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Frontline Sales Managers, Forget Making the Number. Focus on These Two Things.

4 min read
Updated Aug. 25, 2021
Published Nov. 27, 2019

Like it or not, your goal as a sales manager is not about making numbers. For high-performing reps who’ve moved on to management, this truth is a tough one to swallow.

But as Dave Brock, author of the Sales Manager Survival Guide, says, “Your job as a front line manager is to maximize the performance of your people.”

Do you have to face the music when your team underperforms? Of course. But it’s your people’s job to make the number. And if you lead your people right, the dolla dolla bills will flow.

We recently talked to two esteemed sales leaders about surviving and thriving as a sales manager. Here’s what they had to say about being all you can be in this role.

To Lead Your Sales Team, Get out of the Way

In our conversation with Richard Park, SVP of World Wide Sales at SurveyGizmo, he shared the early mistakes he made as a sales manager. The big one? Doing more work for his reps than he needed to. Richard says it was hard to relinquish control of the deal cycle:

“We end up leaving our reps a little bit demoralized or take the wind out of their sails. I think my first challenge was not trying to sell for them and not trying to do too much, but leaving the selling to the rep. Be a coach and step away from trying to run a deal, or having them run a deal the way I would run it.”

Admittedly, with new reps, it’s a bit different. Richard says you need to be more prescriptive, but that still doesn’t mean you should do their jobs. You need to let them experiment and fail fast.

“I liked to let newer reps learn through understanding what their mistakes were. The learning curve isn’t as steep that way and you tend to have better quality interactions with them when they’re making mistakes.”

Richard says to be direct and candid with your team when giving feedback, but build them up too. This approach, combined with getting out of their way, gives reps the freedom to take chances. Your team will learn their own lessons and produce better work.

Listen to more of Richard’s actionable advice here:

Forget Weaknesses, Play to Strengths

In our conversation with Dave Brock, CEO of Partners in EXCELLENCE, he stressed the importance of focusing on your team’s strengths:

“We tend to find the things people are doing wrong and we try and fix that. What’s most effective is how do we find the things people are doing right and amplify their ability to execute that.”

But what about mistakes? Isn’t coaching sharing areas where your reps can improve? Absolutely. But there’s a difference between correcting mistakes and forcing a square peg into a round hole.

Instead, Dave says the most effective use of coaching is this: figure out the one thing you can work on with a rep that will have a domino effect on their performance. He likens this approach to bowling.

“It’s looking at the headpin. If I hit that headpin, I knock down all the pins behind it. And so if I choose the right thing, I get a huge amount of leverage on performance.”

Listen to more of Dave’s  actionable advice here:

A Coaching Call to Action 

To get out of your team’s way and help them play to their strengths, conduct this simple self-discovery exercise.

It’s easy to assume that people know what they’re good at. Well, not quite. We take for granted what comes naturally to us, especially early in our careers. 

So, help your reps discover their own strengths with these questions: 

  • How do you connect with others?
  • How do others respond to you?
  • How do others perceive you?
  • What are your personal core values?
  • What do people seem to always ask you about?
  • What makes you uniquely good at sales?

Do you have a passion for the art and science of sales? Want to supercharge your career or just need some practical tips? Then Hey Salespeople is the podcast for you. Follow along as Jeremey interviews the brightest minds in modern sales to bring you immediately actionable advice. Listen and subscribe here.