Today’s post is by Sandler Training Global Headquarters CEO and President David H. Mattson, a bestselling author, sales and management thought leader, keynote speaker, and leader for sales training seminars around the world. At Sandler, Mattson oversees the corporate direction and strategy for the company’s global operations, including sales, marketing, consulting, alliances, and support.
One of the most important but least defined aspects of being a sales manager is to provide a role model for success that inspires salespeople. After all, people learn by observation – so your people watch you and mimic your behaviors.
Therefore, if you want your team to demonstrate specific behaviors and attitudes, you need to take the lead and show it to them. If you want to be a positive role model as a sales manager, you must practice consistency, fairness, empowerment, courage, vision, and motivation. Let’s look at each of these in detail.
Consistency. Your credibility with your team depends largely on whether your actions and words are consistent with each other. If they aren’t, you are engaging in manipulative, even dishonest, behavior, and your team’s loyalty is at risk. For example:
- Do you do what you say you’re going to do? Do you set timelines and live up to them? Do you deliver on your promises – not just to salespeople, but to anyone with whom you work?
- Do you say what you mean and mean what you say?
- Do you tell things like they are, or do you turn a blind eye to select situations – not digging too deeply to find out what the real issues may be?
If you display inconsistencies between your words and actions, you are denying others the chance to respond naturally to what you are saying or doing…and encouraging the salespeople who report to you to model something other than consistency in their dealings with you and others. For example, if you miss deadlines, then your team gets the idea that it’s acceptable behavior for them to miss deadlines and goals. “Do as I say, not as I do” isn’t a good leadership model.
Fairness. Be fair in your treatment of team members. Work with them to set meaningful, attainable personal standards as part of your goal setting and performance review process. Fairness demands that everybody is bound equally by their commitment to those standards. Fairness also demands that you hold everyone equally accountable – no excuses for the top salesperson or the manager. Don’t fall into the blame game, but don’t give poor performance a pass. Fairness, in the context of a team, means you do your share of the team’s work. If you set guidelines, goals, and expectations for the repercussions of failing to meet them, be sure they are applied evenly to everyone – even you.
Empowerment. Empowerment means giving your team members some of your authority and autonomy – without giving it all away. As the manager, you still hold the final responsibility for what happens in your department, and you make most of the tough decisions. But, in empowering your team, you should work for a balance between controlling and guiding them. By giving them some authority – and identifying the clear borders of the areas where they get to make mistakes – you will enable your team to work more effectively when making decisions and implementing solutions for their customers. Of course, to wield that authority effectively, salespeople also need knowledge and information.
Courage. To be effective with and for your team, sales managers need to have the courage to say and do difficult things. Your job involves dealing with company management; disciplining and, if necessary, firing employees; and giving bad news about sales results or projects. You also need to have the courage to face reality – and help others face it – by pointing out problems others prefer to ignore and by acknowledging your team’s errors along with their successes. Depending on your personality and comfort level with conflict, this can be a tough one. Just remember, you only have to be courageous and move out of your own comfort zone for five minutes at a time.
Vision. However much you empower your team members, sales managers must lead the team effort to create and pursue a vision. Because you operate outside the team – by working closely with company management, for example – and with a broader scope than your team members, you are the one best suited to formulate the team’s vision. The vision, like the team’s purpose, should be strategic and grand. It’s critical that you clearly communicate your vision to your team, making sure each individual understands the part he or she plays in contributing to the results. When crafting your team’s vision, take into account the qualities your team feels most strongly about your shared purpose, A good example of a grand vision is that of Amazon: “Our vision is to be Earth’s most customer-centric company; to build a place where people can come to find and discover anything they might want to buy online.” That’s what Amazon is pursuing. So: What vision is your team pursuing?
Motivation. Motivation is central to your role as team manager. It’s critical to recognize that different things motivate different people. For one person, it might be money; for another, recognition and awards; and, for someone else, leisure time. You should know exactly what motivates each team member and why, so you can base your motivation/compensation program around that pivotal thing. As an action word, “motivation” involves giving encouragement, opportunity, recognition, and occasionally persuasion. As a motivator, you make opportunities for the members of your team. Give them the chance to try new things…and also the freedom to make mistakes without failing. Give them the chance to learn new skills, get the big sale – and win the credit. Do not let individual team members fail. Help them overcome mistakes through collaborative learning and problem solving.
There are lots of competing definitions of success, but I would argue that, for sales managers, any definition that overlooks these six characteristics is incomplete. To be the best possible role model for your people, you should commit to all six.
Please visit https://www.sandler.com/success-stories to see how some of our clients define success, and share your success story with us!