Four Principles of Sales Management Excellence

By Heather Baldwin

What are the most important ingredients for becoming a top sales manager? Ray Butkus, president of Donnelley Group, a division of infoUSA, Inc, has worked with almost 300 first-line sales managers in five companies over the past 27 years. From his experience he has noted some remarkable similarities among sales managers whose teams consistently perform in the top 10% of the universe. In his recent article, “Excellence at the Cutting Edge of Sales Management,” Butkus says excellent sales managers exhibit the following four characteristics.

1. They understand. Excellent sales managers understand their product and can help their reps translate product knowledge into specific customer benefits. They understand their company, their competitors and their industry. “Taken together, product and industry knowledge are two of the three strongest bases for establishing credibility with sales reps,” says Butkus. They also understand their sales team, both collectively and individually, and use that knowledge to bring out the best in their subordinates.

2. They care. Excellent sales managers truly care about their subordinates, a quality that goes beyond simply understanding them. As part of caring about them, sales managers figure out what really matters to their sales reps, both individually and as a group. Top sales managers also care about clients, which means they truly want to deliver the best possible service, even if it means providing a home telephone number to resolve a delivery problem or making a weekend site visit to ensure the problem was resolved. They also care deeply about results and are “absolutely, viscerally attached to the achievement of their assigned performance goals,” says Butkus.

3. They teach. Excellent sales managers spend at least 25% to 33% of their day coaching, and they focus most of that time on the middle third of their sales team. Why? They recognize that raising the achievement level of their average performers will cause those mid-tier reps to perform more like top-tier reps at other companies.

4. They inspire. Excellent sales managers inspire their team by setting high standards and then giving team members the tools and confidence they need to achieve those high standards. They break down barriers, making things happen on behalf of their sales team. They communicate well and often so their team members know where they stand, what’s expected of them and that they’ll always be listened to. Finally, excellent sales managers lead by example. Like the U.S. Army Infantry’s motto, “Follow Me,” sales managers lead from the front and would never ask their reps to do anything they wouldn’t – or couldn’t – do.

To read the full article by Ray Butkus click here.

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