Whether you manage 5, 15 or 35 sales people, you have a tough job. Not the least of which is building and developing your team.
It’s not easy to keep people motivated and moving in the same direction. It’s not easy to help your team quiet the noise and avoid distractions so they can focus on what’s important. On top of that you have to manage low performers, add new reps and be accountable to corporate’s expectations.
And what about finding time to coach and develop your reps?
I get it. I’ve been there. And while I’m not sure there are any easy answers, here are a few suggestions.
RAWPIXEL LTD / ISTOCK / THINKSTOCK
Filter. Your team is inundated with information — from vendor partners, from clients, from corporate — about new products, promotions, campaigns. It’s impossible to give it all the same attention. Ask yourself, are you contributing to the noise or helping your reps filter it? Are you blindly forwarding emails they’ve probably already received? Are you helping them identify what deserves focus, or are you making it more difficult? If they start to see your messages as part of the noise, no wonder they start to tune you out. Sometimes it’s not the email you send that matters, it’s the one you don’t. Instead of constantly filling their plates with more, look to take some things away. Do you have three campaigns going? Ask yourself, if your reps were to be really effective with one of them, which one would have the greatest impact? Which one is right for your market, your objectives and your team’s skill set?
Go easy on the whip. If you’ve ever watched a horse race, you know what I mean. The jockey carries a riding crop to push the horse to run harder at times. It is commonly used late in the race, during that stretch toward the finish line. If you watch the post-race commentary, you’ll often hear the announcers mention a jockey (who likely lost) who appeared to “go to the whip too early” or “too often.” Sales managers have a similar tendency (though most that I know don’t use an actual whip). You are constantly pushing your team to run at full speed. But they can’t. Not every month is the last month of the quarter. Not every deal will make or break the year. Learn to pull back on the whip. Let them find a pace that’s comfortable — one that’s effective and sustainable. You can ask them to sprint every now and then, but max effort all the time will burn even the best of them out.
Make yourself better. Helping people get better starts with being a better leader, a better manager, a better coach. Stop saying “they need to be better” and start asking, “What skills do I need to develop so I can help my team?” Your team is a reflection of you. They see your attitude and approach. They see when you go through the motions or just check boxes. If they do the same, can you blame them? Sometimes the best way to help people get better is by modeling what getting better looks like.
Here are a few questions to consider.
- When was the last time you worked on a great team? What qualities did the leader have?
- Are you asking your team to run at full speed too often?
- If you want your team to be more invested in professional development, can they see that you are committed as well?