7 Tips for Managing Your Sales Managers

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There’s a wealth of advice out there for sales managers…but what about for the Sales VPs tasked with managing those managers? Managing sales reps is a tough job, but it’s even more challenging to manage someone who is a manager themselves. Every manager has their own style of working, their own beliefs about best practices, and their own specific challenges to overcome. If you’re working with a diverse team of sales managers, how do you unite them into one powerful and cooperative team?

As a Sales VP, it’s imperative that you get the most out of your team of managers in order to grow your business. It’s not an easy task by any means, but here are the steps you can take to effectively manage, organize, and motivate your company’s sales managers.

1. Establish Sales Standards

Left to their own devices, sales managers will create their own sales process and run with it. As the Sales VP, it’s your job to create consistent standards for operations across the entire sales organization. If you have sales managers in other territories working remotely, you don’t want them to be doing things completely differently than sales managers in the office. Ideally, you want a system that allows you to take one manager from one territory and swap them easily with another. There should not be regional or team nuances, but rather a standard procedure across the entire company that everyone knows and follows. This means your entire team speaks one common language and sets consistent expectations for sales reps, sales managers and you as the sales leader.

2. Set the Right KPIs

Once you enforce sales standards, you still have to hold every manager accountable to certain key performance metrics. Sales VPs must set specific KPIs for managers each month and quarter, in order to drive results across the sales team. However, you can’t develop these KPI’s in a vacuum – you have to analyze historical performance to show what has been successful in the past and why. It’s important, when you’re asking people to change their behavior, that you back it up with powerful and indisputable facts. Your sales managers need to understand that you’re not setting goals based on personal opinion, but on empirical evidence. Once you have your managers on board, it will be much easier to achieve impressive results across the team.

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3. Build a Trustworthy Team

Once you have sales standards and KPIs in place, now it’s time to step back and trust your managers to work to meet their goals. In order to manage effectively, you have to have a strong team of people that you can absolutely and fundamentally trust. If you don’t trust your sales managers, you’re going to be constantly micromanaging and end up doing their jobs for them. A good Sales VP is able to step back and give sales managers the flexibility and creative freedom within the standards to get the job done. If you’re looking over their shoulder the whole time, you won’t allow them to grow and develop as individuals. You have to trust that your managers will step up to meet or surpass your expectations.

4. Managers Becoming Coaches

Instead of a team of managers that are dictators who tell reps how to work and when to work, you should encourage your managers to be mentors and coaches to their team. At InsightSquared, because we’re incredibly focused on analytics, sales reps here are constantly using our product dashboard to track how they’re progressing against goals and personal KPIs. This means that sales managers can stop asking reps what they’re doing and how they’re progressing, since they already know – it’s right there in the manager’s dashboard. The performance indicator side of the shop is taken care of, so sales reps essentially manage themselves. With that time freed up, managers can focus their time on coaching and mentoring sales reps, reviewing deals and working on sales strategies. This allows sales managers to become better coaches and mentors to the entire team.

5. Have the Right Ratio of Managers to Reps

Mentoring and coaching is more time consuming than just managing the numbers, so you have to make sure you’re setting up your sales managers for success. You don’t want managers to become overwhelmed with work and fall behind. You have to ensure that there is the right ratio of sales reps to sales managers in order for the entire team to succeed. I subscribe to the theory of 7 reps to 1 manager – I think this is the optimal arrangement. That low number of reps per manager allows for a more hands-on sales management style, with lots of time spent coaching and mentoring each rep individually. This means your managers aren’t trying to coach too many reps, and every rep gets enough personal attention to really improve his or her selling skills.

6. Create an Open Environment

I think it’s important to have people in your management group that are going to challenge you. There’s nothing worse than working with a group of yes men or women who will simply agree with everything you say. If you create an environment of fear and non-collaboration, you’ll have people telling you what you want to hear, rather than having engaged and intelligent conversations. You want your managers to feel safe in having opinions and challenging your thinking at any time. They are the ones who are closer to the action on the ground, and can offer you a different perspective. Create a safe environment for debate, disputes and challenges, and it will ensure you don’t have a group of managers telling you what you want to hear.

7. Always Have Backup

My goal as a Sales VP is to make myself redundant in this role. It might sound crazy, but once I’m able to optimize the people and the process, there should be very little management of my managers required. In an ideal world, once you get that right, everyone will be doing their job with the highest level of effort and performing to the standards set. At that point, you should start to have an eye out for your successor among your sales managers. When you’re a business, you want to ensure that no one individual is bigger than the business. You should choose 2 lieutenants on the management team so that if you’re ill or can’t be in the office, you can entrust one of your managers to pick up the slack. You want your managers to learn and grow in their roles, so that they’ll eventually be able to step up and fill your role when needed.

It’s up to you to help guide your team to success, by allowing your company’s sales managers to grow and succeed. With the right combination of metrics, organization, motivation, and sales culture, you’ll be able to push your team to new heights.

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