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80% of the roles and responsibilities of sales managers consist of ensuring that sales representatives are executing your strategy correctly.
- Holding their team accountable
Then there are secondary competencies to master. For example:
- Participating in the organizational structure,
- Contributing to the strategy,
- Putting together a forecast,
- Legal and financial literacy, and the most important,
- Pipeline management.
In the end, there are three things that distinguishes elite sales managers from others. Before getting into that, let’s dive a little deeper in the 4 core competencies…
Coaching is probably the sales competency that distinguishes good sales managers from others.
Coaching is about making your salespeople better. In fact, just the act of coaching often, regardless of the quality of the session, improves sales performance.
When a sales manager coaches, they can provide support and help to their sales reps effectively. That means, adding value to the conversation with their salespeople to get them to think differently and tackle calls and opportunities the right way. For example, do the rep have a definite next step or are they able to identify the right next step?
50% of a sales manager’s time needs to be committed to coaching his or her sales team. Sales coaching is a daily activity. Sales Managers must meet every one of their reps each day for pre-meeting coaching sessions and post-meeting debriefings. These coaching sessions are short: between 5 and 7 minutes tops.
What should they coach on?
They can help with pricing, putting together quotes, and technical sales questions (tactics and strategies for a sales call, a meeting, a specific opportunity).
Beyond tactical support, sales coaching needs to focus on a person's weaknesses. For example, which sales DNA deficiencies can be addressed during coaching sessions?
How to tell if a sales manager’s coaching is working?
At its core, there are two elements of successful coaching: is the coaching helpful and does it add value?
Remember, the goal of coaching is to grow and improve the reps’ sales competencies. To help them get opportunities that they wouldn’t be able to get on their own.
Questions you can ask:
- Is the coaching improving the win-rate of the salespeople?
- Is the coaching helping reps win against the competition?
- Is the coaching assisting reps to have higher quality conversations with prospects and clients?
- Is the coaching encouraging reps to focus on the right activities and the right opportunities?
How can a sales manager be a good coach?
For one, they need the core technical sales competencies - strong consultative selling competencies, a strong value seller competency, and a strong qualifier competency for example. They also need a healthy posture.
Those strong technical competencies allow them to support their team on tactical issues.
They also need strong sales management competencies.
Unfortunately, most sales managers aren't aware of all that’s required to coach effectively and how to connect with underlying weaknesses that affect sales performance. For one they tend to advise more than coach, and two they’re don’t role play and lead co-development sessions.
Holding their team accountable
Accountability in sales is about setting clear expectations and setting consequences if goals aren’t met. And to that, a sales manager needs two things.
- First, an excuse-free sales culture, which a lot of sales organizations don’t have. An excuse-free sales culture means making sure everyone on the team is taking responsibility for their actions and results as well as focusing on the right activities and not spreading themselves thin.
- Second, the activities that fill the funnel. Are salespeople doing the actions they need to fill their respective pipelines and are their managers holding them accountable for removing opportunities from their pipelines that aren’t qualified or aren’t going to close?
Why accountability in sales matters
Accountability matters for three main reasons:
- Accountability impacts other facets of sales managers responsibilities. For example, it’s difficult to have good coaching sessions if everyone is making excuses.
- Ultimately, accountability is what allows a manager to look at the gap between where a rep is and where they should be and not accept excuses for that gap and develop an action plan to bridge that gap.
- Finally, accountability allows the sales manager to raise the bar, raise expectations, and demand more from each rep.
Those three items impact pipeline management. Earlier I mentioned that pipeline management is a competency sales managers need to master. Accountability allows a sales leader to manage the pipeline by holding reps responsible for:
- Removing opportunities from the pipeline that don’t belong there,
- Placing opportunities at the right stages,
- Doing the right activities to fill their pipeline,
- Following the steps of the sales process,
- Filling out the CRM,
- Making sure the pipeline is balanced and that there’s movement.
Even the best salespeople have good days and bad days, and that’s where sales managers need to act when looking to help motivate reps.
Often, managers think “I need to motivate them” and is almost synonymous with cheerleading.
But cheerleading isn't motivating. Motivation needs to have a basis and a foundation to rest on. That's because motivation is sales isn’t about compensating for lack of desire or commitment or willingness to succeed. Those three elements lie within each salesperson and are unrelated with having a bad day or a bad stretch.
What is motivation in sales?
Sales motivation is about being able to act on the right thing at the right moment by connecting personal goals to professional ones.
Your sales force and each of its members are complex and aren't always motivated by merely following their commission structure. Your sales managers must take the time to understand what drives each rep. To be able to do this, it is imperative that sales managers understand each one’s motivations.
Sales managers should be able to answer the following questions for each team member:
- What is the representative’s BHAG (Big Hairy Audacious Goal)?
- What makes this person get up in the morning?
- What does this person do in his or her free time?
- Where does this person see themselves in 10 years?
- How can I (the sales manager) help this salesperson reach his or her goals?
How to motivate salespeople better
There are a variety of tactics to encourage people, but they should rest on two critical factors:
- Connecting personal and professional goals is the only way to motivate a salesperson sustainably.
- A salesperson’s type of motivation - extrinsically motivated or intrinsically - will impact what they respond to.
There's a significant difference between how sales recruitment should be and how it is in most organizations. Sales recruitment should be ongoing.
An organization can’t wait to have a role to fill before launching a recruitment initiative. That's the type of behavior that can lead to complacency and tolerating mediocrity for fear of losing someone.
A sales manager needs to spend 5% of his or her time (about 3 to 4 hours per week) maintaining a pipeline of potential candidates to fill possible job openings within the team.
Even if there are no openings at the moment, your sales managers must act like the recruiter of a sports team and spend time searching, observing, and finding players that have the potential to be better than the current players on the team.
When recruiting, sales managers shouldn’t necessarily search for representatives with experience in their field. Instead, they need to try to find the person with the talent to be the best salesperson on their team.
In other words, continuous recruiting isn't about filling chairs, but about increasing the team's level. When a sales manager has a pipeline of strong candidates, they can upgrade their team as they see fit.
99 essential sales manager tasks
Concretely, these are the 99 essential activities sales managers need to do:
Daily sales management tasks
- Manage the activities of sales representatives
- Give recognition, when deserved
- Avoid procrastination
- Understand the strengths/weaknesses of each salesperson
- Enroll every representative in a goal management program
- Lead by example
- Maintain contacts
- Coach efficiently
- Conduct meeting debriefings with competence
- Solve client problems
- Maintain peace and order within the sales team
- Act as a link between different departments
- Mediate conflicts between sales and operations
- Take responsibility for the actions of salespeople
- Remain flexible
- Become a problem-solving master
- Become the good faith ambassador for all departments
- Review and approve invoices
- Close deals
- Learn to ask “what’s the real problem?”
- Ensure continuity
- Be available
- Provide external training
- Maintain concentration
- Stay “out of the box” when necessary
- Let your salespeople fail If necessary
- Turn the page when necessary
- Manage inside sales
- Act as a reference for feedback
- Know your limits
- Delegate when possible
- Admit your mistakes
- Maintain your integrity
- Carry the torch
- Control your emotions
- Hold your promises
- Charge forward
- Manage by design
- Manage your time
- Tell many stories
- Raise expectations
- Often give signs of recognition
- Leave your ego aside
- Be demanding
- Listen to positive audio recordings
- Never take anything personally
- Fake sincerity
- Practice the identity/role concept
- Make sure your requests have an “otherwise…”
- Raise the values of your salespeople
- Reject signs of recognition
- Recognize the profile of success
- Use a unified sales process
- Reject mediocrity
- Refuse excuses
- Never take credit for your salespeople
- Pursue personal skill development
- Favour time-to-goal instead of time spent
- Know the 100 essential sales management activities
- Apply the 100 essential sales management activities
Weekly sales management tasks
- Manage the pipeline
- Ensure profitability
- Manage resources
- Master interviewer skills
- Follow salespeople’ goal management program
- Conduct client visits
- Manage major accounts
- Be creative
- Defend your team
- Ensure that salespeople are targeting the right markets
- Follow a 3-strike system
- Plan time to think
- Lead incentive programs
- Recruit continuously
- Manage the working capital
- Get your salespeople to earn your time
Monthly sales management tasks
- Dismiss when necessary
- Keep competitor intelligence up to date
- Understand the financial needs of salespeople
- Develop strategic partnerships
- Hold powerful sales meetings
- Mitigate losses
- Strengthen salespeople’s feeling of belonging
- Follow client accounts
- Defend your team’s interests
- Lead publicity programs (optional)
- Manage the compensation program
- Participate in masters groups
- Read good books
- Plan for personnel turnover
Quarterly sales management tasks
- Dictate terms
- Set goals
- Plan market strategies
- Develop new markets for products
- Develop new services for products
Yearly sales management tasks
- Do not overpay your salespeople
- Do not underpay your salespeople
- Evaluate your salespeople
What distinguishes exceptional sales managers from the rest?
- Their selling competencies,
- The quality of the sales recommendations they make,
- Their style. For example, take a sales manager with excellent skills, but every time they intervene, he/she sounds abrasive. That manager is only going to get so far because of the climate of fear and distrust they create.
It’s not about being fun and cool. It’s about balance - can the manager be positive while not shying away from difficult conversations? Can they be supportive and hold accountable?
If a sales manager spends 40 to 50 hours a week working efficiently on the 4 major points, sales leaders can expect spectacular results. They can be sure that this will give them a significant and sustainable competitive advantage that your competition will find difficult to counter.
Because coaching is the competency that most impacts sales performance in the long run, if I had to pick, I would say that’s the competency sales managers should seek to master first. Moreover, beyond sales performance, coaching is a way to earn the trust and respect of sales reps and build influence within the team.
Naturally, it doesn’t mean accountability, recruitment and motivation are unimportant.
Unfortunately, very few managers are coaching, holding accountable, motivating adequately. 2018 Objective Management Group data shows that:
- 10% of sales managers are good coaches
- 41% are good at motivating
- 49% are good at holding accountable
- 59% are good at recruiting
Note: Published on October 31, 2018, this post has been rewritten to ensure its recency and accuracy.