Salesforce management styles

Sales reviews often come with a laundry list of structural changes that need to be implemented to achieve better sales results.  In some instances, those changes focus on the tasks, responsibilities and the tactical approach of sales people.  However, a comprehensive review requires a deeper critical analysis that includes the middle level performance of the sales structure.

One important element that this analysis must take in consideration is the salesforce management style.  Often overlooked, the management element of a salesforce can determine how successful an organization is in the process of meeting its sales goals.  After years studying the sales management arena, we have identified two highly ineffective salesforce management styles that should be avoided or transformed into more effective sales practices as soon as possible.

Let’s start with what we have dubbed the “19th century foreman” management model.  As it happened back in the day of sugarcane plantations in the Caribbean, this historical character used, or we should say abused, its middle level management faculties to intimidate the workforce under his supervision.  It’s a model strongly focused on delivering results at any cost, and they do mean at any cost.  This approach may help an organization meet its short term sales goals, but it’s proven to be ineffective in the longer term as it wears down the salesforce and erodes the element of leadership and trust, curtailing the long-term growth goals of the organization.

The other management style that is often used as an opposition to the foreman model is the overly accommodating management model.  In this case, sales managers give up on developing the skills of their team and take the team’s responsibilities as their own, making them part of its own scope of work trying to ensure goal attainment.

This approach has two central problems: first, there is a natural limit on the amount of work any individual can take on while exceling in all; and second, the sales manager wasn’t hired to do the work, but to facilitate the team’s success through the implementation of effective management practices.  So, beware, there is a clear difference between being a team member and crossing the line of what your role should be by doing tasks that shouldn’t be yours.  This last problem perpetuates ineffective sales forces that ultimately hurt the organization through complacency and lack of drive.

Our experience at Integro Success Unlimited has proven that the most successful style is what we call the leadership approach.  Here, managers look at their sales force as people instead of tools (or means to an end), and build upon their natural strengths and capabilities to enhance their sales results.  This approach requires sales managers to develop a notion of shared ownership and earn the respect of their sales professionals at the individual level.  With this approach not only do they succeed in creating a team that will support each other and drive forward with united force to achieve the expected goals but it develops critical thinking and a sense of ownership of their role within each member of the team – an accomplishment that will serve the organization for many years to come.

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