Managing for Keeps: 3 Common Mistakes Sales Managers Make | SalesAndMarketing.com
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Managing for Keeps: 3 Common Mistakes Sales Managers Make

by Donny Dye, Vice President of Sales, Search at MediaWhiz.

Most sales managers can identify with the following scenario: A sales representative walks into his or her office, closes the door, and says, “I have decided to pursue an opportunity with another company.” In some cases, the departure is welcome. In most cases, though, it comes as a shock. Worst of all, it costs time and resources to hire, train, and integrate a new member into your organization. You are left wondering what the other company possibly could have offered that would cause this valuable sales representative to leave.

Surprisingly, the majority of sales defections have nothing to do with the promise of a new, golden opportunity. Instead, sales professionals often cite not feeling appreciated or valued as prime reasons behind their decision to leave. This can be a harsh realization for sales managers to accept or even fully understand. I find it helpful to look at it from a different angle. Think of the last time you changed your gym. Did you change because another gym had slightly better equipment? Did the new gym offer slightly better hours? Or was it because you were simply dissatisfied with your current gym? Whatever the specifics, most likely, displeasure made you look elsewhere. It is that same discontent that led the sales representative in my earlier scenario to leave, too. So, to help you retain your best and brightest, I’d like to point out some things not to do. Here are three surefire ways to alienate and dishearten just about every member of your sales team—without even knowing it.

Value Competition Over Cohesion

Selling is the world’s most competitive sport. And every sales team must be able to thrive in that competitive atmosphere. This requires constant and consistent motivation. As managers, we often make the mistake of assuming that treating the top performers like rock stars will make everyone want to be top performers. It is a dangerous presumption, one that usually leads to the sales floor becoming a sacred ground for those few elite representatives.

I was guilty of perpetuating this exact reasoning once with my sales force. I created a “Top 10” contest that was meant to drive sales. It ranked the top 10 representatives based on digital sales, awarding them with money based on their ranking. I thought this was a good idea, failing to take into account the demoralization factor that would affect those who didn't make the cut. Also, high performers had no incentive to help improve their fellow team members’ rankings. The contest created veils of secrecy and distrust, and ultimately dissatisfaction.

Such competitions might work in the short term, but they can cause long-term dissention and negatively impact morale. The ensuing infighting becomes not only centered on meeting sales quotas but it can take on a more personal, toxic quality. No one wants to be a part of that world. It is better to remind and reinforce to your team that you all win and lose together. Focus on building a culture that rewards team victory, as well as individual performance. Competition has its place, but it cannot be the cornerstone of your team’s performance.

Make the Sales Call Too Cookie-Cutter

I am a big fan of sales lyrics. In many ways, sales are won and lost by the way things are said, not by what is said. And salespeople are the best at simplifying difficult concepts. So it makes sense that you would want to incorporate great snippets of lyrical genius into your pitch. The trouble comes in when managers try to universally replicate a style among all sales reps.

This also happened to me when I was a sales trainer. I was on a sales call with a representative in Central Florida. She was trying to explain why a potential client should buy an optimized landing page. Seeing her struggle, I couldn’t help myself and jumped in with an illustration of how an optimized landing page was like a high-performance boat, meaning it was designed to rank, unlike most business Websites. The client was pleased, and the deal was closed. But upon reviewing the call, the rep repeatedly said two things: 1. It was a great illustration 2. She could never draw up an illustration that way for a client. My lyrical intervention had caused me to fail as a manager. The goal of a manager should be to pull the best out of every salesperson, not to shape them into being the same.

I was trying to make this sales professional too much like me. Great managers always seek ways to improve a person’s style, not reinvent it.

 Remember:

  1. Evaluate the style of every rep.
  2. Develop an appreciation for each style. The only wrong style is a style that doesn't sell.
  3. Effective sales managers cultivate greatness in reps. They don't close deals. 

Give Out Praise Sparingly

This may seem obvious, but nothing is more powerful than thanking a salesperson for the work they do. Every good salesperson has good and bad months. As team leaders, we always must remember to encourage our people, not just when they are crushing quota. Confidence starts from the top down. If we don’t instill continuous belief in the team, who will? One of the greatest compliments I’ve ever received came after I told one of my sales mentors that I had been promoted to manager. “I am not surprised at all,” was his response. His constant encouragement motivated me and has stayed with me.

His perseverance emboldened me to achieve. It is something I now impart to my sales team.

Remember:

  1. Be consistent instilling confidence in your rep.
  2. Work with reps on a tactical level when they are struggling.
  3. Don't be afraid to say thank you.

Though you may be able to relate to the tale of the disgruntled sales representative who flies the coop, that doesn’t mean you have to endure such experiences any longer. Learn from the mistakes I have shared with you. Infuse positive motivational sales strategies and exhibit unconditional confidence in your sales force. Then create your own three-step guide to retention—not dissension. Start with a simple thank you, and go from there.