Congratulations! You have just been promoted as the Sales Manager of your company. Now that you have finally proven your merits through consistent performances, make sure to realize that your company wants you to instill the same confidence, approach, skills, and vision into all the members of your team.
Sales Managers are generally those high profile salespersons who are promoted because they manage to get a high volume of productivity in a team. These people are then made responsible to hone and nurture the talents of other people and make them more productive, if not equally productive.
However, a sales manager would know that any sales-based organization is dependent on their revenue, profits and the public image of their sales people. They are the ones who interact directly with the clients or customers, build a rapport with them, provide them service, deliver them good customer service and forge strong relationships with them, which yields contact, references and a dependable network.
Promoting a person as a Sales Manager might take an event that lasts a few minutes, but it takes a long time for the person to realize that his job responsibilities have changed. He can’t just take up leads and start contacting people on his own now.
Any manager who wants to micromanage all sales processes will soon realize that he is not only interfering in his teammates’ style of working, but is also invading a sacred place of trust and discretion between the client and the salesperson. Not all the managers are such nosy, though. A sales background models a person to become communicative and a doer. So, the first few tendencies that a manager needs to watch out for is the reflex action of reverting to a salesperson and start closing those sales assignments that his team members are struggling at. His job now is not to make sales, but to make sales happen.
He can’t take matters into his own hands. He has to realize that his job is now in guiding the team and not over-reaching in his working style. He needs to have a balance between being a sales manager and someone who will engage with a client as a salesperson, when a case is escalated to him.
A change is said to have taken place when it creates a unique, unfamiliar situation in an individual’s life which makes him adapt according to the circumstances and sketch a future according to the changes. Once you get promoted as a Sales manager, you not only have to manage the productivity, but are also responsible for managing all of your team employees.
Varied roles and procedures affect anybody’s style of life. People should be flexible enough to fit into different roles and style. However, when sales managers keep flipping into roles of salespersons and managers frequently, sometimes it becomes a matter of concern also. They should realize that the situations have changed and they need to work on it to handle them. It helps them to identify negative signals of pressure and rectify them by making decision from analysis.
There are two activities that a person getting promoted as a Sales Manager needs to be aware of −
Adapting − This is the first step a Sales Manager needs to properly undergo. He needs to observe experienced people in similar positions, study their methods and learn from them. This helps him in adapting to the new job quickly, which also helps him to build confidence and motivation in the minds of his team members.
Complementing − Having a “professional vision” refers to the skills needed to develop a feasible roadmap that keeps you on the right path. Complementing is the power through which one can create a balance in the workplace with his own behavior. Different people have different skill sets. There are many cases one can come across of two people in the same team, where one’s strengths will be making up for other’s shortcomings.
An astute Sales Manager realizes that in sales teams it is important that people with such different styles of functioning work together. He needs to identify people with complementary styles of working, so that they can help one another in reaching a common objective.
Complementing teams help in recognizing hidden talents, capabilities and shortcomings of others. However, a really good Sales Manager also consistently keeps analysing their own strengths and weaknesses. It is always advisable for a Sales Manager to exercise an honest portrayal of skill-levels and achievements. He should encourage his team members to try and impress prospects, but he should always keep in mind that in the end, it is the numbers that count.
This might appear to be a tough stance given the fact that delivering sales is not a mechanical concept, where people can deliver numbers working on the keyboards. Sales involves developing trust and reliability and these qualities by definition take time.
The present sales managers were once salespersons themselves, so they need to be empathetic towards other members of their team. They need to take steps that allay their fears and insecurities and help them in identifying directions and purposes. They realize that, just like their staff, they too are not perfect. In fact, nobody in this world is perfect but thankfully, the world of sales does not need someone to be perfect. There have been numerous instances where two people sharing the same imperfections have developed the kind of trust that people take years to develop with their clients.
It is this unique imperfection ingested in each and every one of us that defines us and builds our personality. Demanding excess perfection ruins the person’s individual identity, however in some situations, a manager needs to intervene, so that he can further improve a person’s abilities and performances. The key in such cases is to have an effective mode of communication.
Sales Managers know that their company runs on the foundational principle of relationship building. A company’s brand image, its reach, its popularity might all contribute towards getting a customer interested in their products, but when a customer goes for a purchase, he needs a person to interact with him. If this person does not behave cordially and professionally with him, then the entire objective behind the sales is lost. That is the reason successful managers give a near-autonomy to all their salespeople because they realize that they are the face of the company and all progress depends on them.
In their capacity as a Sales Manager, they need to give their teams timely updates on any changes in the products, services or processes they are offering their clients. They are also expected to review the working of their sales team and keep sharing constructive feedback with those members of their team, who need to undergo corrective measures in their working style and approach.
Empathetic Communication can be defined as, “The art of having a frank discussion, while keeping care of the listeners’ emotions, personal experiences, and respecting a different point of view”. It is one of the first styles that a Sales Manager must implement in his professional life, as it is really helpful in jobs where one has to confidently transmit his ideas to his clients or teammates.
A good example of a Sales Manager having some empathetic communication with his team under a high-pressure sales scenario is – “I understand that it is tough to get customers interested in dental insurance, particularly at this time of the year, however, we need to identify people who are looking for our services. I don’t think it is possible that there is no one who won’t benefit from the insurance”.
When Sales Managers become too strict and demanding in their communication, there are chances they will end up either losing or spoiling a potentially good performer. The skill lies in being an empathetic communicator. Empathetic communicators practice a high level of transparency and authenticity. They can strongly convey their messages with simplicity and clarity and that is the reason people immediately connect with them.
Great communicators have the skills and capability to communicate with a whole range of verbal and nonverbal messages. Nonverbal mode of communication helps in creating a positive gutfeeling in a person when words are not getting the message as clearly and strongly as they should. A person can use body language to send a positive impression.
According to the theory of communication skills, being assertive is a feeling in which you can respect yourself and others also. A Sales Manager has to be assertive all the time while dealing with the sales teams, clients and with the management. They have to find a common ground for people that helps them in understanding their needs. Depending on managerial styles of different people or for the same Sales Manager making a change from one process to work in another, there are five kinds of communication styles, which include −
Let us now discuss regarding all the above mentioned five communication styles in detail.
Assertive type of communication practices high self-esteem. It is the most effective style of business communication and the healthiest method of exchanging ideas. Some people also describe this style of conversation as, “The sweet spot between being too aggressive and too passive”.
When we are assertive, we have the ability to communicate easily without resorting to mind games or manipulation. We know our limits and don't allow ourselves to be pushed further just because someone else needs or wants something from us.
Unfortunately, assertive communication is not something that comes naturally to many people. It is a skill that requires a lot practicing, or else people risk the fear of sounding too arrogant or rude, both death-knells in the line of Sales and Marketing. However, the approach should be to have a positive mentality and a win-win attitude. Unless someone is confident about his abilities and product, he can’t speak assertively.
This style of communication is often employed by self-centered people, who always want to win, even if their win comes at the expense of someone’s loss. For them, a team is just a collection of resources that they can abuse, influence and maneuver to get their targets met.
An aggressive person believes that his requirements are the most important, they have more rights, have more privileges and are better performers as they contribute to the success of their team better than others do.
Such people are at competition even with their own team members. People using an aggressive communication style often realize soon that it is an ineffective communication style, as people either completely ignore their authority or become deviants under their management style.
This is a very detrimental communication style in which people can appear passive on the surface, but in reality they act out their anger in indirect or “behind-the-scenes” ways. They don’t directly confront people, but exhibit deviant behavior.
When Sales Managers exhibit passive aggressive behavior, they become sarcastic and indulge in Machiavellianism.
People who communicate passive-aggressively often feel helpless and bitter, so they express their feelings by subtly undermining the object of their resentments.
The most common expression that can explain the thought process of these people is "Cut off your nose to spite your face".
Sales Managers exhibiting a submissive style are overwhelmed by their teammates and their instructions are simply ignored. They don’t hold any authority or respect in the minds of their teammates. Their way of dealing with people is bending backwards to accommodate the requests and instructions of others.
People with submissive personalities don’t bother holding their ground out of the fear of upsetting other people. They try to stay away from confrontation as much as possible, while trying to avoid clashes, which is totally contrary to the job of a Sales manager, which comes with listening to arguments and opposing points of views.
Ideally, all the salespersons would like to work in an environment that is tailored as per the needs of products they sell. However, conditions are not ideal all the time, so a Sales Manager needs to keep motivating a team and give a positive spin on the dissenting voices his team members raise. A submissive person does not exercise his own thought and will agree to all points of view. This makes people think that he has no thinking process of his own
A manipulative person has a scheming, calculating mind. He keeps on coming up with schemes to turn people around and is very shrewd. Manipulative communicators have skills of influencing or controlling others to make them do as they want. They always drop a hidden or suspicious message in their speech, which may lead people on to thinking they could earn a reward, even if the manager’s speech might not have any such explicit message.
Manipulative managers operate on the principle of “Divide and Rule”. They achieve this through subterfuge, trickery and half-promises. They might give the impression that they are friends of everyone, but ultimately are exposed for their hypocrisy.
Their entire game depends on creating distrust among team members, so just two people who trust each other in the team can expose his game. Such managers are often asked to leave by the management quite early into their tenure.
A good communicator should know the positives and shortcomings of various styles of communication. It helps them learn how to react most conveniently when they confront or face with a tricky situation. It assists them finding an alternative option to use appropriate type of communication style for different conditions.
It is always advisable to have an assertive attitude, however sometimes it is okay to have a submissive style of communication, when talking to the seniors, higher management or under any physical threat. In such scenarios, the motto to follow is: “Bosses and Might are always right”.
We are all familiar with the term “forecasting”. We have often heard it being used with weather. A similar forecasting exists in Sales, however it is not to determine the atmospheric weather, but to try and predict the sales climate for the future. It is called Sales Forecasting.
Sales forecasting enables companies to estimate future sales, so that they can take adequate business decisions and set up performance expectations. Some of the important parameters that are considered while aiming for an accurate Sales Forecasting are past sales record trends, economic trends, customer sentiment and competitor analysis.
Established companies can get a near-accurate prediction on future sales based on their years’ worth of past business records. However, newly-founded companies have to rely on less dependable sources like market research and competitive intelligence. In addition to helping a company predict the future of sales, a Sales Forecasting also helps a Sales Manager decide how to manage his workforce, organize the cash flow for his team and allocate the internal resources effectively.
To start the forecasting, a Sales manager first creates a team of senior officials, who were involved in the sales of the product and asks them to report whether a product value is on growth or decline.
In this, there are several steps that a Sales Manager follows, which are −
Let us now discuss regarding all the above-mentioned steps in detail.
The senior executives forecast sales figures through survey estimates and experiences. All the factors are categorized as either “internal” or “external”. This is a committee-like approach and is favored by those people, who have experience in the line of sales forecasting.
This method includes feedback on estimated sales from the sales-people or mediators operating in their respective territories for a fixed time duration. The reason this is done is to tap customer sentiment.
These salespersons deal with customers regularly and possess vast amount of information about the future demand. Their sales estimates are processed, modified, and integrated into the final sample for the whole market for a fixed time period.
The market test method involves introducing a list of products in some limited geographical area and then analysing the result carefully. Using this result as a foundation, sales forecast report is made. This test is done as a sample-run or on a pre-test basis in order to understand the client or customer response.
Consumers are the main source of information. So this method studies their buying patterns to recognize their favourable purchases during a time period under a set of conditions. This method is ideal for those places, where there are fewer customers and is adopted especially for industrial goods.
It is suitable for those industries that can produce expensive goods to a less number of buyers- such as wholesalers, retailers, potential consumers etc. Surveys are periodically carried out on face-to-face method.
Sales of a company totally depends on the performance of certain market factors. The key factors that affect the sales are identified and by analysing and correlating the behaviours of all these factors, sales forecasting is done.
Correlation is the statistical analysis that determines the degree of extent through which two mutually-complementing variables vary.
The passage of time has seen many consultancies too trying their luck in the field of sales. A typical consultancy agency has experienced experts for each and every respective field. These experts may include several dealers, trade associations, etc. They carry out all the market researches and have readymade statistical data. All the reviews of such experts are also made available to different firms.
Economic Model-building employs a mathematical approach of study that is used to forecast sales. This method is helpful in the sales of strong goods and involves two sets of variables, which are called as independent and dependent. Using these variables, equations are drawn to represent a set of relationships.
A record of past sales over the years also is an excellent source for accurate sales forecasting. This method of forecasting involves statistical and quantitative analysis. According to some experts, today’s sales activities are directly proportional to tomorrow’s sales activities. In other words, last year’s sales extend into this year’s sales.
In addition to all these above mentioned methods, some companies also use statistical methods, which is a normalized version of different data and analyses. It is considered to be a much better technique of sales forecasting because its consistency is higher than that of other techniques.
Identifying the appropriate sales territory is the most important function of a Sales Manager. It is the most crucial step taken to boost the sales of a company in the least amount of time. The sales territory is always finalized at the end because it involves taking into consideration the inputs of all the salespersons and operators in specific areas.
Let us discuss in detail regarding the five phases of territory planning and how it helps in generating better sales.
To create a winning formula of allocating appropriate sales territory, you have to carefully adhere to the rules of the market. This means acknowledging any changes that are happening in the market behavior or customer’s purchasing trends.
A few basic questions which must be asked at this juncture are −
This is done in the first phase. After getting answers to these questions, a suitable product is designed and then launched into the market. Once the product is open to sales, a lengthy process of watching sales volume, customer objections, query-handling, reporting and sharing feedback takes place.
After designing a product and releasing it into the market, it is sometimes observed that people don’t appreciate it and the sales volumes are not that high. Hence, after the first phase of production, there is a second phase of introspection, during which you will check, why the customers are not interested to buy your products.
A few questions which are required to be asked in the second phase are given below −
In this phase, you have to retrospect on the missing characteristics that customers were expecting in your product, but found them missing. After that, you are supposed to carefully analyze whether the services of your product are better than other competitor products in the market.
If you detect any problem that might affect the sales of your product, then as a Sales Manager, you are supposed to report it to the management. Nowadays, the reputation of a product spreads quite fast on social media, so companies adopt a soft launch of products, before trial consumers, before they release it to mass consumption.
After taking feedback and understanding the areas of concern in the second phase, the Sales Managers are supposed to do a SWOT (Strength, Weakness, Threats and Opportunities) analysis to understand where they currently stand and what direction they have to move towards to implement changes.
The questions that are often tossed in this phase are as follows −
As you can see, this phase is all about checking all your strengths and trying to use them for reaching your objectives. It is also important that you analyze all the weaknesses associated with your products, so in future they do not affect sales. In addition to checking the opportunities that are available in the market to promote your product, you also need to identify the threats that affect your product sales. Most of these threats can now be rectified with the advancement of technology and some with various industry standard tools.
In the fourth phase, objectives are drawn out and the concerning market factors are identified. All these objectives are then combined and aligned as per current trends to create a strong action plan.
Some of the important questions that are asked in this phase are −
This phase is used to determine various market factors on which you should work to achieve high market sales. After that, some of the best services of the product are identified to promote them as per the business plan.
In the last phase, you have to check the feasible implementation of the entire plan carefully, so that the outcome will enhance the product sales as per the expectations. Here, the Sales Manager actually comes into the implementation role, where he has to manage his team properly to get all the necessary steps and review the implementation and growth of the external partner’s performance on a regular basis.
Some important questions asked during these reviews are −
Determine or plan all the strategies that help you to get success. Also check some strategies that help you to generate leads. Get help from some senior officials to improve sales conversion rate and analyze the areas that needs improvement.
To get successful sales numbers, some high-leverage actions plans are needed to be implemented. First of them is to select the resources that you need for doing the task. The second one is to fix the due dates on which you complete all your necessary tasks.
Newly-appointed Sales Managers often tend to deviate off the action plan to exhibit flexibility. However, it is advised that they stick to their action plan as much as possible to get the desired results.
A couple of important questions asked in this stage include −
Following these factors will ensure that a person or a company becomes successful in connecting with the customers and convincing them about the quality of their product.
An effective and communicative manager always motivates his team employees to make an organization grow.
Once the phases mentioned in the previous chapter of planning and implementing changes are done, then it is action time. Sales Managers are tasked with the responsibility of putting into action all the things and steps that were discussed in the five steps.
Depending on it, the Sales Manager will now have to divide the work assigned to him into different categories and allot his team mates the different responsibilities based on their skill sets and levels of expertise. This is called Delegating of Work.
There are many factors to be considered in delegating work to people. The most important one of them is that we select only the appropriate person for a given task. An untrained, inexperienced person working in a role that needs a specialist’s touch is a sure recipe for a disaster. The second requirement is to see whether the person specialized in a particular area is available for the job. It might so happen that he is engaged in another equally-important assignment. Assigning a new responsibility will only over-burden that person.
You should also make sure that there is a senior person who is experienced in similar assignments at the head of the team. This ensures the team’s familiarity with the process and an approachable supervisor, who can guide them with immediate concerns. This keeps the team focused and on the schedule.
Once a team has been finalized, the entire responsibility of the successful implementation must be given to them. Avoid micromanaging and interfering in their functioning style. However, periodic updates on progress must be asked and suggestions shared.
Divide jobs in small measurable units and discuss with the teammates about different job responsibilities, so that they can understand the reason, why that particular work was assigned to them. This promotes transparency and ensures best performances from individual team members. Keep sharing important points and tips between implementation processes and keep providing constructive feedback. These steps help you to get success in delegating all the responsibilities for the appropriate person that help you to achieve your key objective.
If you are a manager of a sales-based organization, then you deal in a climate of instructions, responses and feedback. Unlike other jobs where such processes are often undertaken at the end of a month, it is not unlikely that in a sales environment, this process can occur multiple times in a day.
In such a situation, it is imperative that the Sales Manager should be a good listener. He/she should also have the ability to concentrate on the team’s inputs even in the tightest of schedules and deadlines. A good sales manager not only practices good listening skills, but also teaches it to his team also, so they improve their relationship with their clients and customers in a working environment.
Many people wrongly assume that listening is a medium of taking inputs, so the conversation is one-way. However, a person listening intently to what you are saying is actually communicating through his silence. When a salesperson shares a feedback with their manager, who happens to listen with intent, then it does the dual action of encouraging them to speak further and build a confidence in them.
Listening may not have any relationship with verbal communication, but the truth is that good communicators are also best listeners. It is found many times that that the most productive team has people who have team members with good listening skills.
Some of the Common Listening Techniques that Sales Managers use are given below −
Asking informative and exact questions at the beginning and end of someone talking, but not disturbing them in between.
Short but friendly phrases like “Go on”, “I understand” as well as “Is that so?” help to build the speaker’s confidence.
A good listener gives adequate amount of time to the speaker, which helps in explaining the points properly and comprehensively.
A good listener always maintains good eye contact with the speaker, but avoids staring for too long.
At times, using supporting phrases becomes repetitive and the listener risks coming across as overtly friendly and phony. In such cases, use gestures.
Good listeners don’t judge others or arrive at a conclusion unless they have completely heard the other person’s speech. They encourage others to take time and collect their thoughts.
Smile when appropriate and necessary. A simple smile gives more assurance and help than lines of soothing words.
Good listening skills are necessary for success in any job, but more so for a sales manager because he needs to have a constant communication level with all types of clients or stakeholders. He communicates with the sales team, sales manager, Management, customers and other departments of the organization, so he is almost the single point of contact for some of the most important functions in the organization.
Meetings are a standard feature in the lives of salespersons. Sales-oriented companies have frequent meetings per day; some companies even allow their team managers to call meetings every other hour to keep motivating their teammates.
The most important skill needed in scheduling and running a meeting is that the manager should be updated and informed. He should have the ability to pre-empt some situations and be ready with the solutions to them.
Some other key steps that are needed to followed for an effective meeting are −
Make your objectives clear − before calling a meeting, make sure that you realize what is the purpose of the meeting and what is the output you are expecting out of it.
Mention the list of invited members − in advance, so that the team members know which points might be raised and they can prepare accordingly. This also lets them know if they are going to share some data with the other people in the meeting.
Create a proper schedule of meeting − for everyone, so that everyone can make a confirmed attendance. Keep the meeting on schedule and try to end it within the allotted time. Ensure that everyone gets equal time to put across their points, views, opinions, feedback, etc
Decision should not be lop-sided − and the final decision must always be taken in agreement with all the members. Make proper conversation with others to get a desired result.
Creating a schedule of timing − helps in allotting time to people to present their points, and also for brainstorming after the proposal. It is important to start and conclude meetings on time, but it is even more crucial to hear every voice.
Restrict usage of phones and communicative devices − as much as possible in the meeting hall. Request the teammates to not carry their phones to the meetings and if they do, then keep them in silent mode.
Sales Managers also follow a common practice of distributing a common sheet in the meeting hall, so that everyone knows what points will be discussed in the meeting. Such sheets or agendas, are drawn much before the meeting is called. It helps keeping the discussion focused on different points.
Managing the time of the team members effectively is very crucial. It helps in making them able to focus on all the corresponding areas of sales, distribution, collection and feedback. Managing time is a very important requirement for a sales manager. It helps him to coordinate with his team and also keep them available for the meetings that are arranged to discuss the sales and other prospects.
Some of the most common steps followed to manage time of the team effectively are given below −
Prospecting should be made a habit − instead of allotting separate time to your teammates for prospecting. Prospecting is the process of identifying people from the usual crowd who might be interested in your product. A person interested in your product can be found at any time of the day, while jogging or sharing a bus on the way home. However, care should be taken to not be too pressing or obtrusive.
Minimize time taken for non-revenue tasks − such as handling customer feedback issues, finalizing paperwork and filing up worksheets. Proper scheduling of these activities on a daily basis will save a lot of time.
Zoning your calendar − is a very effective step in scheduling work responsibilities. Zoning a calendar is the process of diving tasks in two categories – Long-term goals (calculated in terms of weeks) and Short-term goals (calculated in terms of days).
Try to check the email regularly − and only for work-related updates. Check only your official email for updates and never subscribe to any non-official services that might clutter your inbox with unnecessary and non-urgent information.
All these steps ensure that sales managers utilize the maximum time in an official day in successful prospecting of leads and conversion of these prospects into customers.
To wrap it up, Sales Managers are responsible to keep multiple assignments running at the same time. They have to be ahead of the curve on a lot of instances. They should keep themselves abreast with all the changes in the market, so that they can be prepared for any queries that their team has of them.
Keeping a track of customer choices, preferences and market fluctuations isn’t an easy task. Sales Managers need to realize that the more time-efficient they make their system, the better functioning they can offer to their organization and their clients.