The Balancing Act Of Sales Management: Person Vs Process

August 14, 2018

Editor’s Note: This guest post was contributed by Tony Hughes, sales leadership speaker, consultant, and author of COMBO Prospecting.

Sales management is the most important role in revenue generation for any business but how do you balance 'managing the person' with 'managing the process'? How do you love and encourage your people, yet hold them to account for doing what's necessary in creating sales and customer success?

This is what I asked one of the best sales managers I've met, Brigid Archibald, who is a sales leader at Salesforce. Her insights are incredibly valuable for anyone aspiring to sales leadership as she explains what it takes to go beyond sales management to instead be an effective sales leader.

Here's the interview transcript…

Tony: Do great salespeople make good sales managers?

Brigid: I think not always the case. I think they are completely different skillsets, and sometimes the motivation is really different as well.

Tony: More skill set or mindset?

Brigid: I think a great salesperson is sometimes a little bit self-orientated, they’re focused on their goal, whereas to be a great sales leader, and I like to use the term “leader” rather than “manager”, you need to be selfless in effect.

Tony: What do you think are the most successful attributes of someone who does make that transition?

Brigid: Firstly, a lot of self-awareness. You need to be very mindful of the impact that you have on people as you go about day to day, and also you need to be very consistent in how you interact with your people. Obviously you need to be able to motivate and you need to be able to inspire, but you also need to be comfortable enough to empower.

Tony: What do you mean by empowerment?

Brigid: I see this a lot, especially with first-time sales leaders, where they really try and demonstrate how to do things the way they did them. Perhaps a good analogy is when you teach a child to ride a bike. What you do with that child is you don’t grab the bike off them and say, “Watch me do this, look how fantastic I am,” and now hand the bike over and expect them to be able to ride a bike. What you do in that situation in reality is put safety devices, like a helmet, training wheels, getting a relatively flat area, and help the child become proficient at riding the bike, and then slowly take off those safety devices, perhaps even enabling a few scratches here and there, to really encourage and empower them to ride the bike. It’s exactly the same in a sales situation. The worst thing a sales manager can do is jump in and fix a sale, just because they think it’s going off track; you need to encourage and empower your people to be successful.

Tony: How do you, as a sales manager, motivate your salespeople to be doing the things they need to be doing every day? It’s very easy for sellers to be busy but not effective.

Brigid: I think the key thing is to know your people. My one-to-ones that I have weekly with my salespeople are very different. Yes, the same information is collected, but the actual conversations and where they’re at in their professional development, where they’re at with their deal strategies are very different. I think you can get to know your salespeople well enough to know, simply by sometimes body language, when they actually need a bit of extrinsic motivation. So know your people, know what motivates them, and know how to hook into that when needed.

Tony: How has sales management really changed in the last 10 years? What is it that’s different with sales management today?

Brigid: The main thing that’s changed is clearly technology. You need to be comfortable with technology, you need to be comfortable with the transparency that technology gives. And one of the main things that I believe has changed is that you need to be comfortable that your people don’t need to be in the office to be doing work; the days of expecting the sales guys to be in the office at 8 AM and leaving at five are over. One of the attributes that I look for discipline. When I’m interviewing for salespeople, I want to hear how they manage their day. Because there’s only so many revenue-generating hours in the day, and you really need to be self-disciplined to make sure you’re in front of your customers at the right time, when they need you to be there.

Tony: Thanks Brigid! When it comes to sales management, we need to be aware that it’s rare for great salespeople to become great sales managers. Great sales managers go beyond just being intuitive in how they operate, to being truly data-driven and process-driven, and they’re more about their team than they are about themselves. The other thing that sales managers really need to do is they need to coach people rather than just try and manage by outcomes, they need to identify what those input metrics are that really create success. So my question for you is do you have the right people in the right roles inside your own business?

Over to you... what do you regard as best practice in sales management and sales leadership? How do you authentically place emotion at the heart of what you do and the way you sell?

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