The Five Types of Sales Managers

Good sales managers are the engine of any commercial organisation, but, if your experience is similar to mine, you will have found that the number of poor sales managers outweighs the number of good sales managers. By observing the sales managers I’ve worked with, I’ve been able to group them into five categories. Let’s explore these five different types in a bit more detail:

  1. The Senior Salesperson continues to lead from the front, getting involved with all of the sales pitches, yet still taking the big deals for themselves. They act as a great role model for the sales team in terms of winning big deals but feel that the best way to manage is to try and make their team members clones of themselves. They are yet to make the transition from salesperson to a proficient leader and still do not identify individual strengths within the team, which would allow them to get the best out of each team member. Their role should be to support the team more and drive revenue generation through the team as a whole, rather than just relying on their own aptitude for winning deals. They are a salesperson first and foremost and a manager second. This is a very common type of sales manager.
  2. The Best Friend is more concerned with being popular and liked by their team, than driving results and making the decisions necessary to serve the business. This means that they can often excel at providing effective coaching and have the loyalty of their team. However, the team may abuse this close relationship and take advantage of their manager. This manager doesn’t necessarily command the respect that they need to in order to drive change or raise the bar in terms of team performance. With change initiatives, tough decisions often need to be made that may cause friction within the team; the Best Friend finds it hard to lead such initiatives and is therefore often not associated with very high performing teams.
  3. The Dictator lives by the mantra ‘it’s my way or the highway’. They tend to be very directional and do not place any value in consulting their team. This lack of empathy means that they direct orders and expect everyone to jump to their every demand. The Dictator can actually be quite effective and efficient at getting tasks completed, ensuring that the team are compliant. However, the way they lead crushes any free thinking or ownership within the team, making the team feel like they have to wait to be told what to do next. The Dictator is not a natural motivator and so, while they may be respected due to their authoritarian nature, they often do not engender loyalty or high performance.
  4. The Process Junkie is the one that hides behind the spreadsheets, the planning documents, the CRM, the account plans, and the shared drive – putting the process before the result or people. They are also rarely associated with high performing teams as they believe that the team are there to support the success of the process, rather than the process being in place to support the success of the team. Although the Process Junkie does lack a human element and dynamism, this procedural behaviour does mean that reporting is accurate.
  5. The Balanced Achiever is the last – and the ideal – type of sales manager. They have the right blend of all of the characteristics from the above manager types. The others on their own are extreme behavioural types, which do not bring the balance required for successful sales management. The Balanced Achiever will gain respect from their teams through their own client-facing experience. They gain trust by empathising with their teams but show sufficient leadership and direction when needed. They follow processes to make sure forecasts and expectations of the business are met but do not see this as an end in itself. The Balanced Achiever calls on the various different management styles when needed and is skilled in deploying the strengths of each style to get the most out of their team. They are rare people indeed.

For anyone that has worked in high performing teams, the chances are that the manager will have been a Balanced Achiever. Although you can have individuals that perform well, despite a poor manager above them, it is really hard to have a high performing team unless the leader is strong and effective. The impact of having skilled sales managers can be phenomenal, but that skill level is difficult to achieve.

The good news is that, in our experience, the performance of sales managers can be greatly improved. With the right training and coaching, sales managers can recognise and address the deficiencies in their approach. It’s a shame – for the individuals, their teams and the organisations they work for – that more sales managers do not get this support. Imparta’s Sales Management Programme (SMP) covers everything needed to be a great, balanced sales manager. From territory planning to forecasting, target setting to performance management, and communications to emotional intelligence.

If you would like to hear more about SMP and how it could improve your business, then please contact us.

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