Discover why sales management is one of the toughest roles in sales leadership

August 11, 2023 - 3min. read

Over the years, working as a talent manager, I’ve had countless sales talents express their eagerness to swiftly climb the ladder to become a sales manager. Their aspiration to lead a team is the usual response when I ask them why.

Moments like these make me realize many folks need clarification about the responsibilities of guiding a sales team. Leading a sales team is no walk in the park; it’s regarded as one of the most challenging roles in sales leadership. Now, don’t get me wrong; ambition is fantastic. But let’s be honest. It takes more than just ambition to thrive in this role.

Becoming a sales manager: what you need to know

To be clear, I’m not looking to downplay the significance of the sales manager role—quite the opposite. My intention is to ensure you’re well-informed about the nitty-gritty of this role so that you can make educated choices regarding your career path.

1. Tactics above strategy

Contrary to popular perception, the role of a sales manager often demands more tactical finesse than strategic grandeur. Positioned at the vanguard, the emphasis leans heavily towards a servant leadership approach. As an average, you’ll be entrusted with guiding a team of 5 to 10 sales representatives. If the numbers surpass this threshold, time to have a chat with your VP of Sales.

What is servant leadership?

Have you ever heard of servant leadership? It’s like putting the team’s victory before your own. Forbes spills the beans that your crew is 4.6 times more likely to go all out and bring their A-game under this style.

2. You need to be laser-focused

When it comes to sealing deals, it’s laser-focus time. Besides that, you need to forecast your team and keep an eye out an all relevant metrics. To create a thoughtful forecast, it’s crucial to have a clear overview of the existing data. So get your data game strong by centralizing all that incoming info and nailing down the right stats in one spot.

Making a sales forecast makes it ambitious but realistic for your sales reps. Nothing zaps motivation quite like unattainable sales targets.

3. Yes, coach!

Being a sales manager is broader than traditional management duties. It’s also about being a coach and guiding your team of sales reps to the next step of their career. This is a totally different cup of tea, so don’t underestimate this aspect of being a sales manager.

Four ways to coach your sales reps

A study by Gartner shows that effective coaching increases sales by 8%. Therefore you must master sales coaching as a sales manager to lift your sales reps to hit their targets. I have gathered a few quick ways to enhance your way of coaching.

1. Build trust by sharing past experiences

Your past experiences are like gold. So don’t shy away from sharing them, even if they are mistakes you have made. That way, you build trust with your team, and they can learn from your mistakes and avoid making the same mistakes. 

Keep it real, though. Your stories should uncover both the slip-ups and wins. Why? Two birds, one stone: give your reps relatable tales so they feel less alone in their struggles, and show them how to take on and conquer challenges.

2. Encourage self-reflection

Regrettably, maintaining constant surveillance over your sales reps is an impractical endeavour as a sales manager. Consequently, a strategic approach involves equipping your team with the skill of self-evaluation. The underlying objective is empowering each sales representative to critically assess their performance and derive actionable improvement objectives from these introspections.

Two keys here. One, don’t rush into feedback mode during chats. Take a breath. Let them self-evaluate first.

Secondly, keep those open-ended questions ready. They’re your guiding stars for helping reps shape their assessments.

3. Review sales calls or talks

To be clear, this isn’t an invitation for micromanagement, but there is nothing more valuable for your sales reps to evaluate a sales call together from time to time. That way, you can provide targeted feedback that they can apply directly to conversations.

4. Focus on one working point at a time

Assuming you’ve already tackled points 2 and 3, determine one focus point for a given period. Giving your sales rep a laundry list of work points that he or she must improve by the next feedback time is no use. You want to avoid getting frustrated, stalled-out reps pulled in too many directions.

Experience is key to becoming a sales manager

It’s the spark that propels careers forward. Nevertheless, it’s crucial to avoid burning out in a single role too soon. Instead, embrace an extended period of experiential growth before adopting the mantle of a sales manager. 

If you’re at the point where you’re ready to embrace the role of a sales manager, it’s a pivotal moment to immerse yourself in the principles of servant leadership and enhance your expertise in guiding and coaching your sales team.