5 Important Things Successful Sales Managers Do Differently

Successful sales managers recognize that while they likely have the best sales skills of anyone on their team, the key question is not how good a salesperson they are. Instead, the crucial question is how effective that sales manager is at coaching salespeople to learn what the manager already knows about selling. Here are 5 important things that successful sales managers do differently to achieve better sales coaching outcomes.

Say less, ask more questions

A common mistake unsuccessful sales managers make occurs when they’re working with a salesperson, making joint customer calls. The salesperson is a few minutes into the meeting and the manager jumps in and takes over the meeting. When sales managers jump in and take over a customer meeting they destroy the coaching opportunity.

For successful sales managers, what matters most is how effective a salesperson is when the rep and manager are not working together. That’s why when you’re working with a salesperson you need to maintain a coaching mindset. Say less in customer meetings and then ask the salesperson more questions afterwards.

Catch salespeople doing something right

When observing salespeople, successful sales managers make sure to note things the person does right, not just what they do wrong. This is harder than it sounds! In their book Managing Major Sales, Neil Rackham and Richard Ruff describe an experiment they conducted. They made a video of a sales call that was specially designed to have an even balance of both good and bad points. They then asked sales managers to watch the video and pick out any points about selling that struck them as worthy of comment, either good or bad.

If the managers were unbiased, you would expect to see an approximate 50/50 split of good and bad behaviors as comments. But after the experiment, Rackham and Ruff found that 82 percent of the sales managers’ comments were about bad points!

Successful sales managers make time to develop their team’s next “bell cow.”

Successful sales managers recognize that the example of a strong work ethic and positive attitude that the manager exhibits for their team is, quite possibly, the 2nd most important example being set. The most important example is that example being set by the salesperson that other reps on the team look up to and emulate.

Every great team that I have ever been a part of had at least one “Bell Cow” salesperson – a positive team leader with a great work ethic who set the tone for success on your team.

If your sales team doesn’t currently have a Bell Cow then you must make developing one your #1 priority. When selecting your Bell Cow candidate, ask yourself:

Which salesperson on your team has the most potential to become your greatest salesperson of all time?

Successful sales managers are a role model for seeking and accepting feedback

I recently saw a comment on a management blog from a top performer who wrote that he’d be leery of accepting advice from managers who thought they were always right. He would be more likely to seek out and accept advice from a manager if that manager had asked him for input on how to improve. So don’t try to wrap yourself in an aura of perfection. If you are willing to learn how to get better, so will your salespeople.

Make sales coaching your #1 priority

Successful sales managers make time to coach salespeople. They resist the temptation to get bogged down by distractions. They make appointments for coaching – the best sales managers coach somebody before noon every day.

Successful companies recognize the importance of developing a strong sales coaching culture to drive sales performance and improve win rates. To learn the seven strategies for implementing a more standardized approach for sales coaching at your company, download my free whitepaper, “7 Keys for Building a Sales Coaching Culture”

Kevin Davis

Kevin F. Davis is the author of The Sales Manager’s Guide to Greatness”, which was named the 2018 Axiom Business Book Award Winner, Silver Medal. Kevin is also the author of Slow Down, Sell Faster!”.