Management and leadership imperative in sales management | Sunday Observer

Management and leadership imperative in sales management

25 October, 2020

A commercial organisation can create the best product, but without selling it, the organisation cannot survive. Selling is the prime source of generating revenue for the company for the survival of an organisation. Hence, the sales team of any organisation is perhaps the most important group in the company. Usually, marketing organisations realise this fact and treat the sales team with respect.

Through long experience in my ‘selling’ career, when I made my way through the ranks into sales management, I learnt that managing a team of typically vibrant youngsters is not an easy task. In fact, out of all other professions, providing leadership to a sales team is the most demanding and challenging task in an organisation.

At the outset, let us solve one controversial issue on sales leadership and sales management as there is a distinct difference between the two topics. Sales management is all about your management knowledge that you obtain through examinations, training sessions, and seminars. Managers direct employees on the systematic execution of a task assigned.

The leadership relates to your ability to work along with the team and influence them towards a goal. The sales leader should be able to make an effect on the team’s thinking, actions, and behaviors, both as a team and also as individuals. Leaders motivate, persuade, and inspire them to achieve a common goal. In order to be a successful sales manager and produce desired results, you have to strike a perfect balance between management skills and leadership ability.

The manager’s approach needs to be stern and forceful when it comes to performances and results, but in other situations, his or her approach should be participative, supportive, and considerate. This is the difference between management and leadership, and the balance we spoke about earlier. As discussed, you are dealing with a team with special capabilities, and often extroverts. This is the group that is also solely responsible for your own success. Without the performance of the team, the sales manager fails. Therefore, the sales manager must understand the situation and apply the most appropriate leadership style.

I have identified four key areas in managing a sales team. The main factor is directing your team towards the predetermined goal. This is a management function where you have to communicate decisions, provide instructions, and get the team to conform to standard rules and regulations. This is a specific task where you need an autocratic approach now and again.

Through my experience, I can safely affirm that any weakness in providing direction will weaken the ultimate result. If the team realises that the leader is weak or mediocre, they will act loose and neglect performance. This is a situation where you need to use your legitimate power as the manager in charge appointed by the company.

The second factor is the motivation the leader provides to move the team in the right direction. Training the team in various techniques, giving the maximum amount of product knowledge, encouraging them to innovate, and so forth are included in sales management. The leader must adequately persuade and keep reminding the team that their job is to sell.

Two-way communication

A participating style of leadership to obtain feedback and positive inputs is encouraging to the team. In this situation, two-way communication, which is immensely effective, can be used to exchange ideas. Typical sales people almost always like to present ideas and treat the acceptance of such ideas with respect, irrespective of whether they turn into action or not. Coaching of the team can also be done successfully when applying the participatory style. Participating is probably the best opportunity for the sales manager to plan and implement his or her sales strategies by pooling ideas from the team.

The best approach to lead a successful sales team is to empower and motivate them. Delegating is empowering salespeople to produce the best performance. Not only are salesmen fond of the delegation but also deliver better results when working independently. However, a smart manager always monitors and controls the activities to evade any possible misuse. Therefore, sales managerial controls must be in place when delegating.

The downside and the ground reality is that many sales managers feel uncomfortable to delegate as historically some salesmen tend to misbehave when they are given the freedom to work. Therefore, the key to the delegating style is to follow-up and supervise and be assured of the salespersons’ efforts. Again a perfect balance must be applied by the sales leader mixing up management and leadership adequately.

The sales managers have to understand the leadership qualities and styles adequately. When you start wearing the shoes of a sales leader, you can use your own experience in selling to manage the team. The first instinctive reaction is to follow and imitate the styles and actions of your previous bosses, particularly, those who inspired you in the past and whom you respected.

However, to be successful, you have to stamp your own style as salespeople always respect authenticity. Through respect, your sales team will feel comfortable approaching you for advice and support, a factor that will be immensely useful and assist the performance of the team.

Having a continuous dialogue and giving constant feedback, whether they are good or bad, is an effective sales leadership quality. This feedback helps the manager to coach the team members, increase performance, enhance individual personal development, and assist them in career advancement. More importantly, salesmen admire and often revere such leaders.

Effective feedback

Communicating a specific message clearly to the team based on performance-based information is effective feedback. The salespeople must plainly understand whether they are doing the right thing and going on the right path in relation to their action and performance. Apart from being specific, you have to also concentrate on your tone of voice and body language to dispel the salesperson’s natural self-defence mode, especially when delivering bad news.

A sales manager needs effective leadership qualities to build team spirit and morale in the sales team. This is one of the most important aspects of any team. Salesmen are consistently working under tough conditions and performing a difficult job. Therefore, the leader must keep them at a high level of morale to derive the best performance. The entire organisation will be affected badly if the sales team is unhappy and if they are underperforming.

‘Two heads are better than one” is an adage many of us have come across. There are numerous benefits available when the sales team bands together. A healthy competition must be maintained among the team members as the team strength can provide many cumulative benefits to the organisation.

The sales leader is solely responsible for building up team spirit and he or she must work extra hard on this salient factor to make the team understand the benefits of team performance.

A good leader has the solitary authority to boost up team spirit and by that morale as well. Teamwork promotes a sense of ownership, blends strengths; builds trust among each other, and cultivates creativity by mixing ideas as a group.

I must say that the best suited for an organisation as the sales manager is a person with dual role capacity both in management and leadership. Both skills are necessary to be a successful sales manager. An effective sales manager understands the necessity of systems and controls and simultaneously provides inspiration and motivation to the team. A good sales manager, who also is a successful leader, can make a significant impact on productivity and revenue.