There are many challenges that come with being an outside sales manager or leader. When I say outside sales managers, I mean you spend time with your employees, your team, outside of a traditional office environment. One of the biggest challenges is that we don’t get to see our team daily for face-to-face interaction. We may not report in the same office, or manage a team that covers multiple states or, your team is always out in the field. And then the manager is in an office somewhere trying to manage the people, the logistics, the revenue, the forecasting and the recruiting. All of these components are incredibly important in the world of sales leadership and sales management, but there is nothing more important than spending the time with the people who trust you to teach them how to make money.
At its fundamental core of sales leadership is simply spending time. The number one way to improve the morale, improve the bottom line, and raise the commissions of the people on your team is to spend time with them. The problem that happens here is you take a strong sales individual and you promote them and put them in a position of leadership or sales management. Well, when they make that transition, and the job is pretty challenging because you go from an individual contributor to a manager. And that means you are not only managing people, you’re managing emotions, you’re managing different customers, you’re managing different problems. So while all of these responsibilities in sales leadership have a priority, they all have equal importance. There’s nothing more important than spending time with your team and getting out in the field with the people who trust you.
I often call the skill of selling “hand-to-hand combat.” You’re out there in the field face-to-face with clients, closing the deal, shaking hands, negotiating. The moment you leave that role and transition to a leadership position, you go into the office and you move up to the press box. You’re away from the field, and when that happens you lose a sense of that hand-to-hand combat. It is even more important that you get back down in the field because you will start to lose some steps. You will lose some product knowledge. You’ll lose some competitive knowledge. You’ll lose some situational knowledge. You will start to have a skillset that regresses simply because it’s not something you’re doing every day. Being in sales is like going to the gym. The more you go to the gym, the easier it is. Likewise, the more you’re in the field selling and actively prospecting, the easier the job is. So when you move into that position of sales leadership and sales management, yes, the number one job is to recruit and forecast and ensure you hit projections. However, none of that happens if you don’t spend time with people. Sales management might as well be called people management. That’s my personal opinion, and that’s actually how I live my life. That’s how I manage my team. I want to spend time with my team. So if that means I have to drive five hours just to have lunch or coffee, or conduct small business with you, that’s what I am going to do. It’s the hand-to-hand, face-to-face interaction that I find value in. So here are three ways you can spend additional time with the people on your team.
Ask a simple question
Number one is easy, but it’s often overlooked. Ask the people who work for you what they need from you and how you can deliver it in person. We get into a position of sales leadership, and we’re so good at anticipating and forecasting and identifying trends, that we forget it’s possible to ask a simple question. What do you need and how can I deliver it to you in person?
Pound the pavement
I love this one. Pound pavement with your team, at minimum, every quarter. If you have a larger team, it might not be realistic to do it every quarter, but at least every six months to a year, you should pound pavement. By that I mean doing the cold calls, the ugly part of sales that no one likes. You have to go and do that. If the job requires your reps to knock on 20 business doors before lunch and 20 business doors after lunch, then do that with them. Doing so does two things. It creates trust and credibility between you and your direct report, and it creates an instant teachable moment. Either you take an opportunity and teach them how to improve their skillset, or the rep teaches you something you may not have learned before.
The final thing is personal development. Go out with your team and have a personal development conversation in person. The moment we stop talking about personal development, people start looking for it elsewhere. And when someone looks for personal development opportunities outside your leadership, they get recruited to someone else and they leave your leadership. If you’re not spending time developing your people, somebody else is. And eventually someone’s going to recruit the high caliber people on your team to work for them. So a personal development visit is one of my favorites. It’s simply saying, hey, I’m here to discuss your goals. I’m here to discuss how I can be of service beyond the traditional XYZ of sales.
The bottom line is get out of the office, go out in the field, get where the action happens, spend time with your people. Your team will thank you for it.