3 qualities of a great sales manager

The three things that makes great sales manager are ability to

  • Coach
  • Absorb pressure
  • Build a team

I got this insight when I ran into an old friend late last evening. He currently works for a sales organization and was completely stressed out. When i asked for the reason for his stress, he indicated that the sales pressure being exerted on him by his manager is actually freaking him out.

When I dug deep, he indicated that their organization follows the Jan – Dec sales cycle, which meant that they are in the last fortnight of the year and there is enormous pressure to close deals and achieve their sales quotas and he has not been able to achieve his quota.

He indicated that there were no deals in his pipeline that could be closed in the next fortnight. He indicated the same to his manager, yet, all the manager says is that, it is not acceptable and that he  needs to bring in a few more deals so that he comes closer to achieving his quota and his boss to achieve his stretch target.

Now, this had me thinking. What can the sales manager achieve by doing this. There can be only 3 results from this:

  1. My friend goes out to some of his prospects, provides additional discounts, persuades the prospect to buy. This is not a great thing for his organization. 
  2. He is unable to do any further closures, which will only add to his anxiety and pressure. I am sure that my friend would leave that organization at the first opportunity, which is also not a good outcome for the organization.

So, this made me think what could the sales manager have done differently. I could think of the following which could have made a positive difference to my friend achieving his quota and staying loyal to his manager and the organization:

  • Coach: Any sales manager’s first responsibility to his team is to be their coach. In all probability, he has already been there, done that and has been good at this, which led him to his current position. So, how can he use his experience to coach his team members (depending upon their individual needs). Every sales executive has some are of the sales process, where he could appreciate some coaching. So, a sales manager needs to identify the areas where individuals in his team need coaching and use every conversation, opportunity to coach. As in any team sport, a good coach can inspire any team to achieve success, previously thought impossible.
  • Absorb pressure: In any sales organization, there will always be pressure to achieve quota. Can a sales manager absorb some of the pressure when he knows that his team is giving their 100% and there are genuine reasons for not meeting quota or closing deals. Common practice is to put additional pressure on the team to achieve their quota rather than provide a cushion. A great sales manager needs to be able to gauge the situation and provide cushion or exert additional pressure accordingly. In any case, if the teams knows that their manager can and is willing to absorb pressure, they will go all out to avoid such a situation.
  • Team: A great sales manager builds a team and not some individuals who compete with each other. It has been very rare that a sales manager gives more emphasis to the team doing well together rather than pitting each member of the team against each other. With selling becoming more and more complex (simple sales models are disappearing and moving to the web), it is critical that you work as a team to succeed in this complex selling world, learn from each other and support one another.

These are my thoughts. I would like to know your thoughts on this topic. Do you agree or disagree? Are there any other qualities that make a sales manager great?

Do let me know by commenting on the post below or tweeting your response to me on twitter (@rmukeshgupta).

PS: I thought that the article in HBR , “To build a great sales team, you need a great manager” was very well written and bring forth the importance of having a great sales manager on your team.

Role of culture in a sales team.

Culture is what transforms any team to greatness or failure!

Sales teams are no exceptions to this. There is a specific culture in each and every sales team, doesn’t matter if someone has carefully instilled it there or it just got there by accident.

So, what is the culture like in your team and why is it so important?

I met a sales manager recently. He indicated that he wanted to have a high performance culture in his team. When I prodded him to explain what he meant by high performance, he said that he wants everyone in his team to hit their quotas, for them to act like CEO’s of their businesses and deliver. That it did not matter, how they did their quota as long as they hit their quotas. If they can’t, he fill find out people who can.

This is one form of culture!

I met another sales manager the very same day, who works for the same organization. So, I asked him the same question. What was the culture he wanted in his sales team?

He replied that he wants each and every one of his team members to hit their quotas. They each ran their individual businesses, but had clear directions and priorities as defined by him. Some of them that he listed were as below:

  • Customer’s come first! 
  • If you need help, ask! Earlier the better!
  • If you can help one of your colleagues, go ahead and help! You might need one sooner than later!
  • Everyone in the team needs to hit their quotas – if this means, we help each other out, so be it!

This is another form of culture.

I personally think there can be 2 kinds of culture within any sales team. I call them

“Compete”  or  “Co-opete”

Sales teams with “Compete” culture:

  1. These sales teams will pitch each of the sales executives against each other.
  2. These teams will have their incentives designed such that “winner takes all or at least most of all”.Praise and humiliation happen simultaneously. Review meetings will take place in the open and those who are not able to meet their numbers taken to task in front of everyone.
  3. Individuals emerge stronger or weaker.
  4. Why and how some hit their targets is not discussed. Why and how some one missed their targets is what gets discussed.
  5. Such teams are focused only on short term (month, quarter or the year)
  6. This team does not place much emphasis on training.

Sales teams with “Co-opete” culture:

  1. These sales team work like teams. More likely they mirror the  behavior of a sports team, with the manager playing as the coach and/or captain
  2. Their incentives are designed such that the entire team wins or loses together. Individual wins don’t count unless the unit wins as a team.
  3. The team emerges stronger or weaker.
  4. Why and how a member hits their targets is discussed so that other members can learn. The strengths of a team member is used to defend someone with that weakness, so that the team wins.
  5. Such teams have the capability to focus beyond the year as well. Whether they do or not totally depends on their organization’s culture.
  6. Training is a very important element in their success.

With selling becoming more and more complex, customers getting more and more knowledgeable, economic environment getting tougher, I think the teams that play as a team with the “Co-opete” culture stand a better chance at succeeding in the foreseeable future.

What do you think? Do you agree with my assessment? Do let me know by commenting below or tweeting your thoughts to me @rmukeshgupta.


Leadership crisis

While reading the newspaper today, I realised that we are living in a world with a leadership crisis.

Whether it is lack of strong political leadership or strong leadership in the corporate world.

Is this because the current set of leaders never wanted to step down or nurture the next set of leaders?

Or is this because we are living in a time of rapid change and the current crop of leaders don’t understand the dynamics of the change and are at a loss on how to navigate the change?

Or is it because we, the common men know way too much to realise the failure of the current leaders?

Whatever may the cause be, it is time for a new set of leaders to come forward and take charge!

The question is will you lead this charge?

Inspiring stuff – Initiative & leadership in Action

Blog share – Leap & the net will appear

An excellent blog by Michael Hyatt, on commitment, faith and self-belief. I would say, take a deep breath and leap and wings will appear..