We’re near the end of 2014, which makes it a great time for self-reflection. What can you learn about how you managed yourself and your time this past year as a sales manager that could help you better manage your time and your team next year? To get started, think back over the past year and rate yourself on a scale of 1 (poor) to 5 (great) on the following three statements:
#1: I remembered that doing more things faster is no substitute for doing the right things.
Ineffective sales managers value their ability to fight fires, to juggle a million to-do’s, to have a calendar crammed with activities. For many, this stress is intoxicating. They like feeling busy. These managers would rate low in this area.
Effective sales managers know that every minute they spend performing tasks that others can do is one less minute they have to accomplish their most important tasks: sales opportunity coaching, funnel reviews, training new-hires, etc. Managers who rate high in this area ask themselves, “What should I not get distracted by today so I can spend more time coaching?”
#2: I solved problems in ways that helped my sales team develop their skills.
This is a tough one. Our natural instinct as managers is to solve problems for our people. We tend to tell our teams: “If you have a problem, bring it to me and I will solve it for you.” So we get more problems. Solving problems can be a good thing. Solving them in ways that excludes salespeople from learning how to solve these problems themselves in the future is not a good thing. Those who rate low in this skill mistakenly believe that if they solve the problem their reps will have more time to make more sales calls. That’s not how the real world works.
Effective sales managers treat seemingly common daily tasks as opportunities to develop their salespeople. For example, if you want to resolve a problem with a customer, resist the urge to do it on your own. Instead, ask a new hire to listen in while you talk with the customer. Then, afterwards, explain what you did and why. Or better still, role-play the situation with the rep and then have them make the call while you listen in!
#3: I became a better sales coach.
Managers who rate low in this area are often trapped in a vicious cycle of guilt: A rep doesn’t perform well. The manager feels responsible for the rep’s poor performance but isn’t sure what to do (because the manager hasn’t been observing the rep closely enough). So the manager steps in and takes over sales opportunities for the rep – rather than coaching. The rep continues doing poorly or even gets worse. And on and on.
If you rate yourself a “5” in this area, your salespeople are getting better and requiring less hands-on support. New-hires ramp up to quota faster. Emerging contributors (reps with 6 to 12 months tenure) are able to apply your coaching to recent sales scenarios—so they sell more, faster, too. The goal of coaching isn’t so much to solve an immediate problem but to build skills that will prevent future problems and mistakes. Your coaching advice needs to be tailored to each individual’s needs, which means you have to really listen to what that person has to say. Attentiveness and good listening shows that you respect this person and value their contributions.
How did you do? Which of these areas did you rate the worst in? The best? How can you leverage what you do well to improve in the other areas? To become a better leader next year, think about how you need to change the daily choices you make about how and what to do with your time. Throughout each day, keep your eye open for situations that could be turned into rep coaching opportunities. This will speed up the cycle of learning and development for each rep on your team!