Over the years, I have worked with dozens of sales managers. Unfortunately, I can only count two who possessed a skillset above and beyond that of a typical manager. The terrible managers shared a plethora of common traits — boorish, disengaged, privileged, etc. But the best managers also shared characteristics and habits:
They didn’t perform the salesperson’s job — like filling out paperwork — when it would have been more expedient to do so.
They knew how to play office politics to the benefit of the sales department while supporting company goals.
Although they possessed selling skills, they were not selling managers.
They didn’t use foul language and bully people into submission.
At the very top of the heap, the best managers will remove obstacles to your personal success. This is key. A great sales manager limits nonselling activities like vendor training, administration meetings, sales meetings and irrelevant paperwork. Additionally, a good sales manager keeps your service manager on top of installs, handles accounts receivable issues and works for you when commissions are calculated.
Good managers are on your side. In front of customers, they support your decisions. Before executive management, they take responsibility for your shortcomings and never throw you under the bus. You’re lucky when you work with managers of this caliber.
For now, as an entry level sales rep, you can’t control the type of manager you’ll be subject to. My suggestion is simple: Don’t toil within a subservient or adversarial relationship. Consider methods of managing your manager for the benefit you both.
To begin, ask these questions:
What motivates your manager?
Did your manager come from the sales team?
Simply put, if your manager is a previous successful salesperson they will know all the tricks, techniques and short cuts. The rule here is don’t try to pull the wool over their eyes about anything. They’ve seen it all and possibly executed more “workaround” than you can imagine, so don’t try to fool them.
What type of information does your manager need to forward?
When your manager asks for funnel reports and forecasts, respond quickly and with accuracy. They are rolling these numbers up to their superiors and — ask any manager — getting sales data directly from reps is like pulling teeth.
Once you learn more about who your manager is, consider these three issues that will help you build a solid working relationship with them:
This is a universal rule, but forwarding falsehoods to your manager is tantamount to betrayal. Most likely, your disingenuous statements will be repeated in front of their boss — so you’ll have forced your manager to lie to their principal. This is worse than delivering bad news such as not hitting quota this month. Don’t lie.
Don’t bring up a challenge without a solution.
Complaining is nothing more than whining, and there is no whining in copier sales. When you come across a challenge, before running off to your manager’s corner office, think about how the problem could be solved. Your idea doesn’t need to be the correct or implemented solution, but at least you are presenting a resolution.
Understand that you work WITH your manager versus FOR your manager.
It is so easy to confuse respect for the office hierarchy with a “master/servant” understanding. At the best level, the sales manager actually works for the sales team.
When you work with the above criteria, not only do you build trust but you’ve given your sales manager reason to leave you alone. One of the biggest complaints expressed by salespeople is the feeling of being micromanaged. Everybody hates being managed by the minute — it is an unconducive environment for productivity. So why not remove all the doubt by giving your manager what he wants? It’s a simple approach.
Finally, what is the absolute best way to manage your sales manager? Bring in more than quota every month. You’ll see that one person who is always on top of the leaderboard, bringing in all the contest awards — they’re the one who can be late to meetings. They’re the one who gets away with the most. Maybe they don’t do cold calls or need to participate in the monthly demo-rama. After it’s all said and done, those who bring in the revenue manage the entire organization.
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