Become a successful sales manager - lead from the front and back

By Paul O'Donohue - May 19, 2015

Paul O'Donohue

A lot of the time sales managers are created from successful sales reps. But with a management role comes responsibility for others, and this is where challenges often arise, as there is a whole new list of responsibilities and KPIs that have to be met, and often you don’t have direct control of the reins – your team does. 

So how can you become a successful sales manager that has a motivated, over-achieving sales team? By recognising when it is appropriate to lead from the front, and when you need to need to take a step back.

Whats your strategy to become a successful sales leader?

‘Go to war’

Think of being a sales manager as a little like going into battle. Every army needs two types of people; those who plan and organise the best possible tactics to win, but don’t see a lot of the action, and the ones on the frontline who take charge and aren’t afraid to lead their army into enemy territory.

So, as a sales manager, you need to incorporate both of these personas into your role in order to ensure your team (or army) has the best chance of success. It may be that one day you go with a sales rep to speak with a client that needs to be brought over the line, but the following day you need to stay in the office to do some planning and preparation for your team.

Recognise everyone is different

Not one particular personality does a successful sales person make. Sure, there are certain skills needed to work in sales, but that doesn’t mean different people won’t approach the task at hand in a variety of ways. Everyone has strengths and weaknesses, just like you do, and it is about understanding your team members and how you can best work with them to help them succeed.

It seems simple enough, but there are plenty of sales managers out there who only have one approach for all when it comes to their team. Allow for easy two-way communication so that every sales person can feel comfortable when approaching you and asking you for advice.

Share your experience – both the good AND the bad

If you’re a sales manager it is probably fair to say you have quite a few years of experience in the game, and that you’ve probably had some good wins as well as some not so favourable results. And you know what? That’s okay. The thing to realise though is that all these experiences, situations and outcomes (both positive and negative) are really valuable to your team, especially if they are new to sales.

Someone can spend every waking hour studying what they can about selling, but putting it into practice is often a very different story – which you’ll already know well.

So share stories about your own experiences with your team as this is valuable real-world knowledge for them, but don’t forget to be humble and not to just use it as an opportunity to toot your own horn - it is about ensuring useful lessons can be taken from each instance.

On the flip side, if you had something go completely wrong, and let’s face it, we all do, it can also be an effective learning tool. Your team will appreciate you sharing a time that wasn’t so successful, and perhaps you can prompt them to think about what they would do differently if they were in the same situation. 

Set up a step-by-step plan for success

It would be very unfair for a manager to send their team out to sell without any idea of targets that need to be achieved. It’d be like putting down a fishing rod in the middle of the ocean and hoping that something on it’s way past takes a bite.

As a sales manager you need to take responsibility for the success of your team, and this means putting a plan in place for what needs to be achieved, and the steps to take to get there. And, depending on the individual (as mentioned above) you can work out, in discussion with them, where they think they might require support in the process. 

This plan will also works as a day-to-day guideline for what your team need to be doing, and of course there are plenty of online tools which can help you organise and keep track of this activity.

It really would be so difficult to reach KPIs without an organised plan in place for achieving sales and to become a successful sales manager, it is your job to ensure there is a detailed working document that can provide knowledge, guidance and ultimately the best results for your team.

Article originally published April 10th 2015 on
The SalesStar Blog
Paul O'Donohue
Published May 19, 2015, written by

Paul O'Donohue

The CEO of SalesStar, New Zealand's leading sales development company. Are you looking for Paul? You'll find him at the battle front. He loves getting out to see new prospects learn about their sales challenges and helping them fix their problems and win new business. He works with helping CEO's who are frustrated with their sales results. Who know they can be doing better, but just don't know how!

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