Most organizations have a mentality that the skill sets of a best performing executive and a good manager are same. And mostly, once these basis distinctions are done; if you’re the highest performing sales person, you have all the traits of a tactful sales manager! Now, the thought behind this idea does have some decent logic. But the idea also has one aspect, highly critical in nature, which many fail to see. The transformation from being a top sales performer to becoming a successful sales manager is not at all easy. People who consider it easy are often mistaken.
So what is this transformation and why is it important?
The logic and expectation behind promoting top salesperson is simple: cloning the top performer. If a top performer takes the position of a sales manager, they would obviously have the entire team work on their strategies using all the best known methods. So that would get the company more top performers, right? The answer can be a ‘yes’ only if the performer is trained and molded to understand certain basic sales management principles.
Understanding the new managerial role and its challenges
When you are a sales executive, you have to manage only yourself. But when you are a sales manager, you have to handle your team and yourself. For this, you need to work on yourself to be a coach and a strategist. Sales managers can’t just lay instructions and roadmaps; they need to train their team to use performance oriented methods. But these training sessions need to be conducted as a coach and not forced as a dictator. When a person is promoted from within a team, the perspectives of their colleagues change. Situations often get tricky, but here’s where able sales managers display their true potentials. They spend time to understand the system behind the sales processes and the strategies set by their organization. They chalk out targets and plans aligned to their company’s vision. They make sure the processes are in place and executives are in alignment.
Share what you are good at
Being one of the top performing sales executives, you have learned the methods that turn potential leads into business providing customers. After your promotion, your company expects you to impart these methods to your team. But the imparting task needs to be done by making the teams feel involved. They shouldn’t be dragged; instead they need to follow you. You have to think of options such as incentives (and all the different kinds of incentives). Study the reports of overall sales performances. Based on your observation and analysis, structure and organize sales campaigns. Breaking one big goal into small targets often does the trick.
Communicating as a sales manager
Once you become a sales manager, your team expects a different mode of communication. The chit-chat near the coffee machines, briefings, debriefings, and long meetings are not enough. They need a more formal and more visible form of communication. One-to-one performance review sessions – this is the communication which teams look forward to. The knowledge that you (the sales manager), are closely observing their performance and noticing their efforts, makes them feel secure and valuable.
The feedback that you give here is considered as the official expectations set by you. You need to conduct these sessions timely and effectively. Also, these sessions are great opportunities for connecting with your team at an individual level. Coaching on best practices can also be handled during this time as you have the maximum attention of your audience.
Strategy planning is not about setting ‘numbers to achieve’. The numbers are for the sales manager and more for the higher management. For the team, the planning needs to have other elements. For example, if your company is marketing a vast range of products, your sales team needs to understand their priority queue. Also, if you are handling sales of a single product, your team needs to understand how much time should be spent on different types of leads. Targets and goals must bind with a well-established timeline. Supervision of the multiple small activities carried on daily basis is extremely important. You need to constantly check the results of your strategies. If targets are frequently missed, then you need to identify the source- is the team lagging behind, or does the strategy need a fixture?
At times, the market conditions are not suitable or in favor of certain industries. Strategies for such scenarios should be focused on taking fewer damages as possible. Set realistic targets, because doing otherwise easily demoralizes the team members.
Work closely with your team on all pre-sales activities. Assist your team in segmenting the leads they are following. Explain them the relation between potential customers and types of follow-ups. Train them on the rhythm of aggressive approaches, tactful follow-ups, and closings. Use other measures such as analysis for comparison with your competitors. Discuss your competitors’ numbers and strategies. Explain the differences and involve your team for working on any required adjustments. This not only gives them a clear view of where they stand as a team, but also boosts their competitive spirits.
Business industry is constantly evolving. New strategies keep taking over their predecessors, and with the speed at which the technology is moving ahead, the lifespan of most of the strategies is getting shorter as they soon become obsolete. As a sales manager, you need to be sure that you are aware and updated with latest changes in the market. If a new competitor has entered the market and is showing some notice-worthy sales, then you need to spend some time understanding their strategy – find out if you’re missing anything or the new competitor is simply riding on beginner’s luck.
Also, regularly keep your team updated. If a new version of the products you deal in is available in the market, update the concerned departments of your organization. You are also an eye for your organization. Make time to attend industry and business related seminars. Encourage your team to do the same. The more they are involved, the more knowledge they obtain, and better are the chances of getting more business. Plus, certain seminars or campaigns help us with the revision of the things we are aware of. Tap into these resources. Improving strategies is important for improving sales figures.
Measures for better sales
One of the duties of a sales manager is to monitor the sales calls handled by their executives. You have to regularly check a few random calls to find out the ground reality. For example, before your executive starts with the sales call, ask them to write down their objectives and approach. During the sales call, find out how close the executives stick to the objectives mentioned by them. If they are faltering – affecting sales, conduct mock sessions with them. Make them see the gaps you have identified. Do not demoralize them, instead offer perspectives. Show them what you can see. Chances are you will also find out certain queries, or at times certain objections, which your line of customers raise and most of your executives fail to handle efficiently. Mostly, in such situations, executives try a quick fix like ‘beating around the bush’ and ignore the customer’s concern, which creates hurdles for smooth sales. Ensure that your team abstains from such ‘fixes’. The best way is to enter into a similar situation and teach them by demonstration. Your team has to know that you are not asking them for things which you are not capable of handling yourself. Maintain transparency. In situations where you do not have an immediate solution, work with extreme patience. It’s better to ask for time, rather than misguiding them. Emphasize on building relationship with customers.
Evaluation and feedback
Most of the times, we assume that once a sale is made, our job is over. But just like analyzing a failed sales attempt is important, analyzing successful sales is important too. Has your executive made a sale which can bring trouble at a later stage? Has your executive made a sale for a smaller amount when a sale for a bigger amount was easily possible? Did the executive make an attempt to check for references? These things matter and they matter a lot.
You and your team might be putting in a lot of effort to bring in business, but since the representatives are not clear with certain ‘unsaid’ objectives, you might be yielding low results. The only way to avoid these problems is by conducting evaluation and providing feedback. Do not confuse this with a performance review. Evaluating daily or weekly sales calls is different. There will be instances when you’ll find even your topmost performers making mistakes. Evaluation and feedback helps to explain the fine difference between sales and good sales. Sales managers need to be very serious about it. Some companies only discuss sales numbers with their managers, but experienced companies pay attention to these tasks too. Tasks like these restrain the team from losing track and wasting efforts and resources.
So, if you are a top performer who’s now being promoted or already promoted as a sales manager, do spend time studying the above points mentioned by our business experts. Your reputation as an individual performer might have elevated your position to a leadership level, but to retain this new position and to excel, you need to understand the skills and qualities demanded by a sales manager’s job.