How to manage a sales team effectively

Marketing Careers - AbhishekWe’ve all seen jaw-dropping pep talks from sales managers in movies like Wolf of Wall Street or Boiler Room. The motivational quotes, the promises of a brighter future and mostly, the hope of earning a lot more extra bucks than the usual monthly payouts seems to work well in movies. The situation, however in real life, is only partially similar.
 

The real life of a Sales Manager

Whether you’re managing an inside sales team, a team of field sales agents or a bunch of key accounts manager – one thing never changes, i.e., the employees under you keep losing motivation every now and then.

The funny thing about a sales guy’s job is that he draws his motivation from his own consistency in performance. One sale happened at the right time only motivates him to get 3 more and so on. Consistency is of prime importance here. Allow yourself to lax for one week and there goes your month or season.

The reason for the same being that most of the times, in any business, a healthy sales performance is the result of not just things done the right way, but also at the right time. There’s hardly ever any time to waste.

Nowadays, acquiring a prospect itself is costly / difficult enough, and once you have it, you can’t just allow yourself to let go of it – That’s how any sales manager thinks but not how the sales team always functions.

A tendency of certain members in a sales team is to complain about a bunch of things which are common across industries and locations- “The leads are cold” , “The guys are just not interested”, “The targets are unrealistic” and my personal favorite “Why am I working daily to make money for someone else? I might as well have my own start up”.

All sales managers have done sales themselves at a point of time and with my past experiences of being a sales executive and a sales manager, I would say that sometimes the complaints are genuine, and that is what makes the work of a sales manager difficult.

Day in and day out, your team needs to hustle for bringing in revenue and meeting targets, which seems like a never-ending cycle. There are some good days, some bad days and some really horrible ones and if your product is weak, it gets all the more difficult to convince your own team to argue in favor of it all the time.
 

So what’s the key to become a successful sales manager?

Some of you might have heard of the famous concept of golden circles by Simon Sinek, which conveys –

People don’t buy what you do, they buy why you do it.

I’m sure any manager who has inculcated that concept in his life has benefited from it.

Even though we humans are capable of doing the same activity day in and day out for years together, we never lose our tendency to stop in between and ask “ Why?”.

One key skill that any sales manager needs to have is to constantly keep reminding them why are they doing it, in different ways. If you’re a sales manager, you need to have a vision and a mission for your own team, which can’t be reiterated among the team members enough.

Skill building is also important. Just because the training is over, doesn’t mean that the onus of being a top sales performer lies completely on the sales executives. It’s important for the sales manager to keep learning and teaching new ways of closing better deals to his team.

It would be safe to assume that any sales job comes with at least a slightly higher work pressure than other jobs. That’s all the more reason to have pressure management as a key skill to be mastered by a sales manager. Heard of EQ over IQ? It’s most relevant in a sales job.

I might get some fire from some of the guys who have worked under me for saying this, but sometimes, a sales manager just needs to use fear to drive the team. Every sales manager has a small delta added to the actual target to push their team to achieve the actual target.

And that’s because team psychology management is also a key responsibility of the sales manager. Often a manager needs to push the team to do beyond what they’re capable of or ready to put in.

As human beings, most of us have the tendency to be okay with achieving 80% of the target and give ourselves a pat on the back for coming close. For an ambitious sales manager, 80% just doesn’t cut it.

Last but not the least, it’s important for a sales manager to personally know the strengths, weaknesses, lifestyles and personality of each and every member of his team. A sales job can’t be done by sitting in the corner of the office while listening to music.

For most of the times, it requires talking and sometimes when things are not right, a sales guy just can’t put in the effort that is needed. It’s imperative for the sales manager to know when one or more members of his team are burning out and just need a break.

A one-size-fits-all solution doesn’t work in a sales team and communicating with each member of the team individually at regular intervals goes a long way in boosting performance. I also personally believe that in order for the sales manager to be truly respected, he needs to prove to his team that he himself is good in sales, which might be the most challenging task for some of the sales managers.
 

Concluding Tips for Future Sales Managers

My advice to all sales managers out there would be to understand that sales could turn out to be the easiest job for some or the most difficult one for others. It’s about managing internal expectations of employees to enable them to manage external expectations of the customers; and that involves careful resource management.

It’s a constant struggle, no doubt, to meet the revenue targets and push for growth. But only if you know the larger picture, you’ll understand that the team that generates revenue is the most important for any organization. All you got to do is to make sure they act like one!

Read these related articles:
How marketing works in any company or business
How I got a sales job without a marketing degree or experience
What is Sales Management and Why is it Important?


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Abhishek Kochhar
Abhishek Kochhar
An alumnus of AIESEC and Manipal University, works as a Business Development Manager and an Educational Consultant in an Ed-Tech company in Bangalore.

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