You’ve just looked at the latest metrics. It’s not pretty. Sales are below goal. Activity isn’t where it needs to be. Your team isn’t making enough calls, having enough meetings, or closing enough deals.
What’s your first instinct? Hold a team meeting and raise hell? Call everyone in individually and interrogate them about their activity?
During times of adversity, you usually get an accurate look into a manager’s mindset. In my experience, sales managers generally fall into three different leadership categories – Managers, Interrogators, and Coaches.
The most effective managers usually combine the three mindsets and use different approaches when necessary. Which category do you fall into? If you consistently find yourself doing more managing than coaching or interrogating too much, then it may be time to adjust your mindset. Check out the three categories below and see if they sound familiar to you.
Of course you’re a manager, right? That’s what you were hired to do – manage the sales team. Heck, it might even be in your title and printed on your business cards. Being a manager in title, though, doesn’t mean you should only be a manager in action.
Yes, there are management responsibilities that you must handle. But managing isn’t your entire role. When I see sales leaders who are entirely focused on managing, it’s usually at the expense of other critical functions, like talent development. And then those managers wonder why their underperforming salespeople never get any better.
Ask yourself where you spend most of your time. Is it on administrative things like hiring and scheduling? Do you spend most of your time in your office reviewing the metrics and the pipeline? Or do you get in the trenches with your team to see where they need the most help?
In your meetings with team members, what kind of instruction are you passing along? Are you offering guidance, but leaving it to them to act on it? Or are you mandating specific actions and telling them exactly how those actions should be implemented?
I often see managers struggle with trusting their team members. Many sales managers got to their position by being a successful salesperson in their own right. They did things a certain way and had success with it, so they expect their team to copy the same formula. They then mandate those actions, whether they start having call nights at a certain time or giving presentations a certain way.
The problem with being too much of a manager is that you can’t manage everyone to success. Not everyone has the same strengths as you. Your path to success may not work for people with different personality types or a different set of strengths and weaknesses.
Intense manager types often feel frustrated that their team isn’t succeeding. After all, you’re telling them exactly how to be successful, so why isn’t it working? It may be that you’re doing too much managing and not enough listening and coaching. Try adjusting your mindset and see how that affects your team’s performance.
When will this deal close?
Can we change the probability on this deal from 60 percent to 80 percent in our pipeline?
How many calls did you make last week? How many meetings? Any presentations? How many did you close?
It’s easy to get caught in the interrogation trap as a manager. There’s certain information that you need to gauge whether the salesperson is performing or not. However, if you make it all about the numbers, you may not catch the bigger problems – and you may not even get accurate information.
In your next round of one-on-ones, take note of how you’re gathering information. Are you asking thoughtful, conversational questions? Or are your spitting them out, rapid-fire, like a detective on the hunt for answers?
There are two big problems with this approach. The first is that you may not be seeing the bigger issues. Maybe your underperformer is struggling because they don’t quite know what segment of buyer they should target. Maybe they’re struggling to convey value and they could be helped by role-playing or shadowing a more successful salesperson.
Instead of firing rapid-fire questions, try saying something simple like, “Let’s talk about your activity this week. How do you think it went?” And then be quiet, let them talk, and really listen to what they’re saying. You’ll likely get far more helpful information than you would through a bunch of metrics.
The other issue with this approach is that you might be creating an intimidating atmosphere. Your team members know they’re going to get grilled when they come into your office, so they start taking self-protective steps to minimize the damage. They make bogus calls to inflate their numbers. They pad their activity so you’ll go easy on them in the meeting.
This kind of inflated information isn’t helpful for you or them. The best way to avoid it? Have constructive meetings with a focus on improvement rather than a grill-session centered on activity metrics. You’re not an FBI interrogator; you’re their coach and leader. Turn off the hot lamp and the lie detector and get back to having meaningful conversations.
In my work with sales leaders and sales organizations, I’ve seen the tremendous impact that effective coaching can have. Unfortunately, it’s also an area where many sales managers could make their biggest improvements.
What do great coaches who are sales managers do that managers and interrogators don’t? A few things:
They look for solutions.
What’s your initial response when a team member is struggling? Tell them what to do better? Put them on probationary plan? Coaches look for the root cause of the problem and then develop an action plan to resolve the situation. They go out on the front lines to see where the salesperson is struggling and then they help them work through the problem.
They let their team members do it on their own.
Coaches know that sales is only for self-starters. They know that the only way a salesperson can improve is implement a solution himself or herself. The coach provides the guidance, but they don’t micromanage and they don’t mandate actions.
They motivate through recognition and games.
Many managers believe that success and compensation should be enough motivation. Unfortunately, that’s just not true for most sales teams. Employees of all stripes are motivated by recognition, especially in front of their peers. Good coaches know this and regularly develop contests and games to drive activity and light a fire under their team.
So which manager type rings most true for you? As I mentioned, the most effective managers usually combine all three, with a heavy emphasis on coaching.
If you feel like you need to change your style and become more of a coach for your team, contact me to discuss it. I love working with sales leaders and finding effective ways for them to get the most out of their team. Let’s connect soon.
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