A Proven Formula for Effectively Managing Sales Managers

JEREMY WIGGETT — DIRECTOR, SALES DEVELOPMENT, SALESFORCE

A Proven Formula for Effectively Managing Sales Managers

As your responsibility grows in an organization, so does the need for you to delegate effectively.

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A Proven Formula for Effectively Managing Sales Managers

In most learning journeys there's that moment when lightning strikes — the aha moment when the path to understanding or mastery suddenly becomes unclouded. Mine as a second line sales manager — a manager of managers — came to me on vacation. When my wife observed how I had decompressed faster than usual, I said it was because I knew my managers were back at the office running the show. Regardless of what challenge arose in the next 10 days, I trusted them implicitly to work together, figure it out, and make the right calls. It dawned on me then that I had successfully built a management team that was united, enabled, aligned, and empowered — and far more valuable than the sum of its parts. Notice the order of those team characteristics: united, enabled, aligned, and empowered. While all are critical, the final three are significantly more challenging to achieve without the first one. It's well documented that teamwork at the office is a proven path to success, but we seldom port these concepts over to management teams. Given that many sales managers are former successful sales reps, breaking down the individual contributor mindset in favor of a team-first dynamic not only improves overall outcomes but has significant impact on their development as leaders.

Set the expectation early, often, and together.

Manager candidates often ask me the same questions: “How will I be measured? What do I need to do to be successful?” It makes sense that they ask this but I always seize the opportunity to talk about our team mindset: They will be measured on their ability to add value to a cohesive leadership team. The reaction I get is often a good indicator of their alignment to those values and helps me identify candidates who may not fit in. With new managers, I always propose two immediate goals: Earn the confidence of your reps and your peers. The sooner their peers know the new manager is here to add to the team dynamic, the more time they will commit to showing the new manager the ropes, helping him or her ramp up faster. Sydney Finkelstein refers to this as the “Cohort Effect.” Make it a shared vision and check in regularly on how well you're hitting the mark. Just recently a manager brought up that some reps thought they were being held to different standards depending on whose team they were on. The managers discussed it and decided on an innovative way to align more on their priorities. I did nothing but facilitate the discussion; they were the ones holding themselves accountable to the team vision.s overall outcomes but has significant impact on their development as leaders.

Hire for purpose.

You can show the vision, but the real magic happens when the teamwork develops organically.

Hire for purpose.

You can show the vision, but the real magic happens when the teamwork develops organically. Diversity of all kinds will naturally make your team better by inviting different ways of thinking. Think also of the role each manager will play within the team: the analyst, the motivator, the coach, the driver. Managers with all these traits are like unicorns, so why not spread those requirements across your leadership team? Not only will you be able to cover the bases across the whole group, but your managers will learn from each other and build more diverse skill sets. The one trait they should all share, however, is the desire to work and win as a team.

Build trust and foster openness.

A leadership coach at a former employer once instructed our management team to draw up a contract that would describe how we would work together. It included agreements such as: “when one person is talking, listen respectfully” and “if you disagree, be prepared to explain why and have an alternative.” These sound blatantly obvious but you'll be amazed what happens when you write it down. We posted the contract on the wall at each of our meetings, and we often referred to it when someone wasn't living up to those agreements. While I love team-building activities and events, I find peer coaching sessions an incredibly effective way to grow your team dynamic. Not only are they building trust and helping each other solve real-life challenges, you get to see their coaching in action and identify areas for further development.

Delegate and empower.

As your responsibility grows in an organization, so does the need for you to delegate effectively.

Delegate and empower.

As your responsibility grows in an organization, so does the need for you to delegate effectively. Do you think you could leave your management team to their own devices for 10 days? If not, building that confidence should be a top priority. Just as delegation to individuals builds individual skill, providing leadership or ownership opportunities to the team requires them to work together, discuss areas of disagreement, and align on a course of action. Do it regularly so the team builds decision-making muscles and feels comfortable taking over if you're not there.

Recognize the right behaviors.

We all say it: You can never provide enough recognition. Well, the same goes for your managers. Meaningful public and private recognition of actions that promote your team culture will only promote further growth. Be sure to set goals for the management team and celebrate them accordingly. Champion the management team to your broader business unit or department. You may soon find other leaders asking you how you do it.

I had successfully built a management team that was united, enabled, aligned, and empowered — and far more valuable than the sum of its parts.”

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JEREMY WIGGETT 

DIRECTOR, SALES DEVELOPMENT, SALESFORCE