What do great salespeople really want from their Sales Manager? How do you get the most out of your reps? The relationship between Sales Manager and sales rep can range from symbiotic to contentious. When the relationship works, it can create lifelong careers that are fulfilling to both parties and greatly benefits the company. When it doesn't, salespeople churn through jobs with short tenures and minimal sales results. How do you make it work?
Here are six (6) things that top salespeople consistently say they value from their Sales Managers:
1. Attention (not micro-management)
Investing time in a sales rep is different than barking orders or constantly checking up on them. Successful sales reps value the time their Sales Manager invests in them identifying their strengths in the sales process where they do well, as well as gaps where they need improvement. Examples would be field observation, joint call audits, and reviewing phone calls in order to note areas of improvement. You cannot coach effectively unless you first observe.
2. Chance to make mistakes
No one likes to be judged--especially during the process of trying to improve a skill. Sales reps like to enjoy the freedom of trying and failing without judgment as long as they give it their best shot. For example, if a sales rep is trying to sell a new product, they should have the freedom to work through the process and messing up until they get it right. When a sales rep is more focused on not making a mistake, sadly, they tend to make more. Instead, the focus should be on the things they did well and then build on that.
3. Opportunity to think for themselves
Great salespeople know that having their thinking challenged makes them better. A good Sales Manager will ask questions to force their rep to think through their activities, perceptions, beliefs and experiences. This builds a more independent sales rep that does not rely on their Sales Manager for every answer. If a sales rep is going to achieve their sales goals, they must be able to solve problems on their own. Therefore, they must be able to think for themselves.
4. Role play
Working out a challenging sales call prior to the meeting is always a favorite. Practicing cold calling, presentations or negotiation techniques in the security of the Sales Manager's office yields more sales. Period. No self-respecting sales rep will turn down the opportunity to prepare with their Sales Manager for an upcoming appointment with a big prospect. Working on language, presentation, appearance, and tone build confidence and increase the bond between player and coach.
Great sales reps want the truth about their performance. So tell them. They want to know exactly where they are and how to get where they need to be. However, there are two conditions where this will not work. First, is the emotionally weak sales rep that shies away from negative feedback. The other is the low credibility Sales Manager. Whether dictatorial, apathetic, or disinterested, this type of Sales Manager gets resistance from their salespeople, even if they speak the truth about their rep's performance. The coach/player relationship never forms, so salespeople tune out.
Finally, great salespeople appreciate being told 'You can do it!". Encouragement goes a long way, especially during sales slumps, the loss of a big sale or through times of personal difficulty. Encouragement is also vital when developing a particular skill. When frustration sets in, calm words of affirmation help to infuse the coaching session with positivity. It's a lift to the sales rep and reinforces the Sales Manager's belief in them.