Effectively managing your sales team requires that you – the leader – be prepared to adopt several different leadership ‘styles’ as you work through the issues and opportunities at hand.
Not only will you need to assist with strategy and be approachable (being available but not at the beck and call of your Team), but there will be times where you need to hold every member of your Team (yourself included) accountable for their actions and statements.
The new manager often makes a few mistakes. Let me tell you a secret – admit to your team that you could be wrong. After all, if you are the smartest person in the room – the one with all the answers – all your Team will learn is how to bring problems forward for you to solve. In my experience, this transparency will allow you to build a bond of mutual respect with your Team.
One of the pitfalls that you may fall into (especially if your last role was as a salesperson) is to tell your Team what to do. In essence to direct them towards the solution you perceive as the best one for the situation. However directing your people on a regular basis takes away initiative and the willingness/ability to look for unique solutions. You won’t be building a Sales Team, you will be building clones of yourself.
While cloning yourself might sound like a great idea – after all, you’re successful – it is a trap. You know what everyone needs to do to hit the numbers. Right? Wrong.
The reality is that in effective management there are many different styles. Each of these styles and approaches has a place and time to use them. Directing your team to solve a problem the way you solved it is like using a hammer to put in a screw. If you hit it hard enough and often enough, it will go in. Good luck replicating it the feat in the same amount of time – and heaven forbid if you need to take the screw out!
In this case the consultative approach works much better and can be used as an ‘in the moment’ coaching opportunity. Ask your people. Don’t tell them. See what they think about the situation/the customer/the account. Chances are they do have more information than you. Ask them why they would approach a problem in a given way and probe for clarification. Most of all – and this is where it gets difficult for those of us that have a slight ‘control freak’ bent – ask them how they will solve it and how you can help them.
Initially your team members may be surprised and not know how to react. This is especially true if your predecessor was a directive manager. But stay with it. Keep encouraging them. As they progress not only will you truly see how they think and operate, but they will also appreciate you teaching them how to fish rather than just feeding them.
By John Benson