Strategic sales managers take time to think critically about the crucial role and responsibility they have for improving their team. Trouble is, most sales managers don’t set aside time to think. They are so crazy-busy fighting daily “fires” that it’s easy to skimp on the strategic thinking front.
Harvard guru Michael Porter defines “strategy” as doing things that set yourself apart from the competition. And the “competition” for you consists of other sales managers within your company. If you want to be different, you’ve got to be willing to do certain things differently from other sales managers.
Here are three things strategic sales managers do to differentiate themselves.
Don’t Leave Your “A Players” Alone
Who you coach is just as important as how you coach them. A strategic sales manager will work with all team members. Not just the ones most in need of improving their numbers.
It’s easy to overlook your top performers in order to focus on the others. A strategic sales manager, however, understands the psychology of success. When an individual scores a big commission check, the next step can be complacency and a depleted drive.
Every salesperson can improve, no matter how good a salesperson he or she is. Make time to coach your “A Players.”
Coach Earlier Phases of the Sales Process
The sales process is just that: a process from beginning to an end. So, why do most sales managers come in at the end of the sales process? No amount of finesse at the end stages of a sale is going to secure the deal if the beginning and middle stages of the process were fraught with missteps.
Strategic sales managers don’t waste time trying to save sales in the end stages. Instead, they diagnose mistakes salespeople make that occur during the beginning of the sales process. Has your sales rep identified any customer problems that your company can solve better than anybody else? What is the sales rep’s understanding of the buying criteria from most to least important? Those first few meetings are when a customer decides whether they have a problem that you can fix and whether it’s worth their time to fix it.
Strategic sales managers focus coaching time on the earlier phases of the sales process. That’s how to help salespeople attain higher win-rates.
Strategic Sales Managers Are Better Time Managers
Strategic sales managers know how to manage their own obligations to avoid being tied up where they shouldn’t be. For instance, they make sure to avoid what I call “reactive traps.”
A reactive trap is best defined as getting stuck doing other peoples’ work. You’re simply reacting to what you’re being asked by others, instead of taking the time to strategize and conduct your own day-to-day responsibilities.
There is a natural human desire to be needed by others, so a sales manager’s tendency to get involved in solving problems and making decisions is understandable. But the more you do this, the more you rob yourself of your leadership productivity! Strategic sales managers know that what they do every day impacts the productivity of their team over the long-haul. So why do most sales managers not prioritize those tasks that actually improve salespeople? Answer: they’re not strategic sales managers.
Remember this: every time you do something that someone else can do, you prevent the accomplishment of something that only you can do.
Don’t take on a problem or task that is not yours. Hold your salespeople responsible for solving their own problems! Many of them can be resolved without your involvement.
When you’re not stuck in a reactive trap, you’re able to keep a consistent and predictable rhythm to your job responsibilities: the ones that will make the most positive impact on your team. This includes 1-on-1 coaching, pipeline management, customer meeting prep, sales opportunity coaching, large account planning, and more.
For more ideas on how to differentiate yourself from other sales managers, download my article “Holistic Competencies for Effective Sales Team Management.” It provides a comprehensive list of the skills that strategic sales managers have mastered.