Sales managers tend to face the same kinds of problems regardless of the company or industry for which they work. Most businesses share at least a few common issues, so knowing how to cope with them is an important part of being a good sales manager. Particularly if you're considering changing jobs from salesperson to sales manager, a familiarity with these potential stumbling blocks will help you navigate the transition more smoothly.
Little or No Training
Executives often believe that the best way to handle sales management is by promoting the top seller into a leadership role than letting him or her sink or swim. Unfortunately, sales training doesn't translate to sales management training.
If you've recently been promoted or you seek growth within your company, ask your supervisor or HR representative about management training opportunities. If your company doesn't offer these opportunities internally, or they don't currently have a scholarship or co-funding program in place, taking a course on your own time and dime will be money well spent if the class teaches you how to make your job much easier.
The Wrong Responsibilities
Many sales manager positions are actually more like sales manager/marketing manager/administrative manager positions. The sales manager gets all vaguely sales-related scutwork shoved onto his desk and ends up spending valuable time that could be used actually managing the sales team filling out paperwork, coordinating campaigns with other departments, making presentations to executives, and writing reports instead.
If you find yourself falling into this trap, track how much time you spend on various tasks and present the log to your boss explaining your need to refocus the position on sales management responsibilities. Hiring an administrative assistant or at least bringing in a temp may be all that's required to solve the problem.
No Freedom to Act
Sales managers are generally identified as middle management, responsible for managing their sales teams while still reporting to higher-level managers themselves. An unfortunate side effect of middle management structure is that sales managers may be required to get authorization from upper management in order to act to resolve problems.
For example, if a team member is failing due to lack of proper training, poor territory assignment, or simply not doing the job, the sales manager may be required to seek approval from several different people before an appropriate fix can be applied – even when the solution is obvious. Meanwhile, the salesperson's poor performance continues to affect the team's overall performance and drags down the manager's numbers.
Drawing up 'action plans' and getting approval for them ahead of time can help to streamline resolution processes in circumstances like these. If the sales manager already has executive approval for a sales training program, all that's required is permission to deploy the plan as needed – no need to wait for a specific course of training to be debated.
Lack of Information
Sales managers know what leads are distributed to their sales team, and are very aware of how many deals each salesperson closes (especially since many sales managers have compensation plans tied to how well their teams perform). However, what goes on in between lead acquisition and closing the sale can be a mystery to the manager. Without a clear understanding of the sales process, sales managers are at a deficit for figuring out what may be wrong when a sales team begins to fall under quota.
A good CRM program can help track processes as long as each salesperson is careful to update records as each sale progresses.
Another option is to set activity goals for the sales team. For example, each salesperson might be responsible for making 100 cold calls and 5 appointments per week, with the calls and appointments logged on a sheet of paper and turned in to the sales manager every Friday. This gives the manager more data with which to understand the team's sales process, and allows early response to problems and issues.