1. Recruit, Recruit, Recruit
We like to say that 90% of the nasty attitudinal issues that we see on dysfunctional sales teams ca be attributed to a lack of recruiting. Great sales managers know that they can’t afford not to have qualified replacements available for their team. Without a stable of recruits, wonky behaviours appear. Sales managers delay decisions on poor performers, fall victim to intimidation by selfish top performers and listen more than may wisely be advised to the complaints of under achievers.
They know that their success starts with recruiting – attracting top performers. Top sales managers attract more recruits and as a result they have more choice. They can afford to slow down and make calculated decisions. In recruiting, sometimes the “brand” works, but most often it is the local market reputation of the guy or gal running the sales team that tips the balance.
Top sales managers are masterful at using the selection process to create a sense of scarcity in the organization (which helps them recruit as well.) A structured selection process feels good to top salespeople who see themselves as elite and want to know that the company that they are joining has their act together.
2. Build relationships
The genuine interest top performing sales managers demonstrate in the success of each of their team members inspires confidence and improves performance. “Our sales manager is always there for us!” top salespeople say of their managers. Top sales managers just do a better job understanding and relating to their people. They can’t and don’t fake their caring. They take time to get to know what makes their top performers tic and they adjust their follow-up, tempering any impulse to direct or over/micro manage.
3. Set expectations and follow through
Top sales managers take charge; they makes decisions and hold the line. This take-charge approach shows through as they set targets clearly, and the behaviours that they expect are widely known and regularly reinforced through the implementation of effective processes and routines. They do not take their eye off the ball and can always be counted upon to know exactly where they are in the pursuit of their team’s goals.
Top performing sales managers who take over teams make expectations clear by moving fast to remove chronic under performers. They may miss a target because of an open territory but refuse to flounder when a full territory is not producing.
4. Process is your friend
Great sales managers use process and routines to support the organization of their activity and maintain the focus of selling effort. These processes manifest themselves as well-worn routines. Their “way of doing things” ensures that everyone knows what they have to do when and why. Activities, like regular one-on-ones (monthly) with a consistent agenda anchor the review of goals, targeting, and forecasting pay dividends for all. You won’t hear public floggings of poor performers typical within many weekly conference calls because they keep content in their team meetings relevant to all performers. Top salespeople respect this fairness and “control” within the organization. Top performers may complain about the routines that require their effort but they are quietly grateful that their company has a common “way of doing things” that help keep them and their peers out at the front of the pack.
5. Work in the field
You won’t find a top performing sales manager in the office very often. These engaging leaders work in the field where the performance happens. They model, support, observe and share in high profile sales calls. How else could they demonstrate their mastery of the sales process? How else could they truly get an accurate view of the development needs of each of their team members? How could they coach? Joint field work provides an unparalleled opportunity for Sales Managers to lead from the front and stay close to key customers.
When great sales managers fail, oh… they suffer; slow starts for new hires, sagging performance from the middle, chronic complaining, endless exceptions to deals and the exodus of top performers. These are the signs of struggle. Maybe, they don’t own all of the blame. If operations breaks their promise and fails on delivery, all bets are off. Don`t expect great sales managers to carry the lie. When operations fail, expect even the greatest sales manager to weather punishing blows from all quarters, struggle and ultimately fail.
Nuture and support your top performing sales managers, they are rare finds indeed.