So, You’ve Decided to be a Sales Manager….Part II
By Henry Thomas

And you want to be the best sales manager that you are capable of being. Last month we talked about the difference in selling and sales management (If you’d like to read part one of this article click here) and we discussed that effective management of people is a complex process. This month we will discuss this process in somewhat more detail and explain how you can use it to your new role.

As a first step, don’t panic! I know that you initially feel as though you’re in over your head. The change from salesperson to sales manager is often overwhelming. Suddenly a hundred demands are placed on you, and you hardly get a chance to catch your breath.

Overnight, you are faced with a mountain of paperwork, people calling and asking you to do something for them, and you have a thousand details that demand your immediate attention. Your e-mail in-box is full, and your to-do list seems endless. In fact, your list is endless.

As a first step in creating order out of chaos, consider your objectives and set priorities. Make a list of the most important issues as you try to get off to a great start. Hopefully, the concepts of maintaining high per-person production, high employee retention, a highly profitable sales center and great customer loyalty all show up on this initial list. Sound impossible? That’s what separates the “Just OKâ€? sales managers from the great ones.

Rehire Your Best
This suggestion is at the top of the list with good reason, for our best people represent our biggest threat when they leave and our biggest opportunity when they stay or return. Anytime there is a management change, the risk of losing our best performers increases substantially. The bond between good salespeople and their manager is critical to good performance. As a new manager, we need to reestablish and reinforce this bond as quickly as possible.

Mediocre managers seldom realize the role they play in retaining talent. They assume that people leave because of better offers. They see themselves as bystanders in a process that they cannot control. These managers simply never develop the strong relationships that help companies hold on to great sales people.

Great managers, on the other hand, aren’t afraid to become close with their best people. Such managers understand that strong relationships enhance productivity.

Create and Maintain a Climate of Success
Much as been written about a company’s culture and as a sales manager we play a major role in establishing that culture. Is it upbeat, vibrant, goal orientated? More than goal orientated, is it accomplishment driven? Title alone does not make you a sales manager, leadership does. We must create a culture in which star performers will thrive. When the sales stars decided to work for a company; they also picked a manager. How often have you heard a sports figure state, “I wanted to play for a particular team because of the coach.â€? As a sales manager, we must create that same atmosphere. Highly motivated performers want a manager who will bring out the best in them – someone who can help them achieve their goals. Respond quickly to the needs of your stars. Help them to solve their problems, and get back to them quickly when they need our help. Loyalty is not given, it is earned, and we must work to build it.

Appreciate Uniqueness
A major mistake many managers make, particularly new ones, is to assume that because they were successful with a certain sales style, they must get everyone else to sell that way. During my sales training I often hear new managers’ state, “I thought that is why they promoted me. I was one of the best salespeople in the company. If I could only get everyone to sell the same way I did, they would be just as productive.â€?

Not a good rule of thumb! Talented people are different from one another, and this is especially true in sales. We should not expect our best sales people to all sell the same way, to act the same way, and we should not make the mistake of trying to get them to imitate our sales style. As an example, I recently had the opportunity of observing a new sales manager. He was apparently under the misimpression that his organizational skills got him promoted, for I heard him admonish one of his best sales people because his office was disorganized.

Excellence as a manager will not come from getting others to be like us, it will come from getting others to be more like them. Discovering each person’s strengths everyday is a secret share by great managers. You have to know them to grow them.

Lead From Strength
What’s the return on your investment? We think about returns very clearly with money, but we don’t often thank about returns on our most critical resource: our time. Where can you expect the best return? Great managers know the answer.

Average managers believe in the “equality myth.â€? According to them, everyone should be treated in the same way. They bend over backwards to avoid playing favorites. Great managers view this myth for what it is – politically correct and patently unproductive.

Leading from strength means matching talent with opportunities and resources. Our job is not to divide resources equally; our job is to divide scarce resources to produce maximum results. And our time is one of the most important resources we have!

What produces greater results – spending time with poor performers or spending time with great performers? Too often new managers believe the former. I am often asked, “How can I help my weak performers improve if I don’t spend time with them?â€? It is easy to fall into this trap, but remember your job is to be a manager/leader, and not a professor. The best performers like an audience more than an instructor. They want someone who sees and acknowledges their stellar job. Our presence should bring out the best in our stars. In much the same way athletic teams play better in front of the home crowd, our best sales people need us to both appreciate them and to applaud their results. (A great book on this subject is Bill Oneken’s, Managing Management Time.)

Henry Thomas is President of Thomas & Associates a leading motivational speaker, consultant and sales trainer. Henry is qualified to teach Essential Closing Strategies for the National Housing Association of Home Builders. Planning a sales meeting or seminar – Call Henry at 712-472-3112 – E-mail henrythomas@earthlink.net