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One of the most common misconceptions about sales is that the best salespeople make the best sales managers. Many a leader has made this mistake, promoting the top producer to a manager role only to watch them go down in flames. Leading and managing people is much different than being an independent producer, and more than a few would-be sales managers find that going back to the floor is a better fit.

Thankfully, most people have the ability to become a great sales leader. Unless you’re completely uninterested in anyone else’s success, you can become a great sales manager. Here are ten ways to do it:

1. Provide the vision for the team

It’s up to you to set the vision and the mission for your sales team, because if you don’t, there won’t be one. Show the team where they want to be and how they can get there. More importantly, inspire them so that they understand why they want to get there.

2. Make time for 1 on 1 meetings

Checking in with your team members for one on one meetings will help you build closer relationships with them and also understand their concerns, get feedback on how you can help them succeed, or find out why they might not be performing adequately. There isn’t a one-size fits all approach to individuals, so the importance of personal meetings can’t be overlooked.

3. Understand the pipeline and the numbers

A great sales manager always has an accurate picture of where his or her team is at all points in the sales cycle. Tools like Spiro can make pipeline transparency a breeze, and help make your team’s forecasting significantly more accurate across the board.

4. Listen to your team

Leading is just as much about listening to your team as it is about having them listen to you. Listen to understand their concerns, ideas, and needs, and use what they say to help them become successful. Just like when making a sale, if you really listen to people, they will draw a map that will show you exactly how to motivate them.

5. Stay on an even keel

Sales is an emotional rollercoaster, so you need to be a steadying force for your team members. You can’t be constantly flying off the handle or going from positive to negative with every single problem that comes up. Don’t get too high when things are going well, and don’t get too low when they’re not.

6. Hold people accountable

As a leader, you have to hold people accountable to make sure they’re doing what they have to be doing. In sales, everybody has numbers that they need to hit, so it’s not too difficult to determine whether someone is achieving their goals or not. The tricky part is identifying what they (or you) might be doing wrong to cause them not to accomplish their goals. But it’s up to you to ensure that there is a process for accountability and that your team is very well aware of it.

7. Reward good outcomes

It’s important to celebrate wins, not only because you want everybody to feel good for a job well done, but because you want to inspire people to do it over and over again. If your team is exceeding goals, make sure you take the time to celebrate.

8. Work harder than anyone

Contrary to popular belief, only poor sales managers can put their feet up and relax all day while their team does all the work. The best sales managers lead by example. They work hard so that everybody around them raises their level of effort to keep up. A great sales manager is the hardest worker in the company.

9. Take responsibility

If your team fails, it might feel natural to blame them for not working hard enough or some other reason. But leadership is about taking responsibility for your team’s actions as if they were your own, because they are. Whether it’s because you didn’t provide them with the necessary tools to succeed or because you didn’t get rid of the people who were not a good fit for the role, you need to take responsibility and find a way to improve performance instead of blaming others.

10. Help make people better

Ultimately, there are lots of people who can create highly successful sales teams. But at the pinnacle of leadership are people who leave their team members better than they found them, and are truly dedicated to making them better employees and better people. Of course, these leaders are few and far between, but if there’s one thing that you should strive for above and beyond getting people to hit their numbers, it’s this.

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About the Author Ken Kupchik

Ken Kupchik is the creator of Sales Humor and the author of the funniest sales book ever written, The Sales Survival Handbook, which you can order on Amazon.com. Connect with him on LinkedIn.

4 Comments

  • I completely disagree with this one… the one core competency that registers is when one has come through the cycle others need to go through. They know the earmarks of success and the issues that can make a deal snag in the company you’re in. Nothing breeds confidence like one who has and continues to perform in the arena you’re motivating people in. Nothing is worse than listening to a blowhard who couldn’t do the job trying to fake it as though they had. We fired our last idiot sales manager who ironically was a “yes man” with moderate returns as a sales person. Without him things are flourishing with 6 record quarters and 17 record months in a row. Why?? Those that are leading in the sales department now have taken the lead in a sales counsel approach.

  • C.Hines says:

    It depends where your company is. If its in a permanent ‘starter’ mode; (next day , next numbers on board, next deal …little vision or strategy except appointments..) then motivating the office where its at in the same position ,saying to them that they can achieve the day’s quota, while being evenhanded in successful/or no results, outlining strengths and weaknesses and provided current relevant solutions for staff to aim for. may just be the best approach.
    If you have top performers vying for each other’s chain of delivery, seems to encourage ‘blame culture’ . in our office we feel helpful and encouraging to folk who mess up process in securing a sale. Sales counsel, means advice ; in that I would wholly agree.

  • Malesela Gwangwa says:

    My highlight is ‘taking responsibility”. As a Sales Manager ensure you have the right tools (training and coaching) for the job before you blame people for not doing the job right. Invest in proper infrastructure (systems/facilities) and sales tools (Product, Pricing, Promotion and Place). Great article and good read!!

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