and then leave them alone. Let the salesperson know what you want done, what the goals are and what you expect from them, and then get out of the way.

Don’t Micromanage

Even if you are having to provide support as close quarters do not micromanage. I don’t’ know one salesperson who likes this. As mentioned earlier it shows a lack of trust. Check in, sure. But don’t be a control freak.

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Good Sales Managers Coach And Develop Their People

Sales Coaching is one of the most important responsibilities of a sales manager. It’s what they should be focusing on more than anything else that they have on their plate. Sales management is all about getting sales results through others so if you can continually improve your people their results can compound over time.

Any decent Sales Management Training programme will provide you with the coaching skills to drive and improve the performance of your team.

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Good Sales Managers Never Criticise In Public

I’ve spoke about things that a good sales manager should do. There are a few things They shouldn’t do as well.

The loyalty and dedication your sales team has in following you is fragile, and it does not take much to lose their respect.

There are times when you will need to provide corrective feedback so your communication skills need to be of the highest calibre.

Perhaps they need to improvement in certain areas or is not living up to the potential you know is possible.

Maybe there are disciplinary steps you need to take.

In any case, these are things you must do in private.

Never bring up their shortcomings or problems in front of the group.

Not only does this embarrass and degrade the salesperson in question, but it also diminishes the self-esteem of the whole sales team.

Good Sales Managers Never Causally Dismiss Suggestions

It is true that some salespeople can find some of the most ridiculous things to complain about.

Also, some ideas and suggestions from team members are often unrealistic or impossible to consider.
However, you must take in and listen to their thoughts and feelings.

A salesperson sits up half the night thinking about an idea that they believe will help the team.

They bring it to you and before they can even explain their flash of brilliance, you cut them off with something like, “Nah! That won’t work. We tried that years ago…forget it.”

When this happens, you not only invalidate the idea; you invalidate the person.

You must at least listen and hear them out.

Then, do not be so quick to respond, even if you know the suggestion is of no real value.

Take it in and think about it anyway.

Then report back later.

Good Sales Managers Never Demand Something That They Wouldn’t Do Themselves

Be careful not to ask your salespeople to perform tasks or reach sales goals that you cannot do or have not ever done.

At least have someone who you can point to who has reached these goals.

Of course, there are times when you want to reach higher, set new records and reach heights never obtained, but you must be able to show that these things are possible and not just chalk talk.

Give your sales team the respect they deserve, and they will give it back.

Jack Welch’s Sales Management Concepts

Jack Welch has been voted one of the most influential managers of the twentieth century, and the effect of his style is still being felt today.

He was the CEO of General Electric (GE) from 1982 till 2001. To start evaluating his managers, Jack implemented a system of measuring performance based on characteristics that ‘graded’ them against certain criteria.

The criteria he chose were interesting in that they were different from the normal distribution of measurements within business settings. They became known as the 4 ‘E’ and 1 ‘P’ concepts, and we can compare them now to ascertain whether they are still effective in today’s critical sales world.

The first ‘E’ referred to Energy.

High personal energy displayed by the sales manager is vital if their team is to follow the example. The team follow the example set by the manager, and if the energy levels are low, the lethargy is shared among the team. You need to display a hard-working attitude, yes, but the visible energy exuded at the personal level is more important to help the team keep their motivation, spirit, and drive at a high level.

The second ‘E’ is related to the fact that you need to Energise Others.

Naturally, you can’t do this if you don’t show energy yourself, so it’s imperative that you set the lead and example. This creates momentum for the effect of energising others to be put into place.

The third ‘E’ refers to what Welch called the Edge.

This was defined as taking tough decisions without flinching, understanding what needed to be done and when. He recommended that, when decisions needed to be made, they were considered, determined, and then acted upon. Managers who have the edge show their teams what need to be done and actively get on with them.

The fourth ‘E’ drove people to the top of the pile.

Welch referred to it as Execution.

It was considered it to be the most important of the four, or at least the catalyst for the other three to be effective. It requires a manager to be proactive, identifying where things are going wrong and formulating plans before they have an impact on results. The Execution manager recognises how they should take ownership of the matter before they have to make excuses for failure.

And the ‘P’ stood for Passion.

Welch referred to having passion as the essential quality that kept the four ‘E’s working well. Without the drive, the motivation, the passion for excellence, managers fall at the first obstacle.

So, there you have the five key components that Welch stated were needed for top performing sales managers. I don’t believe anything has changed since his day and recommended we all follow that advice.

Happy Selling


Sean McPheat

Sean McPheat
Managing Director

MTD Sales Training

Sales DNA

Originally published: 11 November, 2021

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