Many of us are familiar with the expression: “People don’t leave companies; they leave managers.” Why do they leave managers? Because they are not being coached, developed and motivated to do their best. If that’s true of managers in general, it’s doubly true of sales managers, whose sales team’s pay is generally tied directly to performance. So, what successful sales manager traits are needed to drive a high performing sales team?
Here are three things that successful sales managers have in common:
1. They have the right attitude
Attitude is the foundation of a successful sales manager. Without it, creating an aligned and engaged sales culture isn’t possible. An effective sales culture is “the way we do things around here.” A successful sales manager will create that culture through:
• Company values
Some organizations will explicitly define the values they and their employees aspire to, while others will not; but make no mistake that these values exist. Be careful that your values are lived, not just displayed on a poster on the wall. Have your team help to create these values and be sure that you, as a sales manager, demonstrate them consistently. Make your organization values-driven.
• Coaching mindset
Great sales cultures view the sales team as a learning organization that can always improve. Successful sales managers convey this attitude by looking for opportunities to groom salespeople and teach them the company’s values. Sales managers should constantly look to develop their sales team’s skills, build relationships with salespeople, and create value in all coaching. Coaching must be a priority that gets time and attention. Done in a consistent way, people understand the importance and ultimately, people believe it when they see you living it.
2. They have effective coaching skills
The fundamentals of great sales management are coaching and feedback. These fundamentals, when done correctly and frequently, will encourage engagement. Too often people believe coaching is about telling and directing, where in reality it’s about listening and engaging.
All sales managers have coaching skills and they all can make adjustments to use those skills to be even more successful.
When coaching, we use Acknowledge, Question, Confirmation and Response. Often, sales managers (like salespeople) are far too quick to Respond. They ask a few Questions, skip the Confirmation of understanding and rush to Respond. This would be great if a little information told the whole story – unfortunately it does not. The formula to be a better coach is simple: Question better, Confirm more and Respond less.
Successful sales managers learn to question better, confirm more and respond less. If you want to be a better coach, those six words are your life long journey to mastery and becoming a successful sales manager.
Similarly, they also recognize that their teams need effective feedback to improve and be successful. Feedback is often a one-way conversation delivered from the sales manager to the sales person. It must be a two-way conversation with self-discovery by the salesperson being the first and most critical step.
A successful sales manager will have team members so well versed in feedback, they can provide themselves with clear, actionable, realistic and balanced feedback on a daily basis.
3. They follow proven disciplines
Structure sets you free. A successful sales manager will ensure that there is a formalized structure for each sales management task such as feedback, coaching, one-on-one meetings. It sets you free because if you have a process, the discipline is in consistently exercising it. It’s about creating a predictable cadence. In the absence of structure, each time you go to coach or manage, you will spend time thinking about the “how” and the “what.” With structure, the “how’ is set, allowing you to focus only on the “what.”
A key sales management tool is the “one-on-one.” We define a one-on-one as a scheduled, formal, private meeting between a sales manager and a salesperson. Our point of view is that one-on-one meetings are a fundamental right of a salesperson and a fundamental prerequisite for success as a sales manager.
A world-class one-on-one is:
• Business and person focused
• Directed towards the future rather than the past – it’s about balancing both
• Strategic first and tactical second
• A series of connected meetings
Make one-on-ones a priority and you will participate in great business conversations that will build the confidence and skill of your team and keep them engaged. Apply an equally effective process to activities like sales team meetings and you will motivate and inspire your entire team.
These attitudes, skills and key sales management processes, when practiced consistently, will help you develop successful sales manager traits to drive high engagement, accountability and results.
If you’re looking for insightful strategies on how to drive your sales team to success, Engage Me will help you to ensure your team not only stays but thrives.