The role of a sales manager can be challenging at the best of times, but is absolutely critical to the success of the wider team. A sales manager can not only be a compelling factor behind the overall sales success of an organisation, but also has a significant part to play in the happiness and engagement of their team. For managers who aren’t as effective as they could be, the consequences can be significant: 41% of UK employees say they haven’t gone into work because of a “terrible boss”, according to Glassdoor, and 21% have resigned due to a bad boss. However, a good management style can make all the difference in terms of engagement, loyalty and retaining talent among your team.
While there are many uncertainties in sales that are out of your control, how to retain talent on your team isn’t one of them. Here are five things successful sales managers do to help their team become the best it can be:
They inspire people
As the sales manager, it’s up to you to lead your team to ultimately reach – or exceed – their goals. For sales people to truly thrive, they should be encouraged to see the bigger picture and look beyond their own personal needs to those of the team.
To do this, you must lead by example. This may sound easy enough, but the truth is that just 16% of the UK workforce believe their boss is an inspiration, according to the Chartered Management Institute. On top of this, three-quarters of employees never see the most influential person in their business, suggesting there is a real need for managers and executives to put in more time on the ground floor.
A good sales manager will impart on their team the importance of focus, patience and consistency. Sales don’t always come easily – for example, it takes an average of eight cold calls just to reach a prospect – so persistence and optimism are key. Model these, and you just might find your sales team acting in turn.
They give positive feedback
Effective workplace coaching builds confidence in a team and helps it to operate at a high level. A key component of any good coaching strategy is the provision of feedback, something that is consistently pointed to by team members as something they’d like more of. Millennials, in particular, actively seek feedback from their managers, with people in this demographic wanting feedback 50% more often than other employees. Despite this, just 46% of this group say that their managers deliver on these feedback expectations.
Coach your team by asking questions about their work and experiences, empowering them to make good decisions and work autonomously where possible. Set regular performance reviews and informal meetings to provide regular feedback, running through challenges they’ve encountered and role playing scenarios to provide the knowledge and tools to overcome them.
They are motivational
The fact is that happy sales people are more effective team members, with a 2015 Social Market Foundation paper revealing that happy workers are 12% more productive. As a sales manager, it can be easy to get bogged down in targets and KPIs, but it’s vital that you act as a leader and motivator to encourage optimism and efficiency in your team.
Sales is hard, and sales people are driven by reward – though that reward doesn’t always have to be monetary. Encourage your team with training opportunities, internal competitions and one-off prizes for activity targets. A properly structured employee incentive programme can improve performance by up to 44%, and recognition among your sales staff can go a long way to boost morale.
They want to develop you
Sales people want career progression opportunities, and it’s up to you to offer training and development opportunities to keep them engaged and ensure they upskill in line with the industry. Modern organisational structures, which can seem flat and limited in progression opportunities, can lead to your sales people looking elsewhere, yet less than half of employers have improved their training and development opportunities in order to retain talent, according to CIPD.
Make the change by giving sales people clear progression pathways, development plans and the opportunity to take on extra responsibility, whether that’s taking on a bigger sales patch or working on new accounts.
They set expectations
Soft skills – such as communication – are worth a massive £88bn to the UK economy, and should never be overlooked in any team – particularly sales. Clear, consistent communication is vital for your sales people, both for their own interactions with clients and for the broader success of the team.
With sales, you’ll regularly encounter pipeline discussions, goal and KPI setting and updates, performance reviews and all manner of feedback. Your role as manager is to implement clear communication channels, set regular meetings so your team knows when and what to expect from you, and ensure there’s an active feedback loop between your team and you. Always follow up on any issues or question your sales people bring you, and acknowledge when they have performed well.