Jason Forrest is the author of Leadership Sales Coaching: Transforming from Manager to Coach, which appeared on the Selling Power list of Best Books for Sales Success in 2013. In this exclusive Q&A, Forrest shares some of his expert advice for sales managers.
1) What’s one of the most common questions you get from sales managers about how they can improve?
A common question is how to motivate salespeople to consistently practice the right behaviors. It’s one thing to get reps fired up and temporarily pursue the right behaviors, but it’s very different to drive them to want to make changes because they believe it’s the best thing for them.
When motivating reps, avoid fear-based tactics. Instead, inspire them. The “do this or else” approach will elicit the correct behavior only when you’re watching. Remember that information without a change in behavior is useless. The most effective, long-lasting way to change behavior is to change beliefs. If we can change what people see (and therefore what they believe), we can change how they behave, because beliefs drive emotions, emotions drive behaviors, and behaviors drive results.
2) What’s the relationship between emotion and motivation?
It’s not enough to know what your reps want to achieve; find out why that goal is important to them. A good sales manager already knows that a rep wants to take her family to Disneyland, for example. There’s an emotional force driving the rep to take steps to achieve that particular goal. The reason the rep stays late and makes extra phone calls is because she’s placing value in connecting with her daughter and seeing her eyes light up when she gets to meet her favorite Disney characters. That’s what sales managers need to tap into.
3) What’s one personality trait a sales manager needs in order to succeed?
Strong emotional intelligence is very important. When sales managers understand their own emotion, they’re better able to maintain their cool and not get defensive or overly worked up in difficult situations.
4) Do you believe reps can become great sales managers?
I think it will become more common for sales professionals to move up the ranks to sales management. The old-school mentality is that a good sales professional doesn’t make a good coach, because he or she is a lone wolf and competitive. But the truth is that it requires the same skills to coach as it does to sell. As a coach, you’re influencing reps based on their individual beliefs and ideas. You do the same thing with customers.
5) What are some trends you see for sales management in 2013?
I think managers will have to understand the art and science of selling as well as or better than their sales reps. They will need to be experts. Too many managers do not know the sales process inside and out. Sales coaches don’t have to be better at selling than sales professionals, but they should at least know the playbook so they can hold team members accountable. Sales managers cannot teach or hold someone accountable for something they themselves don’t understand. Leaders are mirrors. They don’t need to worry about being better than sales professionals at executing the sales process, they just need to know the playbook inside and out so that they can lead the team to a higher level.