While management styles vary, many of the basic requirements of good management remain stable. If a sales team is to achieve and maintain a high level of performance and motivation, it needs a manager who knows and follows the rules. Your team might be doing all the selling, but they still rely on you for guidance, education, information, and motivation. Follow these rules and you won’t let them – or yourself – down.
Rule #1: Be as good as your word. Whether you’re a salesperson earning a customer’s trust or a manager earning your team’s, keeping your word is key. It’s your job to set an example for the way your salespeople are supposed to act, so don’t think that – because you’re the manager – you won’t suffer the consequences if you consistently fail to deliver what you promise. When you make a promise to your salespeople, write it on a calendar so you’ll remember what you promised and when you’re supposed to deliver. If you absolutely can’t do what you said you would, explain why so your team won’t be forced to guess why you broke your word.
Rule #2: Be accessible and communicative. When your team is afraid or reluctant to come to you with a problem, you won’t have a chance to help them solve it. It’s important to give your people the power to solve their own problems, but they also need to know they can turn to you for help when they need it. Keep track of the number of hours you’re available to talk with your people. Do you keep your office door open so they feel welcome there? When your people do come to talk to you, listen to them carefully and use body language, eye contact, questions, and feedback to show them you’re listening. If you can’t give them your undivided attention, tell them so and schedule a specific time to talk to them.
Rule #3: Solicit ideas. New ideas are the seeds of growth, and you might never know how many good ones your team can generate unless you ask. Put a suggestion box for new ideas outside your office or give your team a monthly or weekly quota of suggestions. For each idea, you might hold a one-on-one meeting with the person who submitted it to discuss why it will or won’t work – and how to implement it. Be sure to thank your team for the ideas they submit and remind them that just one good one may be worth a fortune.
Rule #4: Give your people growing room. For profits to grow, your people need to grow. It’s up to you to help nurture that growth by providing educational and motivational resources and encouraging them to find new and better ways to sell and serve their customers. Monitor your team’s performance carefully so you’ll spot small problems before they become big ones. Provide regular training and feedback that will help them set a pattern of ongoing improvement. Let them know it’s okay to make mistakes as long as they learn from them, because mistakes often prove salespeople are venturing outside their safety zones – something every success-focused person needs to do.
Rule #5: Face conflicts head on. Wounds that go untreated often get infected, and conflicts that go unresolved can infect your sales team with low motivation and breed even more conflicts. Being accessible and communicative will encourage your team to bring conflicts to your attention. When they do, address them quickly and diplomatically. Meet individually with those involved, listen to each account of the problem, then decide how to handle it based on what you hear. Any real or perceived favoritism only stands to make things worse, so make your decision based on the facts, not on how well you get along (or don’t get along) with the people involved. To help avoid conflicts, avoid forming personal, after-hours relationships with the people you manage.
Rule #6: Reward your team’s effort. Behavior that’s rewarded is likely to be repeated; so, when your salespeople make a quota, meet a goal, or just give their best, show them you notice and appreciate the good job they’re doing. Every month, offer a personal note of appreciation and a prize such as dinner for two, sports or theater tickets, or a weekend getaway for the person who improves the most over the previous month’s sales. Recognize isolated incidents of salespeople going out of their way to help a customer or another salesperson. When your team knows you don’t take them for granted, they’ll be much more likely to go above and beyond the call of duty.
Rule #7: Let your salespeople evaluate you. Evaluating a person’s performance holds him to a certain standard of competence. If you’re allowed to evaluate your team’s performance, why shouldn’t they be allowed to evaluate yours? Managers who think that letting their team evaluate them might take away their authority or encourage disrespect don’t give their sales team much credit. Also, good managers should want to know what they’re doing right and how they can help their team even more. Design an evaluation form that covers the parts of your job your team can evaluate, and ask them to rate your performance and provide comments where necessary. You might be surprised at how insightful, forgiving, and helpful your salespeople really are – and the entire process could help bring you all closer together.
Rule #8: Lead by example. Your team should be able to win by doing as you do as well as doing as you say. Make a habit of coming in early and staying later than necessary. Develop a sense of fun and show your team that hard work doesn’t have to be humorless drudgery. Make sure your people can always count on you for a cheerful greeting on Monday and every morning, and consider their feelings when you make decisions that will affect them. If you don’t want your salespeople coming in late, making a lot of personal phone calls, and taking long lunches, avoid doing those things yourself. When your salespeople break the rules, give them a chance to explain but remind them that rules are rules for good reasons and that there’s a penalty for habitually breaking them.
A manager’s performance will either handicap or help the team’s. In the drive to close more sales and boost productivity, managers may often forget how much their team’s success depends on their own performance. The more you expect from yourself as a manager, the more you may get from your salespeople.