Nobody wants to fail. Especially those of us in sales, who are usually more competitive in nature than others.
However, we've seen it time and again: when the pressure goes up, good decision making goes down. When your sales team is doing well, you feel pressure from executives to maintain those figures. If your sales team is having some problems, executives pressure you to push your team towards higher performance.
We've been there. And we understand no sales manager is perfect. However, poor decisions on your part can snowball exponentially and have calamitous effects on your team and your company. It's right in the toughest moments as a sales manager, when you are in the thick of it, that you need to pay the most attention to your attitudes and decisions.
From our own time on the sales floor — and from working with hundreds of sales managers and organization — here are the top five ways you can unwittingly destroy your sales team:
1. Hire Lazy, Unmotivated People
The best salespeople are by nature extremely competitive. They constantly want to be the top producer and even if they have great relationships with other members of your sales team, at heart they want to outperform them. If you hire lazy people, you're in for a world of trouble.
Lazy, Unmotivated People Don't Do the Work
This is the kind of salesperson who spends most of their day behind a desk instead of being out demonstrating your company’s products or holding one-on-one meetings with potential clients. You may need to have salespeople who work best behind a desk, relentlessly making phone calls, hunting for new leads and setting up appointments. Lazy, unmotivated salespeople, however, don’t even bother to do this.
You will often find them hanging around the water cooler, talking about sports scores, their latest golf game, office gossip or denigrating fellow employees who are hard workers. Lazy, unmotivated salespeople are like a poison that works its way into the blood system of your team, causing resentment and bad feelings within the team. These people are also often the first to complain about their pay incentives and wonder why they aren’t making more money — totally ignoring the fact that their own laziness is the main reason.
Bad Sales Managers Let Unmotivated Salespeople Drive Them Crazy
When you try to motivate an unmotivated person, your relationship with them becomes a constant effort to fit a square peg into a round hole. No matter how you try to support them or put them in a position to succeed, they will find a way to undermine you.
As we noted above, the best salespeople are highly competitive. They hate being placed behind a desk. They will howl and complain if you don’t let them do their own thing and get on the street. Your best salespeople, whether they work outside your office or are experts at working the phone, are constantly on the hunt for new business. While part of your job as a sales manager is to motivate your team, your best salespeople won’t need much motivation. They only need a word or two of encouragement during those periods when there is a lull in business that happens to every organization from time to time.
Bad Managers Don't Know How to Separate the Wheat From the Chaff
Everyone tries to put their best foot forward in an interview. So it’s your job as a sales manager to dig a little deeper. When you interview a potential hire, ask them about their history in terms of competitive sports or activities. Ask them to tell you about the last time they were involved in a competitive activity and how they responded.
Also, look for a diversity of skills. You want people who both excel at face-to-face interactions with potential clients as well as those who specialize in phone or online sales. Lazy, unmotivated people in many cases will give themselves away during the interview process.
2. Set Unrealistic Goals When You Are in a Panic
As we noted above, you can face pressure from your company’s executives whether your team is performing well or having problems. Company executives always want more. This can result in a sales manager setting unrealistic goals for their team because they’re panicking about the feedback they are receiving from the higher-ups.
You naturally want to set higher goals for your team because you want to motivate them to reach those goals. Salespeople respond to a challenge. They like hitting their goals and even surpassing them. They enjoy the feeling they get when they know they are performing well. When you create unrealistic goals, however, this has the opposite effect.
Bad Managers Don't Set Appropriate Goals for Each Member of the Team
New hires need time to get up to speed. It’s best to use waterfall goals with them — ask them to do a little bit more each week or month as they get more familiar with their role in the team. Your best people can handle higher goals. In fact, they’ll want higher goals because they enjoy the challenge of exceeding expectations and because higher goals provide them with the most income.
Unrealistic goals, even with your best salespeople, are a mistake. When you set goals that are too high, you undermine your sales representatives' confidence in their ability to do their jobs. An unrealistic goal for a new hire leaves them feeling intimidated and unsure of whether they’ll ever be able to do the job. An unrealistic goal for a top salesperson can be just as debilitating. They will feel constantly frustrated and upset when, despite their best efforts, they can never meet expectations.
Bad Managers Forget to “Manage Up”
You need to let your company executives know that your team works best with realistic sales goals. Even if company executives want you to keep pushing those goals higher and higher, explain to them that if you’re going to get the best from your team, you need to have realistic goals that will both motivate them and provide them with opportunities to showcase their talents.
3. Don’t Help Your Sales Team Do Their Jobs or Make It Easier for Them to Excel
When you manage a sales team, a normal day consists of tracking quotas, seeing how your sales reps are doing in terms of their productivity, perhaps providing a report to the higher-ups on how the team is doing. Being a good manager, however, means going beyond the daily routine. If your day consists of only doing the “daily adult minimum dosage,” so to speak, your sales team will not perform as well as you hope.
Poor managers don’t pay attention to important factors:
They Don’t Keep Their Team on Track on a Strategic Level
While a sales rep's day can change in a heartbeat depending on the feedback they get from potential clients, they frequently need help to stay organized outside the normal activities of making a deal. Often your job requires keeping them focused and realizing that they have responsibilities that go beyond the minutiae of a particular deal — responsibilities that require them to work together with other sales team members or attend important meetings. Bad managers don’t pay attention to this, so their teams dissolve into unorganized free-for-all’s where team responsibilities are never accomplished.
They Don’t Have One-on-One Meetings With Their Staff
Bad sales managers tend to sit in their office and not spend time with each member of their team. They don’t pay much attention to growing that important employee/manager relationship. The result is that members of a sales team feel adrift. They lack the feedback necessary to improve their performances. When a sales rep works with a good manager, they know the manager will have their back when they need support. With the bad sales manager, sales reps never know where they stand, which can leave them feeling frustrated and demotivated.
They Are Never Available When a Sales Rep Needs to Talk to Them
Bad managers always seem to be too busy. No matter when a sales rep tries to arrange a meeting with them, the sales manager always seems to be in another meeting, on an important phone call or out of the office altogether. Sales reps are busy people, too, and they often don’t have many opportunities to sit down and hold these critical meetings with their manager. Good managers are available when their salespeople are available. Even if it means taking a phone call late at night to talk to a worried sales rep, a good manager will make the time and the effort.
Good managers are good leaders. Good leaders are available when their team members need them. Yes, sometimes this can lead to long days and even some handholding for a panicky sales rep. When you are there when your sales rep needs you, however, you build a stronger relationship with your team, and you inspire them to work hard for you.
4. Everybody Loves a Micromanager
Actually, very few people like a micromanager. A sales micromanager can be the bane of the existence of their sales reps.
Micromanagers Can Make a Bad Situation Worse
If your company is going through a tough period — the economy is lousy, sales are down and new business is hard to come by — the micromanager will want to direct the activities of every single member of their team rather than let their team members do their jobs. The last thing a good manager wants to do is inhibit their sales team, especially their best people. Good managers understand that sometimes bringing the company around takes time and patience and that their sales team needs to be free to do what they do best.
Micromanagers Don’t Give Their Sales Reps Autonomy
Sales reps are not teenagers. They don’t need to be placed on a curfew or told that they have certain duties they must perform around the office. Good salespeople function the very best when they are left alone and allowed to do their jobs. When a micromanager tries to control this kind of personality, it disrupts their momentum and their focus. When a micromanager asks a sales rep to keep “normal” hours in an effort to “keep an eye” on them, this creates frustration that results in fewer sales, not more.
A good sales manager knows the strengths and weaknesses of each member of their team. They understand that each individual needs to be managed differently. If they have a sales rep who operates the best with the least supervision, then they need to give that sales rep the autonomy they need.
Micromanagers Promote Claustrophobia
Micromanagers are big on desk duty. Micromanagers don’t like it when they can’t see you. Micromanagers like to have their salespeople around the office so they can keep track of them. This is perhaps the best way to undermine your sales staff. Top producers get antsy and restless when they required to perform desk duty for a prolonged period. It’s kind of like being the coach of a football team and having your best player sit on the bench game after game.
Good managers know when reps need time for some desk duty — writing occasional reports or making sure that they’ve kept their CRM software up-to-date — and when they need to just open the gate to the corral and let the sales rep do what they do best. Good managers know when to let rock stars be rock stars. They don’t try to direct every move of their top producers. They understand they will give you the best results when left alone and check-in only infrequently.
5. Don’t Provide Coaching or Track Success
Good sales representatives understand that they never stop learning. So good sales managers will arrange for them to receive coaching on how to improve their performance in various areas. They also provide them with ways to track that performance so they can both enjoy successes and improve in areas where they are lagging.
Bad Sales Managers Don’t Provide Coaching
Remember those one-on-one meetings we talked about above? Bad sales managers neglect these meetings. Yet these meetings are essential for your sales reps to receive feedback on how they’re doing and for them to offer you feedback on how you’re doing. These one-on-one meetings are designed to improve individual performance and build trust. When bad sales managers fail to hold regular meetings or to provide regular coaching, they are neglecting one of the most important aspects of their job and will fail to build the trust with their sales reps that is the foundation of a good sales team.
Bad Sales Managers Don’t Provide Their Team With a Way to Track Their Successes
Since sales reps are such competitive people, they constantly want to see how they’re performing against the company’s benchmarks as well as their personal benchmarks. If managers fail to provide them with ways to access this information, they can cause frustration and annoyance to their sales reps. It also undermines the competitiveness necessary for a dynamic sales team.
Sales reps need regular access to information about their performance. They want to be able to see how they’re doing, if they are meeting quota and how this affects their income. If your company operates on an incentive system where sales reps will earn more commission if they meet or exceed their quota, sales reps will want to know how close they are to achieving their goal.
Good sales managers will make sure their sales reps have the information they need when they need it.
Performio Can Help Sales Managers and Sales Reps Track Their Successes
Performio’s state-of-the-art sales compensation program allows sales managers to see at a moment's notice how each sales rep is performing. It also allows sales representatives to track their own performance and gives them the feedback that they need to improve that performance. This motivates employees because it is important to them to see their successes, how they're doing against other members of the team and how all this translates into the commissions they earn.
If you would like to learn more about how Performio help you develop an effective and dynamic sales compensation plan that rewards your best people and saves you money, you can request a demo today.