In my recent presentation at the Sales 2.0 Conference, I discussed three key attributes of successful sales performers: communication skills, effective leadership and proactive problem solving. The second attribute, effective leadership, is also the topic of my recent interview with Gerhard Gschwandtner of Selling Power magazine. Sales professionals may not always consider their role in the quality of the sales leadership they receive, but you do indeed have a role! Consider these tips to get the most from your sales manager:
Invest in the Relationship. Your relationship with your sales manager is not unlike your relationship with customers or anyone else. It requires care and cultivation to be productive and mutually beneficial. Continually look for opportunities to provide value to your sales manager beyond your sales/revenue contribution. One consideration is how you approach your manager with problems or customer situations. When you raise a problem, do you also provide thoughts, insights and/or ideas for potential solutions, or are you really just looking for a solution by dropping the problem at your manager’s doorstep? Playing a productive role in problem solving develops your capabilities and reduces the number of times that you need someone else to solve the problem. This increases your value to your manager, your company and, more importantly, to your customers. You will find you are much less often in that dreaded mode of, “I will have to get back to you on that,” while your competitor may be solving the issue for you.
Communicate Your Needs. To some degree, it is human nature to hide or downplay our challenges, failures or lack of adaptability – particularly to our boss! But these challenges are also significant development opportunities that can reignite your engagement with your company and your customers. By not working with your sales manager, you not only allow these challenges to continue and grow, which reduces productivity dramatically, but the practice also cheats you out of the benefit of your manager’s insights, support and learning opportunities for you. The sales professional who takes his/her own development seriously becomes a strategic force both internally and externally. Just as making customers part of the solution gets them invested in a successful outcome, the same is true of engaging your manager in your professional success.
Respect Your Manager’s Time. The number of sales reps supervised by each sales manager is larger than ever and continues to grow. When you respect the time of your sales manager, you will find it easier to get his/her time in the future for the really important things. Upward delegation reduces your productivity, position with the customer and position within your own organization. When you have the benefit of your manager’s time, always come prepared – with the issues of the day or week, your proposed plan of action to resolve them and the specific things that you need for success. Start on time and finish on time. If your manager tells you he/she can give you 3o minutes, wrap it up within 25 minutes. Look for ways to reduce the number of things that are awaiting manager approval, and be action-oriented. Your customers will love it, and your manager will appreciate it.
The dynamic of your relationship with your sales manager is often a self-fulfilling prophecy. View your sales manager as a valuable resource, and that is the role he/she will provide.