Sales Managers: 6 Keys to Becoming a Great(er) Leader

by Dionna Widder – March 2014

To be great(er) leaders, we must first master the craft of management, work on building upon our skills and talent, and develop trusting relationships with our employees and your managers.

The Great Blondin became famous for being the first person to walk across Niagara Falls on a tightrope. Not just once, but eight times over two years. He walked blindfolded, on stilts, and even with a wheelbarrow.  He failed to build relationships with his audience therefore no one trusted him enough to volunteer to jump in his wheelbarrow to be pushed to cross the falls, except for his manager, who he carried across the falls on his back. 

If we want to be better leaders, we must do these six things.

Be self-aware

An easy exercise to evaluate yourself is to write out five things you do well and five things you can do better as a manager.  It is also important to draw awareness through feedback from reps. Would this kind of feedback surprise you?

  • “I want (my manager) to stop only training on how to sell over the phone”
  • “Start talking to us as professionals, not children”
  • “Stop canceling one-on-one meetings and not reschedule them”
  • “Start developing me on how to sell B2B”
  • “Stop being unapproachable”
  • “Stop socializing with select people in our department, it make me feel left out”
Carrie Kmetzo
Carrie Kmetzo

When areas of improvement are clearly identified, develop solutions. Carrie Kmetzo (Director, Ticket Sales & Service, Tulsa Shock) realized team building and personal connections with managers and reps would improve retention of reps. They created “Bachelor Brackets” on who would win in The Bachelor and hosted paintball games with reps to create fun engagement activities to build the connection.

Use outside resources to gain knowledge

Consider these sources: Books (join or start a book club), blogs, e-newsletters, associations, industry publications, participate in conference calls, webinars, leadership organizations (e.g., Toastmasters), and online search (Don’t know it? Google it.  Don’t know how? YouTube it. ).

Mike Fuhrman
Mike Fuhrman

Mike Fuhrman (Inside Sales Manager, Minnesota Timberwolves) has been proactive at using outside resources and scheduling in time to participate in his company’s book club, being an active member of Toastmasters, and he participates in local chamber events.

Learn from your environment

Samantha Hicks
Samantha Hicks

Learn from others’ experiences. Be a sponge. As Samantha Hicks (Director, Ticket Sales & Service, Indiana Fever) shares, “I learn from the different styles of each of my superiors. I take note of how they communicate with me and with others in the room.”

Brian Norman
Brian Norman

Brian Norman (Sales Manager, Philadelphia 76ers) suggests having heads of the other departments in your organization be guest speakers periodically to expand the knowledge base of reps outside of sales and to help spur career motivation of sales reps.

Develop relationships & have mentors

Self-development doesn’t have to always be done by yourself.  We need to involve others who are willing to provide constructive feedback, give you advice, and share insight from their personal experiences. Find at least one mentor of each of these four types: superior, lateral, internal, and external.

Utilize your manager to learn and grow

Michael Brown
Michael Brown

If you want training, go to your manager and ask for it and be specific what you want to learn and recommend how they can help you learn it. Michael Brown (Inside Sales Manager, Memphis Grizzlies) visits regularly with his vice-president (for “challenges”), asking what he needs to know to develop his skill set and make a bigger contribution to the department. Michael requests for the opportunity to sit in on upper level sales meetings in the office,  and shadow him at games when possible.

Erin Leigh
Erin Leigh

Erin Leigh (Manager of Inside Sales, Brooklyn Nets) recommends offering comprehensive solutions when executives present problems faced by the team. Erin provided a solution– when the sales team started to lose their edge–to develop a comprehensive training program that she now leads for all sellers in the department.

Have a plan

Plans have goals, action steps, timeline (frequency), and how you’ll measure success.

List out the five things you want to do better. Define the actions you will take to accomplish each developmental goal. Establish a timeline and frequency in which you will execute each action. Define how you will measure your personal growth.

Ready to get started? Download this planning sheet and get with it. Now.

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