Managing ain’t easy.
Being responsible for the work-based wellbeing and success of others is not for the faint of heart. And being a *sales* manager adds a whole extra level of fun.
In management, serenity sometimes seems like a distant goal. You’re navigating the fine line between micromanagement and being completely hands-off. You’re pushing your team to do better without setting unrealistic expectations. And you’re crunching and analyzing numbers and data while also finding time to coach your team.
There are times when you feel pulled in multiple directions and you start to wonder if you should just pick up and peace out.
I mean, maybe you *could* lead your team remotely from a tropical island or somewhere equally out of the way, but running away isn’t what true leaders do.
To quote tennis legend Billie Jean King: “Pressure is a privilege.” That stress you’re feeling is a byproduct of success. Your actions and decisions matter.
So, when you feel lost in the fog of things you can’t control, face the challenge head-on by taking action on these aspects of sales leadership that are well within your control.
What you can control as a sales manager
1. How you handle your hiring
The human resources parts of your job can be tricky.
Even if you think your team is stacked, sales is known for high employee turnover. One day things are great; the next you’re hard-up for new sales talent.
Hiring and onboarding are two HR-related areas that you have control over. Keeping your hiring funnel full is just as important as keeping your sales funnel loaded with quality leads.
If you are consistently on the lookout for potential sales reps, this won’t be a five-alarm emergency. With a handy list of candidates in your back pocket, you’ll be able to expedite by knowing who and what you’re looking for in a new salesperson and having rock-solid interviewing and evaluation processes.
Managing people can be complicated, which is why we created a sales HR guide for you. It’s full of human resources best practices for sales managers, covering everything from hiring and firing to effectively running a high-performing team.
2. How you onboard new sales reps
Once you’ve hired, having a solid onboarding process will help your new sales reps get up to speed and contributing as quickly as possible. Create an onboarding plan and sales playbook that give newbies the info and tools they need for success.
Some best practices for sales onboarding:
- Make it interactive. Don’t just lecture, give the rep an opportunity to practice what you’re preaching.
- Pair them with a peer. Not only does this get them more involved with the team right away, but this also gives them a go-to person for questions as they ramp up.
- Include a mix of product knowledge and selling skills.
- Get the rep involved in their training. What are their personal goals? What else would they like to learn?
3. How you solidify a sales forecasting process
Before you even get to forecasting, you need to have a defined sales process. If you haven’t put this together already, that’s your first priority.
Sales forecasting can be intimidating. ‘Wait, I have to predict the future?!’, you’re thinking. When you back up your forecasting with facts and data, however, you can make it more of a science and less of a guess.
What does a more reliable sales forecast mean for you? Better buy-in from your team and more trust from the execs who are basing company decisions on your numbers.
Here are some quick steps to jumpstart a reliable data-based sales forecasting process:
- Make sure all terms, stages, and other pieces are well-defined so you and your team are on the same page.
- Pull your historical data. You need to know where you’ve been to create a realistic forecast. Is 10% growth ambitious, outrageous, or a slam dunk? You won’t know until you look at past projections and the corresponding actuals to create baselines.
- Factor in probability. How sure are you that the opportunities in your pipeline are going to close? Your historical data will help you here as well.
4. How you do sales coaching
Consistent, rep-driven sales coaching helps your team define goals and the strategies required to achieve them. These could be short-term things, like giving guidance on sales currently in the pipeline, or more long-term, like coaching on processes and best practices.
You can control the culture of coaching on your team by doing things like establishing a coaching schedule so your salespeople know to expect it and making it a positive experience. Coaching is not just about calling out bad habits, it’s also about reinforcing good skills and building upon them.
There are a lot of misconceptions about sales coaching out there. Even with the best of intentions, sales coaching can sometimes miss the mark. That’s why it’s an ongoing practice, not something you check off a to-do list.
5. How you motivate and incentivize your team
First things first: money is, and will always be, an important motivator in sales. Some would argue it’s the only one.
Increasingly, though, salespeople are looking for more fulfillment in their careers than what their sales numbers can provide. This study notes that compensation "is now viewed as just the baseline reason for taking a job.” This is particularly so for younger, new-school sales reps.
So, beyond bonuses and commissions, how can you get your sales team fired up? Help them find their ideal balance of those external motivators and more personal internal ones.
Ideas for internal motivators to get you started:
- Strong sense of purpose
- Rewarding interpersonal relationships
6. How your team trains
Always be closing, sure, of course. Always be learning, though, too. That’s how the magic happens. As Lisa Jackson, Proposify’s VP of Sales, says, “The best reps have sales knowledge, but are always thirsting to learn more, and ready to evolve.”
Think about training as an investment in your team. It doesn’t have to be formal, third-party training, although that’s a great option. Do whatever works to keep your sales team at the top of their game—online training, videos, books, podcasts, internal and peer training.
The important thing is to establish an environment that supports learning and trying new things. Make sure there’s also room in your training program to reject or rework things that don’t fit your team’s sales style or company direction.
7. How you balance managing down, working across, and reporting up
As a sales manager, you’re kind of the filling in your company’s sales success sandwich.
You report to executives who will want to see the big picture and the minute details, and where the needle’s moving. You also have your sales reps to manage, each with individual needs, goals, and targets.
You also need to align across with your managerial counterparts in other departments, like marketing and customer success, to help your team operate at a high level.
Basically, you’re managing the expectations of your sales team and meeting expectations of executives and fellow managers.
If you’re looking to boost the reporting you’re bringing to the higher-ups, we’ve put together a free customizable sales report template that helps you deliver exactly what your CEO wants to see.
8. The example you set for your team
You are the leader, so it’s your attitude and approach that will set the tone for your team.
First up in setting a good example is respect and integrity.
Respect should be a two-way street between you and your sales team. That’s not to say there won’t be disagreements or conflicts. It means that you approach challenges and issues from a place of mutual respect.
You’ve probably had a not-so-great boss at some point in your life. Usually, bad bosses lack integrity. Integrity means no shit-talking. It means doing what you say you will do. It means taking responsibility, not making excuses. It means doing business in an ethical way.
Have a can-do attitude and face challenges with positivity and passion. Don’t ask anything of your team that you wouldn’t be ready and willing to do yourself.