Sales is the lifeblood of business; nothing happens until somebody sells something. Business organizations ask a lot of their sales managers, who in turn ask a lot of their sales reps, making it one of the most challenging (and rewarding) pursuits one can choose in professional life.
It’s this relationship between sales leaders and their teams that determines the other’s fate. Without a good team, a sales manager can’t succeed, and without a good sales manager, teams can flail, fracture, or fail, oftentimes without even realizing why or how it happened.
So how do competent sales leaders ensure their sales reps perform at their best?
Usually, it starts with getting on the same page. If you’re a rep, ask your manager strategic sales interview questions before accepting a new role. Once there’s alignment on the important stuff, most other things will come down to personal style, effort, and understanding of the target market and sales process.
Before getting a new sales rep started, these are the five things sales manager and their team members should make sure they agree on:
Sales reps have clearly defined goals, like their quota and any other metric that management is looking to hit. But in addition to the standard requirements, sales managers and their reps should sit down one-on-one and discuss each other’s goals at a macro level. Sales reps should understand what the sales manager expects them to achieve, both in terms of individual contribution and as part of a team, and sales managers should find out where a sales rep wants to take their career, and help guide them accordingly.
Not only will a conversation about goals help inform each person’s day to day activities, but it can also break down barriers, build rapport, and provide more context for a better working relationship between rep and manager.
2. What’s off limits
Everybody has their own style, and sales reps especially tend to be willing to push the envelope in creative ways to achieve their goals. But a conversation about where the “line” is early can pay big dividends if a sales rep’s vision of what’s appropriate doesn’t align with their manager’s, and vice versa.
It might be an uncomfortable conversation to have, and there’s no need to go too deep in the weeds on hypothetical scenarios, but being able to openly discuss behavior that each person would find to be unacceptable is not only a sign of a healthy and professional working relationship, it’s also the building block for one.
Accountability in sales is important, since it’s a job where results are generally black and white, and hit or miss. While one might think that accountability should be unspoken, getting sales managers and their staff to agree on what accountability looks like and how it’s administered can go a long way to helping each person steer the ship in the right direction.
An accountability process starts with setting expectations and goals, having clear consequences and rewards, creating transparency, and having a regular check-in process to measure results along the way. While each manager and salesperson will have their own preferred method of accountability, getting on the same page early can ensure that both parties know what’s expected of them, and what a positive and negative outcome looks like, instead of just leaving everything open-ended.
4. The minimum administrative requirements
If there are salespeople who enjoy the administrative side of the business, they’re few and far between. Filling out paperwork, responding to internal emails, and updating Salesforce (Dooly can help with this one) all take time away from what salespeople actually want to be (and should be) doing, which is prospecting, pitching, and closing. Administrative tasks not only kill productivity, they kill momentum and sometimes kill morale.
While sales managers can’t eliminate administrative tasks in their entirety, they can try to reduce the time salespeople spend on these tasks by adopting time-saving tools like Dooly, and by creating a framework to allow for the absolute minimum requirements needed to ensure everything functions properly. If sales managers and salespeople can get on the same page about activities that don’t move the needle, then salespeople will be freed up to spend their time bringing in new business.
Workplace relationships are critically important. We probably spend more time with our coworkers than we do with many members of our family, for better or for worse. And there’s no workplace relationship as important for a salesperson as the one they have with their sales manager, who can make their job and life easier, or exponentially worse. This, of course, goes both ways, as an abrasive sales rep can make a sales manager’s job extremely difficult and even affect their authority with the entire team.
For all of these reasons, getting on the same page about being respectful to each other is of utmost importance. The overwhelming majority of salespeople and sales managers won’t have a problem being professional, and knowing where the line is. But it’s not unusual for people in a highly-competitive and sometimes freewheeling profession like sales to butt heads, and then the question becomes: where does normal workplace conflict end and disrespect start? Both salesperson and sales manager should make sure they agree on the answer to that question.