Styles of Sales Management

Sales Management by it’s very function is a difficult role. The sales manager is asked to take a bunch of individual contributors and bring them into a Team environment where each Team member has to produce results.

For the first time manager this can be even more difficult – especially if that manager was a high performing individual contributor and now is expected to have their success rest in the hands of the Team underneath the manager.

As a result, several different styles arise. Some managers feel that the ‘right way’ to manage a team is to micromanage them and have them justify where they are spending their time – rigidly following a set of key performance indicators that may (or may not) have relevancy to hitting their financial targets. If this manager were dealing with an experienced team of sales professionals it is likely that they will get the information they ask for but little else from the Team and they would not really be aware of the team members as individuals. They would see every member as a cog in a big machine.

On the other side of the spectrum is the ‘absent’ manager. This individual acknowledges the team through team meetings and shares (some) information but spends the majority of their time managing up the chain of command, playing the political arena and ignoring the needs of the Team. As a result the Team may deliver (at least some members of the Team) but the overall participation rate of the Team will suffer and the manager will not know how to address this situation because they do not have the rapport with their team to understand where each individual is.

If you were to add to these two points on the management spectrum a series of distinct styles – authoritative, cooperative, consultative, directive – and there are many different permutations of management styles.

So which one is the ‘right’ style for a manager to use? The answer is all of them. At times as we work with our team members we will need to get granular, other times we can stand back and assist with strategy but let the Team Member work through the problem at hand. A key note here, however, is that observing and guiding does not mean abandoning the sales person and abdicating authority. At other times, the Manager will need to consider the input from the Team but ultimately they are responsible for making the decision as to the direction that will be pursued.

As a sales manager you will need to cultivate a style of collaboration, strategy (deal or account), coaching and support while also be willing and able to hold the sales representative accountable and be prepared to pursue finite tactical details on deals to ensure that there is a clear understanding of the situation and how you can help.

There are countless books that discuss the different styles and approaches. My advice is to spend some time looking at your own learning plan and learn the different styles and how staff react to them. You may still need to choose a certain style for a given task, but you will also be aware of the pros and cons of each style.

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