August 10, 2018

7 Strategies for Improving Communication Between Managers & Reps

By Ryan Gould

A sales team without a strong manager can wander aimlessly, while failing to achieve its goals. However, even the strongest manager can only lead a team effectively by following the proper techniques and engendering respect. Proper communication is key.

The steps below can improve communication between you and your staff and result in a solid sales-to-management relationship on sales, revenue, and ROI.

1. Use Technology as a Tool to Augment Human Interaction
Result-driven sales managers may be quick to implement communication platforms in an effort to funnel more information to and from salespeople and their management teams. For instance, nearly half of all salespeople report that they’re dissatisfied with their direct supervisors. Not only can this lead to bad attitudes and worse morale, but enough friction between management and staff can bring your entire organization to its knees.

Technology can help in all new ways, such as throwing your open-door policy wide open by allowing staff to get in touch whenever they feel like it. Technology also provides the means for two-way feedback in real time. An added benefit is that staff may open up a bit more over digital channels compared to how they might clam-up over the phone or in person.

That’s not to say that salespeople won’t learn, as 33% of sales teams say that improving their use of tech is one of their most important objectives in the next year.

The lesson, and to improve tech adoption while boosting communication, is to use technology for what it was intended for, to strengthen the bond between management and staff. When sending out messages, invite staff to contact you privately if there are any issues or invite them to step into your office.

One-on-one meetings and weekly meetings with the entire staff can also help, and make sure you discuss the technology and how it’s being used. Keeping everyone on the same page is key, and technology should help you do that, if it’s used the right way and never as a crutch for broken (human-to-human) communication.

2. Train with Care
Did you know that more than 50% of salespeople rely on their peers for tips on how to improve? Compare that with only 44% who rely on their managers. Use this information to make your sales team stronger by engaging in regular training sessions. Classroom training seems to work well, as the technique is used by 75% of sales organizations. This is probably because the team gets together as a group.

The better approach, however, is to ask your reps how they prefer to learn.

Maybe a cloud-based task communication software can help or Skype-style video training. Whatever you do, make your training consistent and common, as studies show that sales organizations that provide ongoing training are higher-performing than organizations that keep to one-off training.

That’s just one example of how training can be implemented to not only improve knowledge but bring the team and management together.

3. Analyze Calls with Your Team
Instead of analyzing a report to determine how a team member is doing, listen in on calls to determine exactly how the sale went down, from first contact to the conversion.

Encourage the team to listen to and analyze at least some of these sales calls with you, both the good and the bad.

As management, you know that listening to calls is the only way to fully understand the plights and successes of sales, allowing you to improve on what’s working and eliminate what’s not.

Management can then select a sampling of calls and play the recordings aloud during meetings. When a team member has exhibited strength, praise him or her and make a big deal of it. This will solidify the lesson in everyone’s mind.

4. Encourage Communication
Sales can be competitive and stressful, and tensions are likely to flare at times. When things are glorious between the two teams, management may think that everything’s fine. It’s only during those times of temper outbursts when management gets the idea of what’s really going on behind the scenes.

Ideally, regular communication will ease tensions before they have a chance to blow out of control. But in those times when tensions run high, management should engage the salesperson (or salespeople) to speak about the issue and relay what’s really going on. By working through the problem with rational options and a clear head, the bond between management and sales will grow, and the moment of upset can become a learning opportunity for all involved.

5. Admit Mistakes
One of the signs of a poor manager is one who will quickly come down on those who make mistakes, but has trouble admitting to their own.

The best managers are those who relate to their team members. If you make a decision and it ends up failing, call yourself out. Show everyone how you came to that decision and explain why it was a failure. Everyone makes mistakes, even management. By confessing to your errors, you show your team you’re just as human as they are.

6. Do Something Fun
You never want your team meetings to become old hat. Instead, infuse life into your meetings by switching up the location now and again. Allow others to lead so that salespeople don’t get tired of management going on about the same topics each meeting. A fresh voice and attitude can sometimes motivate sales, especially if they know it will soon be their turn up-to-bat.

However, meetings don’t always have to be so business-like. Consider going to a different coffee shop once a month. You might call it Coffee with Management, where staff can address their problems, learn new things, and have fun at the same time.

7. Lead by Example
When it comes to adopting technology, providing feedback, leading meetings, and offering value to the team, it helps if managers follow suit. As a manager, you should be using the same platforms and engaging in the same feedback loop. You should lead meetings with enthusiasm and a sense of fun. Most of all, you should strive to use your strengths and learn from your mistakes while minimizing your weaknesses, which all great sales managers do. Your team will soon learn what it takes to manage a team of their size, which should inspire them to be the best salespeople they can be.

Ryan Gould is the Vice President of Strategy and Marketing Services at Elevation Marketing.