As the title would suggest, the job is to… manage sales. But what does that mean? Well, traditionally it’s meant handling a myriad of both operational and administrative duties in an effort to reach the revenue and gross profit goals of the company. Duties such as…
For sales managers, the glass is seemingly always half empty until it’s full (meaning, until the goals are finally met). Part of reaching those goals is managing these details, the operational and administrative side of the job.
Then there’s the people factor. Sales Managers are also tasked with “managing” salespeople. That in and of itself can be a brutal task because, by their nature, salespeople tend to be highly independent, fast-moving (and fast-talking!), self-motivated, and pretty non-compliant. Now that’s a fun group of people to manage! I clearly remember in my first sales manager gig having a heck of a time with our top two performers. So, I reached out to a mentor and former sales manager of mine whom I greatly admired for some coaching on how to better bring them into the system I needed us all to operate within. He told me to “let it go!” and to expect my top performers to always be a pain in my side (another anatomy, actually), just like I had been for him. Why? Because of the aforementioned personality traits, to be sure. But there’s a larger contributing reason: the culture of the sales team.
Historically on most sales teams, the act and art of being a salesperson is thought of and managed as an individual sport, with most salespeople operating in their own silos. Multiply that by X number of people on your team and “managing” that collective becomes challenging at best. It truly can be the proverbial herding of cats! But there’s a more critical element of this culture that affects not only the sales manager’s day-to-day job, but the entire success for which they are responsible as well as the joy and gratification of all: connection.
Sales teams don’t tend to have a strong sense of connection—to one another, to the common goal (other than the math of that goal being split across the team), often to other departments of the same organization they serve, or to the one asset that can truly be a powerful source of value to every salesperson: the sales manager. The conventional relationship between sales manager and salesperson is viewed by most salespeople as a necessary evil. In contrast to individuality and freedom, salespeople have to respond to demands for meetings, timelines, reports, and other “requirements” they don’t feel contribute to their success. In fact, salespeople not only see these management demands as an irritant, but they also often openly declare them to be time wasters that minimize their opportunity to make more sales! They’ve also often been managed for years with motivational tactics like “being in sales is like running your own business,” adding to and reinforcing the distance and disconnection between the salesperson, their team, and their manager.
This distance does not serve as leadership, and it ends up meaning less for everyone. Results suffer, credibility is compromised (for the manager and the team), and when it’s the sales department it means results for the entire organization are impacted. The idea that great leadership and salesperson independence are at odds—or that personal vitality, team success, and joy can’t coexist in a sales culture outside of a party—is a fallacy. The hinge point is the quality of connection. People with something to gain and something to give thrive when strong leadership is available and present, and salespeople by definition are in their role to give and gain. Great leaders create and foster connection, and not only one-to-one with the people they manage. They support a culture that drives connection across the team as well as with other parts of the organization, and that quality of connection no doubt translates to stronger relationships with customers and clients.
The good news? By virtue of the work they do every day, salespeople are all about connection! The shift from being a manager of details, crisis moments, and over-the-top celebrations to being a leader that drives connection is the focus of this series. We’ll be discussing the value of Connected Leadership and what it means in the context of sales teams.
The promise of Connected Leadership is that you’ll “achieve more with less time, money, and stress” (which is what all sales leaders want!). It means working smarter, not harder, and leveraging the unique talents of individuals to fuel collective success, because we know that people really are better together than they are separately. This method of leading allows for the culture of sales to align with the culture of the entire organization, building inclusion, contribution, and collaboration both inside the sales team and across other divisions of the business. Connected Leadership is the path to higher achievement and, ultimately, a more productive and joyful way of making sales and reaching goals. Sound too good to be true? Stay tuned…