The role of the manager in many organizations has been changing over the last 10 – 15 years. Traditionally managers were there to manage the people who reported to them and their basic role was to allocate the work, check on progress and report to the next level up in the hierarchy. When things went wrong, often the manager was looking where to apportion blame and who to reprimand, rather than how to solve a problem. Things were very structured, with people knowing their place and what they had to do, almost on a minute-by-minute basis. Sales was always a little different, but the role of the manager was essentially the same.
With the rise of the flat organization both managers and their staff have had to learn to be more flexible and be able to work on their own initiative, with less managing and more ‘leading’ by the manager. This change was less of an issue in sales, where there had always been a more flexible attitude, as long as the results were good enough.
The best ‘sales leaders’ in particular are a good example of where other ‘leaders’ in the organization need to go to improve their teams. They still have to do their share of meetings and administration, but the best sales leaders work as facilitators for their people.
This starts with a clearly defined sales process, with milestones and benchmarks that help the salesperson manage the sale in the most effective way. This process isn’t set in stone though and can always be up for change as circumstances dictate, or a better model comes along.
Instead of continually being on a salesperson’s back, insisting they complete meaningless objectives for the number of phone calls a day, or the number of meetings a week, they make sure their people are thoroughly trained, understand what their job is and have all the tools they need.
The most important thing though, is they constantly provide sales coaching and develop their people’s capabilities. The best sales leaders understand that their role is to be a sales coach/facilitator. They create the environment where the salesperson can maximize their performance and when there are problems, identifies the best and most effective course of action. Blaming the salesperson is counter-productive and only leads to animosity and wasted time.
To be a truly effective sales coach/facilitator the sales leader also needs to use the most effective technology available, preferably a system that provides guidance and feedback to the salesperson. The sales coach/facilitator needs more than just a half-day catch up each week with the salesperson, they need a constantly updated overview of how their salespeople are progressing in each opportunity. This would put them in a position to be able to ask the most constructive questions at the most appropriate time.