Just like sales people, sales managers need skill development and training. So often they are put into a sales management role because they were a “great sales rep” and so often, we see them struggle and make mistakes because their new role as manager calls for a completely different skill set to succeed.
We also see cases where companies hire experienced sales managers and tell them to “go for it” with similarly disappointing results, usually because the direction was unclear or expectations were unrealistic.
Whether you’re a newbie or a veteran, without sales management training and development you can easily make mistakes.
To get this year off to a great start, I’d like to share with you 7 Sales Management Landmines to Avoid.
- Enthusiasm Without Strategy – The quintessential sales manager should certainly be enthusiastic with a positive attitude that is motivating and inspiring. But beware. This can also be a mask for lack of confidence or clarity on what the vision, mission and strategy is for the sales organization. We’ve asked very capable sales managers about their strategy for the upcoming year and get lip service in return, instead of concrete strategies and tactical plans. We hear things like, “We’re going to kick butt this year. Bring it on!” or worse, “Our plan is to bring in new accounts and grow the business!”. Duhhh. Sorry…no real strategy here. We love the enthusiasm, but it just doesn’t cut it. Without a clearly defined go to market strategy, there is nothing to lead, and you will get lackluster results.
- Nice Guy – We all want to be liked, but being everyone’s friend and wanting to be liked more than respected is a major mistake. It creates an environment where there is little accountability and often no consequences. The nice guy will avoid crucial conversations and as a result, problems may not be addressed at the risk of ruffling feathers or upsetting the apple cart. Over time, the nice guy builds a culture of complacency and stalled growth. The nice guy sales manager definitely finishes last.
- Mirror Mirror on the Wall – The sales manager who doesn’t look in the mirror and see what others see will never understand what they need to do to become a better leader. We are not all perfect, but ignoring our weaknesses and allowing ego to take over creates a monster. There are so many resources for developing your personal brand and leadership style. Take the initiative, read a book, get a coach and commit to self-development. Your job is to get results through others so be the best that you can be.
- Easily Influenced – Experienced sales people are always selling, and they will sell you. Don’t let them hide their deficiencies, or spin sell the results. Don’t let them convince you that “they got this”. They need direction, management and further development to be a better salesperson. You need to be providing sales skills training, regardless of the salesperson’s experience or age. It is often the “veteran” or the “old pro” who thinks they don’t need it, yet who needs it the most.
- Too Busy – Sales management is a big job and comes with a great deal of responsibility. And yes, you are extremely busy. But being too busy to be engaged with your sales team is a major mistake. You need to be present, listening, understanding, and actively involved. Be in the field, ride along with your reps. Give them your time, attention and feedback as you watch how they perform. Observing your salespeople in the field will give you insight into areas of weakness in your sales process and in particular individuals. Your job is to make improvements so that the sales cycle is shortened and you are growing your business faster. Get out from behind your desk and the paperwork. Move away from your email and cell phone. Be present, and in the moment with your sales reps!
- Jekyll and Mr. Hyde – “I wonder who is going to show up today?” That question should never come from your sales people’s mouths. Don’t make the mistake of being unpredictable in how you react, respond or behave. Your management system and style should support and lead, not confuse. Be deliberate and consistent in what you say and how you say it. Be aware of the impact and influence your actions and words are having on others. Your “shadow” as a leader remains long after you are gone.
- Who’s the Boss? – Sales managers who are not establishing high-level relationships at the executive level of top customers are making a huge mistake. You should be known by all of your key accounts as the Executive Sponsor. Do not allow your sales reps to be the only one having customer relationships. Your customers, at the executive level, need to know you personally, value the partnership and see you as a trusted advisor. If you don’t take action and begin building these executive relationships you will find yourself in a bind if a sales rep leaves or you need to let them go. Customer retention and loyalty is too critical to your success and the overall success of the sales organization for you not to be involved.
Krista Moore, president of K.Coaching, Inc., an executive coaching and consulting practice that helps hundreds of companies maximize their full potential through enhancing their sales strategies, sales processes and sales leadership.