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Advice for a new Sales Manager

There are many different styles to managing a sales team, and, if executed correctly, all are valid.  However, a mistake frequently found in the workplace is that of a sales manager imposing a strategy inconsistent with the strengths and weaknesses of the sales team.

When I played soccer, the best season we had was  when the coach realized we were a defensive-oriented team and proceeded to coach us as such.  Our weakness was a lack of a strong forward and so he recruited the missing element to the squad.  However, the personality of the team, the essence, remained defensive and we used it to our advantage. We won the championship and as the years went on, I would jump at the chance to speak with my old coach and reenforce the valuable lessons I learned from him.

Years later, I recognized his wisdom when I would repeatedly see new sales managers try to impose a sales process that didn’t fit with the existing sales team.  This would result in alienating the team and developing a very wide gap of communication between management and the employees.  Sales suffer and no one wins this way.

The smart manager, when assuming management of a team, should be in a pure listening mode.  Learning the back-end processes that drive the systems is crucial as a good leader always leads from the front.  Making it clear that you are there to help in any way possible is also very important.  The team should learn to trust you and see you as a resource and, more importantly, an advocate.

This patience and attention to the team will help alleviate any ill feelings that may exist because the management position may have been desired by other sales people.  Also, people simply don’t like change.  Give them a chance to catch their breath and get used to your presence.

Slowly, and steadily, introduce tasks and objectives you want the sales team to be responsible for…never all at once.  Explain why the changes are being made and how they will affect the sales reps as well as the company. One of the key elements, if not THE KEY element, reps will question is how this will impact on the commission checks.  Be ready with an answer and make sure it is clearly understood by all.

Fear is usually the element that drives sales managers towards a process that requires less communication with their sales team.  Dan Rockwell talks about fear in his recent blog and I agree with the points he makes.  Tom Foster also makes equally important points in his writings.

A sales team is not an Excel sheet ready to be manipulated.  The team is made up of multiple, (and always unique) personalities. While it is important to make it clear you have the same expectations of each of them,   motivating them may have to be done on an individual basis.  I have always been a strong advocate of weekly meetings.  First thing Monday morning is a great time for a meeting as it will establish the tone for the week.  Also, a meeting on Friday before everyone heads home is important to highlight employees that deserve the accolades. Establish a routine where you will also meet with the reps on an individual basis.  This will allow for you to meet with a rep when you need to without singling the rep in front of his or her peers.

I, by no means, am saying the new sales manager should demean his or her position of authority; on the contrary.  There should always be a clear line of roles and positions of authority in the workplace.  However, I feel strongly that by understanding the elements that make up the team, the manager will be in a better position to actually fulfill the new management role.  More than anything, management has evolved into a relationship between account manager and sales manager.  Two-way communication is now required for both parties to be successful.

  1. April 19, 2011 at 8:52 am

    Hey Buddy,

    Awesome glamour shot!! Congratulations on your new endeavor. Your insight is sorely needed in today’s numbers driven world. Please let me know if you need anything.

    See you soon!


  1. July 12, 2011 at 8:32 am

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