As a sales manager, you’re in a position of leadership and responsibility. You need to juggle the objectives, needs, and ambitions of both the company and your team, all while recognizing the unique makeup of each of your individual sales reps – their strengths, weaknesses, and ways of best being developed.
But that’s not all – as a sales manager, the behaviors and philosophies you engage in and espouse will serve as a model for your team members – especially those who are new hires (even more so if they’re completely new to sales). As part of that leadership by example, consider using the following four principles as a baseline for your management style.
This is arguably the most important one to adopt. Regardless of your management philosophy, you need to be consistent in following through with the rules and guidelines you establish. If, for example, you set 8 am as the time everyone needs to be in the office, letting some people come in at 8:30 am or you rolling through at 9 am is showing inconsistency, and soon everyone is ignoring the 8 am time.
Important note: Consistency doesn’t mean inflexibility. There will be times when a little bit of flexibility is important for your team’s morale. For example, maybe a sales rep suddenly has added morning duties in caring for an elderly relative that moved in and they can’t consistently make the 8 am time. But in general, be as consistent as possible.
As a sales manager, you can’t do everything yourself. And micromanagement can lead to resentment from your direct reports – particularly your top performers. Yes, you need to manage, but also be willing to give your team a degree of independence and agency.
Not only does this give your sales reps freedom to their very best work, it’s demonstrating trust on your part, which in turn helps build team members’ trust in you. It also lets your reps have an ownership stake in their work and career.
Important note: This doesn’t mean give everyone complete freedom. New hires and underachieving reps will need to be managed more closely, as will those who prefer more check-ins. But as your employees become more skilled and prove their value, you can give them more freedom.
This is somewhat related to consistency, but you also need to treat everyone on your staff equally. The same standards and accountability have to apply to everyone in a fair, even-handed manner. Otherwise, some reps might think other reps are getting preferential treatment. While there might need to be adjustments in sales targets, for example, as long as you make the expected standards and protocols clear to everyone, they’ll see that you’re acting in an equal, fair manner.
One of the toughest parts of being a sales manager is having to face hard choices and even rougher conversations. Whether it’s letting someone go, having to give criticism, or delivering unwelcome sales-related news, sales is never the land of eternal sunshine.
Consequently, you’ll need to have the strength to be able to make these choices and have these conversations as diplomatically as possible, but with empathy for what the recipients are going through. Firm but fair (see point #3) is important here. Trying to avoid short-term pain and discomfort due to lack of courage can also lead to even more disastrous long-term effects.
As an example, let’s say you have a star sales rep whose performance is incredible, but they’re arrogant and act like they’re above the rest of the team. If you don’t address the issue – either with conversations about how their attitude is affecting everyone else, or releasing them if talks don’t have the desired effect – your other sales reps could leave or stop following your procedures because the top performer doesn’t. Long-term, the morale of the staff can become degraded, the team’s culture turned toxic.
Managing a sales team is a never-ending, delicate balancing act of countless personalities and variables. But if you adhere to the four principles outlined here, you’ll have established the groundwork for an atmosphere of mutual trust and accountability, where everyone understands how things work and the processes involved. And that, in turn, will allow your team to be all that they can be.