If there’s one leadership job that’s supremely difficult in this economy, it’s that of being a sales manager.
So says veteran business consultant Scott Edinger in a recent Harvard Business Review blog post. As the founder of Edinger Consulting, Scott has partnered with thousands of companies over the years, helping them boost performance.
Based on that experience, here is what he claims are the four common traits that set world-class sales managers apart from mere supervisors:
- They lead with metrics. Numbers don’t lie, which is why the best sales managers rely on them as the basis of all major decisions. While most supervisors focus on surface statistics like quota attainment and closing rates, world-class managers keep a sharp eye on two underutilized metrics, in particular:
- Key milestones within the selling process.Every formal process has specific benchmarking points, and top managers use these as signposts of where and why salespeople are veering off course.
- Lead generation by source.Very few managers monitor this metric as closely as they should, primarily because it gauges opportunity, rather than strict performance.
Managers who consistently work at sharpening these two metrics have a much higher success rate across the board than those who don’t.
- They coach and develop talent. Working under the right manager can increase the average rep’s performance by as much as 20%, according to a recent Gallup poll. But in order for that to happen, the manager must play an active role in every salesperson’s development. It may be helpful to place each salesperson on a separate track, developing him or her to eventually become a team leader, senior rep, strict closer or even a manager.
The bottom line: Salespeople should be in the habit of constantly raising the bar on themselves, as well as their standing and earning potential within the organization. Managers who make it a priority to ensure this happens enjoy much higher retention rates, a shorter ramp-up time for new trainees, and consistently stronger closing rates.
- They focus on adding more value. This applies not only to the value of each offer, but – even more so –
to the value of the salespeople who represent the company’s products. Top-notch sales managers keep their salespeople sharp by:
- Rewarding positive behaviors that lead to great results.Managers who only acknowledge performance are actually sending a message that closing by any means necessary is the ONLY thing that matters.
- Empowering salespeople to share their best practices.American Express allows some of its best salespeople to run meetings, during which the rep focuses on a specific area in which he/she excels, offering insider tips that help other salespeople triumph over common obstacles.
- Training salespeople to partner with each prospect.With so many competitive products on the market, a lot of today’s prospects make final buying decisions based on which salesperson they feel most comfortable with.
The best way to capitalize on that is by training your salespeople to earn each prospect’s trust first, and business second.
- They map out departmental goals. Research shows the most common oversight when developing a plan for achieving departmental goals is simply restating the over-arching goal (rather than providing a realistic, step-by-step breakdown of how one plans to achieve that goal).
One proven way to overcome that: For each departmental goal you set, write out at least three action steps you plan to take in order to achieve that goal, as well as the overall impact you expect each step to have. Map out specific follow-up dates, and adjust each step along the way based on progress (or general lack thereof).
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