Managing Your Sales Team

Friday, August 30, 2013 - 07:53

by Leon Gettler

The only way to boost a business is to have a top sales team. Companies everywhere are now looking to do this to grab market share. But running a sales team requires special management skills.

Tim Donnelly at recommends making sure you hire only good sales teams, people who are naturals, and implementing one on one coaching. It’s the kind of situation that requires analysis of where their strengths and weaknesses are.

Sales management expert Rich Chiarello says managers need to know the people in their sales team. Some are there for the money, he says, others are doing it for recognition. If managers pick the drivers that motivate people, they will have a better idea how to get the most out of their sales people. He also says more accountability and recognition equals greater sales performance. And it goes without saying there has to be a good compensation plan that’s designed for growth.

The Denver Metro Small Business Development Centre in the US says everyone has to know the customers, not just the sales people (otherwise when a sales rep leaves, you are at risk of losing the account because only the departing rep had a relationship with the customer). Managers should find good hunters who go and get new accounts, and good farmers who are always looking at how they can grow a particular account. Managers are also advised to make sure the sales process is aligned with the marketing campaign and vice versa – sales and marketing are not the same. And they must constantly give feedback in regular performance reviews.

Katherine Graham-Leviss at says managers need to realise that sales people are a special breed, they’re not like other employees. They’re good at problem-solving, they’re highly self-motivated and they drive for results.

She says they should avoid rule-making (“Great salespeople generally want freedom. They want autonomy. Compliance doesn’t work for these people. The better you’re able to remove the obstacles and set them up to produce those results, the more successful they will be — and you will be. Don’t ever tell them what they can’t do, because they will simply focus their creativity on finding ways to overcome your rules”).

Managers should also become the coach for sales people. (“That means asking, not telling your high performers what to do. Ask them to put themselves in your shoes over a particular issue, and discuss a variety of possible options. Let them own the solution to whatever obstacle is at hand”). They need to let them do what they do best (“In order to motivate and lead salespeople effectively, you want to think about what’s important to them and what drives them. If you have employees who are not great at details and writing proposals but they’re great at selling, then let them sell. Find someone else to compensate in some way to support them on the detail.”).

And finally, they should give them lots of pats on the back (“You need to recognise them. Especially with top-performing salespeople, money isn’t often the main driver. It’s really about being respected. It’s achieving and getting those results.”)