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Sometimes the view from the top isn’t all that it’s cracked up to be.
Were you recently promoted to a sales manager role? Are you finding the transition from independent contributor to be surprisingly jarring? You’re not alone. Aside from the obvious addition of accounts for which you’re responsible, you’re also transforming from just a doer into a motivator. Of people. Who are difficult. It’s like going from having a plot in your neighborhood’s community garden to being the owner of an entire farm. You can’t just rely on your individual actions anymore to find true success.
But take heart: you can do this job—and more than that, you can thrive in it. Here at Hoopla, we’re all about employee motivation strategies. And if you’re a new manager struggling to find your footing, here are a few proven ways to get started.
It can be easy to get tricked into thinking that managing a sales team comes down to a formula: plug in a few behavior codes and voila—top performers. But whether you take our word for it, or choose to “learn by experience,” you’ll quickly find that not all salespeople respond equally to your management style.
Rather than just reading up on a management style that fits your personality, and then trying to force it on your entire team, start a dialogue. Take some one-on-one meetings this week and ask your team members what they each need as individuals to operate at their optimum level.
Veteran Sales Manager Dan Tyre says it best, writing on the HubSpot blog: “effective managers understand that the best way to get results out of their team is to fit into their reports’ worlds, instead of forcing one method of communication or strategy on everyone else.”
Ultimately, more than simply being your team’s manager, you are a partner in each of their individual successes. These are adults who need coaching and mentoring, not kids who need babysitting. If you can meet them where they’re at, then they’ll be able to show you their best. Or, as Andy Goyle, a member of the Forbes Coaches Council, puts it, “When salespeople gain respect (and self-respect) for their work, they become more motivated.”
It’s not simply about putting tight reigns on a team of individuals, just trying to guide them in a certain direction. It’s about empowering your team members—giving them your trust, which in turn leads them to believe in the potential that you already see in them. Take some time to let out the leash a little bit. Show them that you’re working hard for them, and show them that you trust that they’ll do the same in return. The results may truly surprise you.
Just because you’re starting out as a manager certainly doesn’t mean that your team are all rookies. Remember: most if not all of them have been managed before in one way or another. They’ve had failures under someone else’s watch—and they’ve had successes too.
So start off by looking at your team’s past numbers and do some digging: in quarters where things were good, what goals and behaviors were they focused on? What did they do right?
The folks over at the pipedrive blog shared this invaluable piece of wisdom that can save you endless hours of worry, when it comes down to the inevitable crunch of hitting your numbers: “Focusing on sales results alone can be stressful, especially considering that as a salesperson or sales manager, you can influence yet never control results.” However, they go on to point out, “You can control the inputs that have the highest positive effects on achieving your goals.”
Once you determine what worked in the past, try to recreate the behaviors, build out concrete KPIs, and let the results take care of themselves.
And when you do implement those processes, and they produce good results: recognize and reward. It’s absolutely essential for employee engagement. Marketing & sales guru Sujan Patel, writing for Inc.com, talks about one way that he turned recognition not simply into an individual practice, but a strategy for developing a team-focused attitude of success. When one member of his team had a performance worthy of recognition, he would take them out to dinner. But rather than just taking that one person out for dinner, he’d take the whole team.
Sujan goes on to describe the effect of rewarding the whole team for one individual’s performance: “This created a team-oriented mindset in the sales department. Everyone wanted to be that person who was recognized in front of all of their peers. They wanted to be the cause of that dinner. That praise and recognition motivated them to not only work harder, but also work together.”
Goal-setting, at its core, is the foundation of any good management strategy. It combines the essential elements of communication, accountability, and recognition all into one beautiful, concrete action.
So what’s vastly important is that you set goals for both the short and the long-term, that not only allow your team to feel a sense of accomplishment, but also communicate your vision as a manager for your team.
With that in mind, you want to be sure that your goals aren’t too small, but also ones that your team can truly achieve. As the Harvard Business Review points out, “When 10%–20% of salespeople miss goals, the problem might be the salespeople. But when most salespeople miss, the problem is their goals.”
It’s a delicate dance of balancing attainability with a healthy sense of motivation. How do you create goals for your team that will lead them to work harder and smarter no matter what their level of skill?
This is where what we covered above in looking at past performance can really come into play. That same HBR article goes on to explicitly cover this strategy for benchmarking realistic—and yet still aspirational—goals that can actually keep your team engaged and motivated.
“Set a benchmark for what percent of salespeople should make their goals (typically 60%–75%). If the percentage making their goals in each of the last several incentive periods is near the benchmark, your goals are probably realistic.”
At some point, it’s healthy to put down the books and just dive in. You’re going to make mistakes along the way, but those mistakes are also an avenue for growth. Take it a day at a time, have plenty of grace for yourself, and remember: someone believed in you enough to get you this far. You’ve certainly got what it takes to keep going.
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