You’ve been a sales manager for six months, or maybe it’s been a year, and your department numbers aren’t improving. That may be because you aren’t incorporating the habits of highly effective sales managers. A good sales manager training program can help. The training should include tips on the following habits of sales managers:
- Personalized Coaching
- Communicating With Your Sales Reps
- Tracking the Pipeline
- Avoid Competing with Your Reps
In a recent article we discussed the benefits of being a connector sales manager. Gartner research shows that these kinds of managers can improve employee performance by 26%. Connector managers don’t try to be all things to all people. But they do try to personalize the coaching and guidance they offer to each employee’s needs. And they assist employees by helping them connect with others in the organization.
However, research from the Sales Readiness Group and Selling Power shows that fewer than “20 percent of sales managers participate in sales coaching programs.” One of the reasons for the low participation was that 65% of sales managers have trouble finding the time to spend on sales management training. What a paradox.
Communicating With Your Sales Reps
In your one-on-one sessions with reps, you may know exactly what you mean you tell them to increase productivity. You may envision them working the phones all morning and updating the results of their calls into the CRM system. A broad statement about increased productivity means something different to every rep. One rep might think you’re talking about touching base more frequently with existing customers. Another rep is sure you want them to close five deals before the end of the month.
A highly effective sales manager would have headed off this problem by being specific about what they wanted. Often, productivity improvement is specific to each rep. If one of your reps is struggling to write clear email messages, ask them to sign up for training and give them a deadline for completion. Then ask them to share their new email messages with you for a two-week period following the training. Praise the phrasing that you know is most effective, and suggest specific improvements on the parts of the email message that aren’t working. This kind of clear communication will result in the kind of productivity changes you need.
Tracking the Pipeline
At the beginning of the year, you gave your bosses a sales forecast. The habits of highly effective sales managers include tracking the pipeline that will eventually result in closed deals. On any given day, prospects should be in various positions in the pipeline. One rep might have three prospects who they have made appointments with. Another rep may have a prospect who is reviewing the proposal from your company.
Most sellers know the average length of time it takes to move a prospect through the pipeline. This time period is also known as the sales cycle. You should review the pipeline regularly, even on a daily basis, to be sure that reps are properly managing prospects. Whenever a prospect lingers too long in a specific stage of the pipeline, follow up with the rep and offer suggestions to help them continue to move the deal along.
Sales managers should also keep tabs on the metrics that apply to their pipeline. Historically, your team may have sent out 500 proposals to close 100 deals every month. If you want to increase the number of closed deals to 200, you’ll need to help your reps send out 1,000 proposals this month. This example might sound extreme, but you get the idea. Managing the pipeline means understanding the metrics.
Avoid Competing with Your Reps
Transitioning from being a successful rep to an effective sales manager means taking on a different mindset. Remember the last time you closed a huge deal and the rush of pride that came from knowing you saved the company from having to lay off people? It was a great feeling, even if you had to acknowledge that you didn’t close the deal all by yourself. Let’s focus on the last part of that sentence. Few people beyond sole proprietors close deals alone. Selling is usually a team effort.
As a manager, keep your energy centered on helping your reps close deals. Don’t rush into management meetings and brag about how your team couldn’t have succeeded without your help. Give your reps credit for success and hard work. Your positive attitude and support shows you’re a team player and it will attract positive attention.