What makes a GREAT sales manager?
Is it great communication skills? A ton of hard-won experience? Sheer dedication?
All sales leaders think about this question a lot, but very few find a way to actually become great. That’s because the real answer to the question “How do I become a GREAT sales manager?” is not so simple. It’s not a quick fix. Not a crash course. Not a lightbulb moment.
It’s a habit. Great sales managers achieve their potential by doing the right things day in and day out.
Here are the 9 things you should do every single day if you want to become a truly GREAT sales manager.
1) Review the sales pipeline
The sales pipeline is the lifeblood of any organization, providing the sales team with high-quality opportunities that they can work on and eventually close. When the pipeline dries up, you can reasonably expect your sales to experience a similar drought.
Great sales managers never let this happen. They are always keeping an eye on their open sales pipeline, stretching ahead for the next few months. They know exactly what they’re ideal sales pipeline-to-quota ratio is, and therefore know just how much pipeline they need to hit their number. If they see pipeline running low, they have a wealth of pipeline-generation strategies in their back pocket they can turn to.
2) Look for areas where they can jump in and help reps
Reviewing the sales pipeline is a great opportunity – no pun intended – for sales managers to jump in and see where they can help out their reps. Keep in mind though, that many sales managers make the mistake of jumping in on late-stage opportunities; for opportunities of this age, it is too late for sales managers to make any real positive impact. Instead, look for early-stage opportunities where you could possibly leverage past experience, a network connection or some other way of helping your rep close the deal. The best sales managers don’t simply sit back and offer guidance from afar; they dive in and get their hands dirty on the front lines, too.
3) Observe the team in action
Periodically throughout the day, it is good practice to just wander around your sales floor and simply listen. It’s remarkable how much sales managers can learn just by keeping their eyes and ears open. Look for things (both good and bad) that your sales reps are doing and make note of them for review later. Keep in mind that this isn’t exclusively limited to sales skills – observing your team’s time management skills, teamwork, and camaraderie can all be just as helpful.
4) Coach sales reps
A natural place to go to after observation is 1-on-1 sales coaching sessions with individual reps. Ideally, you should find time to meet with each rep at least once a week to work on one specific skill or area of weakness. It is critical that your sales organization is committed to developing a strong sales coaching culture. Schedule these weekly sessions with your reps and get buy-in from them, lean on the numbers by bringing in the relevant sales performance metrics and focus on improving specific skills customized to each individual rep.
5) Meet with marketing counterpart
Everyone knows how important sales and marketing alignment is, but few sales managers actually put their money where their mouths are. One thing you’ll never hear from a GREAT sales manager? “I don’t have time to meet with marketing.”
A good start is to meet with your marketing counterpart at least once a day, even if it is just to catch up over coffee. Talk about what kind of campaigns marketing is running this week, ensure that the handoff process of leads to sales is still running smoothly, and make sure that both parties still agree on all facets of the Service-Level Agreement.
6) Track progress against goals
Goals are meaningless if you’re not actively tracking your team’s progress against those goals. For this daily habit, look at things on a more micro level. How is your outbound prospecting team doing against their weekly or monthly activity goals? Is the lead generation trajectory progressing as anticipated? And, of course, how are you doing against your sales quota? By regularly tracking progress against goals, you will never be caught unawares when you do fall short of hitting your goal, and will have plenty of opportunity to pull various levers to make up the shortfall.
7) Forecast sales – has it changed recently?
You should always keep one eye on your sales forecast, looking ahead to see how you are projected to do this month or this quarter. Take note of if your forecast should change, either upward or downward. Did you notice in your daily pipeline review that there are a host of forecast killers lurking about? Maybe you should adjust your forecast down to reflect these realities. Did you get a spate of great leads come in yesterday? Or maybe several “bluebird” deals – opportunities that come down from the sky out of the blue and have a short sales cycle – came in unexpectedly. That might produce a higher forecast then.
8) Learn something new
Don’t let a day go by without learning something new. Even the best sales managers can find room to grow (especially if they find ways to be uber productive). Pick up some of the great sales management literature that’s available out there, or check out one of these great sales blogs. Trust us; you never know when you might come across a valuable gem that could really make a positive impact on your own sales results.
9) Take a step back and take a deep breath
We know – being a sales manager is a very stressful job. There is always pressure to grow. Sometimes, the best thing that you can do for yourself every day is to just take a step back and take a deep breath. Appreciate all the great things you’ve done. Gain a better perspective on just what it is you’re trying to achieve. Relax, for just a minute. The moment of clarity you gain during this daily habit can pay off with invaluable dividends in the long run.