If you manage a sales group, own a company, or are in sales, you know this to be true: Behind every great salesperson (and sales team), is a great manager. Without strong leadership and a clear vision, even the best sales teams will not accomplish what they are capable of. If you’re the manager tasked with hiring sales people and growing a team, ask yourself this, “Do I have the right practices in place to create our next superstar?”
As the manager of a sales organization, you are the one responsible for the most important job in the company: Finding the best talent, making good people great and great people greater. Since what you do is directly tied to revenue, this shouldn’t be taken lightly, and I’m guessing you don’t.
While there are many things that make a manager great, I’m going to touch on what I think are the top 5 most important attributes of a great manager.
1. Great managers have self-awareness. You can be honest with yourself about your own weaknesses. And more importantly, you are willing to put a plan in place to turn those weaknesses into strengths. Every day when you wake up you ask yourself, “What can I do today that will have an impact?” And at the end of every day, you ask yourself, “What could I have done better?”
2. Great managers have great training. If you want to build a world-class sales team you need to be a world-class manager. You don’t have to be the best salesperson on the team, but you do have to possess the skills of a great leader. One place to start is by immersing yourself in on-going sales management training. Then use that as an opportunity to push yourself to improve, just as professional athletes do every day. Reading books and going to seminars isn’t going to do the trick.
Get yourself a coach who knows your strengths and weaknesses, and who cares about your success. Give him or her permission to tell you the truth about how they see you. If all they do is pat you on the back and tell you how great you are, find someone else. It’s critical that you get brutally honest with yourself. When you’re having trouble doing that, refer to Attribute #1 – Self Awareness.
3. Great managers know what personally motivates each of their reps. If you want to know how successful someone will be, find out the one thing that motivates them to get out of bed each morning. Is it a bigger house, a nicer car, money in the bank, a vacation, family needs? Or maybe it’s as simple as, “losing isn’t an option.”
Every salesperson needs a goal important enough to get them out of bed in the morning and drive them to fight through the day-to-day challenges of selling. While this is the most widely known criteria, it is very often overlooked.
Ask what their goals are; and what goals they have set in the past (missed or achieved). What happens when they miss the goal? In addition to making sure your reps have clearly defined, written and articulated goals, are you holding yourself accountable to your own goals? Unless you know what it means to commit to your own goal, you won’t have the ability to determine if your new rep is goal oriented enough to help you reach your goals as their manager.
4. Great managers seek buy-in through collaboration. A good manager manages from the bottom up, not the top down. What that means is, even though you have a company goal to meet, pushing that number down to your reps is not nearly as motivating to them as starting with their goals first. Once you have that, you’ll be able to build an activity plan together.
Remember, good sales people usually have bigger goals for themselves than the company has for them. Why not start with their number first? If the plan you are building enables them to reach their personal goals and it fits with the company goal, their motivation will soar.
5. Great managers meet to debrief and plan. On a set day and time each week, sit down for 15-30 minutes with your salesperson to review that week’s progress. Use questions like, “Did you achieve your goals? Why or why not? What are your goals for next week? What can I do to help?”
Take notes, always meet in person, and be consistent. Make sure your rep knows that you expect consistent performance – and no excuses – in return. Being a great sales manager takes dedication. With a plan for understanding what makes your rep tick and how to play to their strengths, you can make a winner out of a middle-of-the-road salesperson. More importantly, you will be able to take your new hire and nurture them to greater success.
Remember…have ZERO tolerance for excuses. That includes in yourself, as well.