Attention Sales Managers: Nine Tips to Enrichment

by Linda P. Kester Nov/Dec 2011 2011

Great sales managers are just like salespeople … hard to come by. Linda Kester offers nine tips for any sales manager seeking to empower and enrich his or her staff.

When I sold photocopiers there was a guy, Andy, who was a phenomenal salesperson. He consistently surpassed his goals. He sold so many copiers that he was rewarded by being promoted to branch manager. That was a big mistake.

It’s common in many companies to make the top sales rep into the sales manager.

Just because the salesperson has excelled at sales does not mean that he or she is good at managing and motivating people. Someone should have told Andy that management is not a promotion, it is an assignment to a different job requiring entirely different skills.

I have had some great sales mangers. One guy would put notes of thanks and encouragement on my desk. Twenty years later, I still have those notes.

On the flip side, I had some terrible managers who thought they had to be authoritative and mean. One guy thought the only way to get deals approved was to have an adversarial relationship with the credit manager. He also felt that he had to have his foot up my butt to increase volume. The pressure was always on. It was a horrible work environment. It didn’t motivate me, it frightened me. Scared employees don’t work harder, they work scared and become quickly disenchanted.

What Makes a Good Sales Manager?

A good sales manager enriches the team with knowledge, training and motivation. A good sales manger asks questions like, “What can I do to help my team?” “How can I make this job more engaging for them?” instead of “How good am I?” A good sales manager realizes that money is not the only motivator — there are many other things that motivate like recognition, flexibility, appreciation and respect.

How Can You Make Your Salespeople Feel Better About Themselves & Their Jobs?

  • Mange from a place of concern and kindness. Don’t manage from a place of fear; your employees will just get resentful.
  • Invite your salespeople to e-mail you feedback. This two-way communication might enable you to empower them to sell more. Your sales force contains talented people with specialized knowledge of your company, industry and customers. Tap into their knowledge and many times you’ll see surprise and gratitude because no one has ever asked them their opinion.
  • Provide ongoing feedback. Praise in public and in private. However, only reprimand in private. I made the mistake of only praising in public, not in private, so whenever I called a sales rep into a conference room, he knew it was bad news.
  • Be reasonable. Yes, you want to hold people to high standards, but that doesn’t mean you should demand the truly impossible.
  • Keep your word. Do what you say you’re going to do, in whatever timeline you committed to — whether it’s giving feedback on a project, liaising with another department or making a raise come through. (A subset of this: Be responsive. If people have to follow up with you to get a response, you’re not being responsive enough. It only takes 30 seconds to write, “I won’t have time to look at this until next week.” If nothing else, let people know where things stand.)
  • Make sure your staff feels respected and valued: Act in ways that show you care about their quality of life. And don’t underestimate the impact of regularly making sure great employees know you think they’re great.
  • Stay focused on results. Don’t have rules and policies for their own sake; make sure each is connected to an actual business need, and be willing to bend the rules if it makes sense overall.
  • Don’t avoid difficult decisions. Your job is to solve problems, not avoid them. That means you’re going to have to have tough conversations, make decisions that may be unpopular and enforce standards and consequences. Ironically, while managers who avoid these things are usually trying to keep from upsetting employees, they end up doing exactly that — because good employees will get frustrated and disgruntled by a manager’s passivity and avoidance of conflict.

Don’t assume you know what’s going on. Probe around and ask questions; you may be surprised what you uncover. Things you want to know: How satisfied are your salespeople? How’s their workload? What would improve their quality of life at work? What part of their job are they struggling with? What can you do to help them improve and/or manage around this? Are there obstacles that are making their jobs more difficult? What are their goals for their job and their longer-term future, and are there things you can do to help with that? Keep in mind that you need to go out of your way to encourage people to talk to you about these things, as many will not speak candidly to you without encouragement.

Remember, good sales mangers just like good salespeople are hard to come by. Just because someone is good at one does not mean he will be good at the other. Use the above nine tips to enrich your sales force and your volume will increase.


Linda P. KesterLinda P. Kester is a bestselling author and professional speaker with 20 years of experience in leasing sales and marketing management. As founder of the Institute of Personal Development, Kester has helped hundreds of salespeople increase their volume. Her book, 366 Marketing Tips for Equipment Leasing, has produced results for leasing companies in the U.S., United Kingdom and Australia. For more information, visit www.lindakester.com.

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