8 Habits of a Great Sales Manager

October 4, 2018

This guest post was contributed by Tracey Wik, Managing Director, GrowthPlay.

Like many new sales managers, perhaps you landed in your leadership role based on your ability to sell. You were a fantastic salesperson who constantly hit (and shattered) goals and quickly rose to the top.

You probably didn’t get your sales manager job by being a great manager. Many don’t know the first thing about how to manage a team. If this is you; you’re not alone.

Fear not. You can become a great sales manager, even if you’ve never managed anyone. I’ve got you covered.

Here are the essentials of taking your sales management skills from good to great:

1. Knowing what motivates your sales reps

Often, new (and experienced) sales managers assume that dollars drive all their reps. While making sure your reps are paid competitively and rewarded for a job well done is important, this is only part of the motivation equation. Sit down with your reps and find out what’s driving them. Why did they get into this work? What do they love about it? What are their natural strengths?

Also, once you find out what motivates them — be it time off, recognition, compensation, knowledge, keep the conversation going because what motivates your rep today might change down the road.

2. Create teachable moments

Design moments your sales reps can learn from. You could make a joint sales call, and then stand back and let your rep do their job. They might fail, and this is okay. Let them go down that path. Hand them a low-risk situation with a client you could afford to lose. The best way to prepare your reps for a high-risk situation is to let them get their hands dirty and learn from the low-risk times.

3. Give feedback early and often

Excellent salespeople stop working so hard when their sales manager withholds the input. Sales reps need pats on the back and celebrations when they achieve their goals. By setting clear expectations and realistic goals, then offering up plenty of timely and objective feedback helps let reps know they’re appreciated and doing good work.

4. Don't try to save them

Chances are you were once a successful sales rep — that’s what got you here. You know a thing or two about being a great sales rep, but keep in mind that what brought you success in your career is likely going to be different from your rep. You have different strengths, learning styles, and motivations. If you see them treading down a path that landed you in hot water in the past, let them work it out on their own. For one, they could very well end up with a different (and more favorable) result than you did, and you give them an opportunity to learn and grow. If you jump in and try to rescue them from failure, they could lose trust in you, and become more focused on trying to avoid defeat, rather than trying to achieve success.

5. Understand the metrics around your sale

When you were a seller, you worried about your relationships. Now that you’re a manager, you have to shift perspective to what sales activities are profitable. You’ve never had to care about profit before. You’ll need to pivot to be interested in profit to be able to understand and control the key factors in enabling your reps to make the sale while balancing the priorities. Keep in mind that your rep is focused on relationships even though you aren’t.

6. Always be building relationships

Whom you networked with when you were a sales rep was important. Now that you’re a manager it’s even more crucial to prioritize activities that have you out in the field, meeting new connections, growing your professional network and keeping frequent contact with those in your network.

7. Set a high bar

Set your bar high with your own work ethic. If you expect just as much (or more) of yourself than you do of your team, through mentoring you can help them reach their personal bests. Sales excellence means engaging every sales rep in a never-ending and ongoing improvement effort. As a new sales manager, it can be easy to implement some quick changes, and it can be challenging to keep the momentum going. You may need to get creative if it looks like you’ll miss your team’s target.

8. Continuous learning

As a sales manager, you have to be someone who’s interested in ongoing education and increasing the overall competence of your team. Demonstrate your eagerness to stay at the top of your game and model this for your people by attending training regularly. Encourage your team to invest time in training while making sure it’s possible for them. That means your job is to help remove any roadblocks to their success.

You certainly don’t have to stop with just these eight practices. Focusing on your constant improvement and integrity will help create a strong role model for your people. In environments where everyone is working to get better, everyone wins.

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