One of the things I enjoy about Software Sales recruitment is the variety of opinions I hear from clients and candidates on a daily basis. Topics such as who has the best sales culture and what are a company or a person’s differentiators?
I also get to hear the less desirable details on these matters too… Glassdoor ain’t got nothing on me!
I hear the key reasons why a talented software sales exec has decided to look to pastures new…and the number one answer is, believe it or not, they don’t like their manager!
Looking specifically at Sales management, the question should be: how do you get the best performance out of your salespeople?
Some good managers have a blanket approach and work methodically from spreadsheets, but the great managers also understand the strengths and weaknesses of each person in their team.
An example, to give this some context, was when I was working on a sales requirement for an up-and-coming software company where I had 2 candidates on final interview. So, I posed the obvious question “who’s your favourite?” and the hiring manager said, “both are great but for different reasons”.
One was very data driven, meaning they could maintain a territory very well and the hiring manager would always have visibility on what he was doing and where the revenue would come from, making him better aligned to newer territories and more greenfield areas. Whilst the second was a lot more “sales-y”, she would always overachieve but would take little time with handovers to the onboarding team and could not be tracked so easily.
The hiring manager felt she would be better suited to a well-established territory where the database was already well kitted out. He went on to say, “if we could combine the two characters, I would hire that person now and pay twice the salary”.
So how does a Sales Manager take one of these polar opposites and turn them into that combined skillset?
We all have our strengths and weaknesses and are motivated in different ways, but we can still improve our all-round game. I’ve found by just listening to disengaged software sales execs that it’s important not to just intensely focus on the weaker qualities. It can be very frustrating for a salesperson, even when they know that it’s for their overall improvement, to be constantly reminded of their short comings. It often ends in the conversation of “we’re not seeing eye to eye” with their manager.
So, here’s what successful managers do differently:
- Make the salesperson aware where precisely you want to see a change/improvement.
- Give them coaching to help them achieve that improvement.
- If they are not already motivated to improve in this area, get them inspired; it’s easier than most people realise.
- Monitor the improvement but no more than on a weekly basis or it becomes too intense.
- Set timelines and always review.
- Praise when improvements happen - no matter how small.
If standard starts to slip – go back to point 1 (assuming you want to retain this sales exec).
The reason managers get success using these strategies is because you are working with the person as a supportive manager and coach. You’re also pointing out the improvements making the person feel positive and motivated around what they are trying to achieve and lastly giving them a nudge whenever things start to slip.