Sales managers tend to face the same basic problems in company after company. Most businesses share at least a few of these common issues, so knowing how to cope with them can help a sales manager turn a bad situation around. And if you're considering changing jobs from salesperson to sales manager, you should be aware of these potential stumbling blocks.
Little or No Training
Executives often believe that the best way to handle sales management is by promoting the top seller into a leadership role and then letting her sink or swim. Unfortunately, sales training doesn't translate to sales management training. If your company hasn't provided you with any management training at all, ask. You may have to take a course on your own time, but it will be money well spent if your class teaches you how to make your job much easier.
The Wrong Responsibilities
Many sales manager positions are actually more like sales manager plus marketing manager plus administrative manager positions. The sales manager gets all vaguely sales-related scutwork shoved onto his desk and ends up spending his time filling out paperwork, coordinating campaigns with other departments, making presentations to executives, and writing reports instead of actually managing the sales team. In this situation a sales manager's best recourse is to track how much time he spends on various tasks and then present that log to his boss, explaining that he needs to refocus the position on sales management responsibilities. Hiring an administrative assistant may be all that's required to solve the problem.
No Freedom to Act
Sales managers are usually firmly in the ranks of middle management – they are responsible for managing their sales teams, but report to higher-level managers themselves. An unfortunate side effect of middle management structure is that sales managers may be required to get authorization from upper management before they can act to resolve problems. For example, if a salesperson on the team is failing due to lack of proper training, poor territory assignment, or simply not doing the job, the sales manager may have to jump through a number of hoops before he can apply the appropriate fix – even when he knows exactly what needs to be done. Meanwhile the salesperson's poor performance is affecting the team's overall performance and dragging down the manager's numbers. Drawing up some 'action plans' and getting them approved ahead of time can help to speed up resolution in these circumstances. If the sales manager already has executive approval for his sales training program, all he needs is permission to deploy the plan as needed – he won't need to wait for the specific course of training to be debated.
Lack of Information
Sales managers know what leads the sales team gets, and they are very aware of how many deals that their salespeople close. But what goes on in between lead acquisition and closing the sale can be a mystery. Without a clear understanding of the sales process, sales managers will have a difficult time figuring out what has gone wrong if his sales team begins to fall under quota. A good CRM can help as long as the salespeople are careful to keep their records updated as each sale progresses. If that's not working, another option is to set activity goals for the sales team. For example, each salesperson might be responsible for making 100 cold calls and 5 appointments per week, with the calls and appointments logged on a sheet of paper and turned in to the sales manager every Friday. This gives the manager more data with which to understand his team's sales process, and allows him to act early on if a problem arises.