Becoming a Great Sales Manager

Building a Great Team Through Inspiration

We all assume that being a great sales manager, or any manager for that matter, is by holding your people accountable. Oh, that accountability thing, that’s what we live and die for, to make sure that everyone is being held accountable…but is it really?

And, to whom are they supposed to be accountable? To you the sales manager? Is the entire life of each sales person supposed to be based on making sure the sales manager is informed of everything they are doing? Or maybe in making sure that the sales manager is happy with the job they are doing?  What do you think, is it all about making sure the sales manager is happy and satisfied? If this is the case…then where does the customer come into the picture?

I once worked in an organization where all of the front line managers were accountable to the President. For me as sales manager this meant working on a three month rolling forecast all day Monday. Spending the day talking to all seven of my sales people individually to make sure their three month rolling forecast was complete and accurate (as accurate as a three month rolling forecast could be, try that with PCB design layout sales!). I had three design salespeople and four bare board salespeople, and I had to review their forecast individually so that every Monday afternoon at four thirty on the dot I would go into the President’s office and painstakingly (the emphasis on pain) review each and every account, each and every week and each and every month all so that the President would feel that he was in control and that he was holding me accountable at all times.

Sounds like a lot of fun right…not! And also a complete waste of time and only for the sake of the President’s comfort level. All so that he would feel very well-informed. Seven salespeople and me the manager dedicating an entire day, a full twenty percent of the week, to keeping the President happy and informed. Yikes! And this went on for two years until he finally left the company and I felt the weight of those accountability chains being lifted off of me.

This is the most wasteful and ineffective kind of management there is. I’ll let you in on a little secret of management…listen closely now because this is going to be the most important thing you have ever read about management.

A manager’s number one job is to unencumber his people. It is to set them free to do their job the most effective way possible. Our job as managers is to remove all the barriers that can keep our salespeople from doing a great job. Yes, our job as managers is to get the best from our people, to encourage them to be the best that they can be at all times by making sure they have all the tools necessary to do their job to their maximum ability.

Now don’t get me wrong, as the salespeople I work with will tell you I am a great one for accountability in terms of a forecast and weekly reports. But that’s it and that’s because I believe that whether you are working for someone else or for yourself these two things are critical to your own success. You need to set goals through a forecast and you need to measure how you are doing against those goals. You can’t play a game without a scoreboard. Forecasting and reporting are the two cornerstones of any successful salesperson or for anyone else as well.

But that’s it, the rest of the time we want our salespeople out there selling. We want them in front of customers helping them to make the right decision, which is of course to buy our products and services.

A great manager knows that every person on her team is different and that they all have specific hot buttons. Things that will drive them to success, things that will inspire them to not only meet, but exceed their own limitations, and that it is the sales managers job to find those hot buttons and push them as needed.

In particular a sales manager deals with egos, sometimes fragile egos. Think about it. People decide to go into sales because they are competitive, because they like to achieve and they like to be challenged. In a way great sales people are like great athletes and they have to be treated as such. If you have accumulated a great sales team (Another attribute of a great sales manager) you have to treat them as such. How much nickel and dime management technique do you think Phil Jackson did with his championship Chicago Bulls teams? Do you really think he was micromanaging Michael Jordan? Or worse case Dennis Rodman? Nope he had some of the greatest players in the world and he knew that his job was only to keep them inspired to the point of getting the best performance out of them at all times. And that is exactly what we have to do with our salespeople. MAKE THEM GREAT! It’s only common sense.

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