If you're new to management, it can be a challenge. Fortunately, understanding how to manage a sales team isn't much different from managing any other team. By following a few best practices, you'll greatly improve your odds of success.
5 tips for managing a sales team
One of the most essential keys to your success as a sales manager is having the right team and processes in place. There will probably be some changes you'd like to make right off the bat. For example, you may already know of one or two team members who you want to replace.
But before you start making changes, consider taking some time to assess the situation. Even if you were on the team before and were promoted to management, things might look different to you as you evaluate them from a manager's point of view.
At the same time, you can't be afraid to make necessary changes. Just keep in mind that your team members had a hand in developing the current process. The following tips will help you get your team members on board with any changes that need to be made and ensure that you get the most out of each team member.
1. Be open and honest
There are a number of subjects that require honest communication between you and your staff. Without clear communication and transparency, miscommunication and loss of trust are bound to follow.
Avoid damaging your team's productivity by clearly communicating about:
- Team progress. Don't misrepresent where your team is at in an attempt to light a fire under people or calm their fears. Your team needs to know that they can trust you to keep them informed about what they need to do to get or stay on track.
- Decisions that affect the team. Nothing is more demoralizing for a sales rep than to find out that their manager made a decision that will negatively impact them without involving them. As the manager, the ultimate decision is (usually) up to you, but including your team in the process will keep them engaged. And you may even get some good insight that influences your final decision.
- Individual performance. If someone on your team is struggling, you need to have a conversation about their performance sooner rather than later. These conversations aren't easy, especially if it's someone who used to be a peer, but things won't get any better if you don't talk to them about it. By having the discussion before things go too far, you give them an opportunity to turn things around.
2. Be a team player
The best way to earn your sales team’s respect is to be a team player. If you come down hard on your team all the time but don’t exemplify the work ethic you want them to have, they won’t be motivated to work for you.
As the sales manager, you set the standard.
3. Be available
According to HubSpot, 44 percent of sales representatives look to their manager for assistance and advice.
When you work together with your team—pitching ideas, mastering new technology, and providing feedback—overall team productivity increases.
As a sales manager, you should organize group meetings as often as possible and also make time to be available for individual mentoring and help.
4. Set the bar
Your team needs to know where to aim. As the sales manager, it's your job to set the bar. SMART goals are one way to be clear about your expectations and measure your team's performance.
Setting a goal that is SMART means it has to be specific, measurable, achievable, relevant, and time-bound.
- Specific. The goal needs to be specific. Your team needs to know exactly what you're asking of them and what success looks like.
- Measurable. It should be something quantifiable that leaves no room for doubt about whether or not the goal was reached.
- Achievable. Set ambitious goals, but make sure they are within reach. It's hard to be motivated to do the impossible.
- Relevant. The goal should be directly tied to your overall objectives.
- Time-bound. There needs to be an end date. This creates a sense of urgency and helps your team set priorities and manage their time.
Setting the bar with SMART goals will motivate your team to focus on the activities and metrics that matter most to the team's success.
5. Reward good work
Incentives are not only a great way to congratulate someone for a job well done. They also motivate your team. Studies show that incentive programs can increase productivity by as much as 44%.
Look for opportunities to reward your team as a whole and individual team members.
Here are a few ideas:
- Gift cards
- Concert tickets
- Team outings
- Extra vacation time
- Office equipment (just make sure it's something cool like a standing desk, not a wastepaper basket or a paperweight)
One thing to remember: your incentive program should be aligned with your (SMART) sales goals. Be careful not to incentivize activities that won't ultimately contribute to the team's success.
Be ready to make replacements
Remember those team members who needed replacing? Well, they may not be the only replacements you have to make. In general, 73% of employees were open to new opportunities. and, at last count, B2B sales turnover was just under 35%.
So whether you're replacing someone because you want to or because you have to, it's vital to be prepared to bring on new salespeople when the time comes.
You'll want to look to add team members who are:
- Good communicators
- Skilled with CRM software
Sales are results-driven by nature. Process is important, but each team member has a quota to hit. If a candidate isn't motivated to attain set outcomes, then they're not meant for sales—not on your team anyway!
The best salespeople are always willing to learn. As you probably remember, getting started in sales requires a lot of training and mentoring. If a candidate can’t take direction well they're going to struggle. Even if they've been in sales for a while, each role, industry, and company is different.
Being a great salesperson requires an ability to relate to the people you're selling to. Personable people have an easier time establishing rapport with potential customers and discovering what it will take to make the sale.
Communication skills are important in most roles, but they're absolutely essential for sales roles. Not only do salespeople need to communicate with their team, but they have to communicate with prospects and leads regularly.
They'll need to communicate the value of the product or service they're selling and listen to objections so that they can respond to them effectively.
Skilled with CRM software
In addition to the soft skills we've talked about so far, successful sales reps will need to be able to use a CRM. Customer relationship management software has been one of the primary tools of the sales trade for quite some time now. It's not necessary to find someone with your specific CRM (although that would be ideal), but they should know their way around one of the many CRMs available.
How to hire a sales team
Knowing how to manage a sales team is important, but knowing how to hire a sales team is just as crucial. When one of your salespeople isn't performing no matter what you try or when someone decides to leave for a promotion, you'll need to be prepared to fill their seat quickly.
Most HR and sales team leaders go straight to the application and interview process. But the traditional approach takes a lot of time, and it doesn't guarantee that you'll end up with a salesperson who will excel in the role.
Multi-measure tests, or tests that evaluate candidates on multiple factors, are the best way to predict how successful candidates for an open sales role will be.
There are a wide range of pre-employment tests available that you can combine in an assessment. Here are some of the first tests you should consider.
These tests (e.g., a HubSpot CRM test or a Salesforce CRM test) evaluate your candidates’ understanding of the basic concepts and standard functionality of your company's CRM. They identify whether a candidate has the necessary familiarity with your software to:
- Manage leads
- Manage opportunities
- Manage accounts
- Manage contacts
Communication tests help you identify which of your candidates are best able to express themselves clearly, effectively, and professionally. A good communication test should test for more than just written communication skills. Look for an option that assess verbal communication, active listening, and interpreting visual cues as well.
A negotiation test evaluates candidates to see how well they can negotiate in a business setting to achieve positive outcomes and close deals. In addition, a negotiation test will show you which of your candidates can:
- control and drive conversations
- influence people
- use emotional intelligence
Time management is an essential skill for a good sales rep because they will always have a number of people and responsibilities vying for their attention. A time management test will help you determine whether or not a candidate is capable of juggling competing tasks and prioritizing the activities they need to complete.
It will test your candidates on the following skills:
- Reflection & communication
Problem solving tests
A problem solving test helps identify which of your candidates are best equipped to define your potential customers' problems and make good decisions to close more deals. It will evaluate each candidate's ability to:
- Create and adjust schedules
- Prioritize and apply order based on a given set of rules
- Interpret data and apply logic to make decisions
- Analyze textual and numerical information to draw conclusions
Shortlist the top candidates
By using pre-employment tests, you will dramatically reduce the time you spend on resume evaluation. Instead of starting with a pile of resumes, you'll have a list of candidates ranked by skill level.
The benefits of skills testing potential sales reps
The main benefit of using an online skills assessment is that you will save time and make better hires. If you don't use a skills test, you're stuck sifting through a tall stack of resumes, and you won't truly know if a candidate has the skills they claim until a few months after you've hired them.
When you have candidates take a skills assessment you'll:
- Verify whether the candidate has the skills needed for the role. A good skills assessment can evaluate your candidate's capabilities in many areas. It will quantify those skills so you can easily see which candidates are the most promising.
- Reduce the impact of unconscious bias. By using a skills test, you can focus on the objective, quantified skills of each candidate and avoid being influenced by irrelevant factors.
- Reduce cost of hire. Skills tests help you avoid making a mishire which will save you time and your company money.
Better employees make better managers
There is a lot of good advice out there on how to manage a sales team, but the most important factor that will drive your success as a sales manager is having great people on your team. By applying the tips in this article and filling your team with high-performers, you'll find it much easier to excel.