Does anybody ever think of the sales manager behind the sales person? We see a wealth of media coverage of the sales person’s perspective, how to be successful, how to reach all your targets, how to sell, sell, sell and how to be an all-singing-all-dancing superstar sales person. So, we ask again, does anybody ever think of the sales manager behind the sales person? The person who is responsible for them, their goals and even their clients, in a way.
Managing a sales team requires a wealth of skills. . Not only this, but there are a several other parts of the job sales managers face, which are rarely addressed. So, let’s address them.
Sales Season presents, Speak First’s very own Sales Manager, Jun Man. A decade in the industry of sales has taught Jun a whole lot about sales ‘how-to’s’, the and managing a team of sales people. This is what he had to say in our face-to-face interview.
Let’s start at the beginning - when you first became sales manager, did you find there were certain soft skills you needed to improve on?
Yes, for me communication in general was something I wanted to improve on. Being able to effectively communicate my objectives and goals for the team was a challenge as everyone has different characteristics and styles. Being able to get the best out of each individual was a learning curve.
Conveying my expectations to different people was another area and realising that everyone doesn’t work, or isn’t motivated, the same way I am was another area I have improved over time.
What did you do to nourish that development?
I had 1:1 coaching with an executive coach – we had sessions once a month to work on these specific areas. I also attended 3 courses - Personal Impact and Presence for Leaders, Core Skills for Managers and Time and Priority Management.
How have they improved your work life?
I got a better understanding of the impact and presence I should have as a leader and understanding different styles of communication to get the most out of my team. Core skills for managers was great to give me a good benchmark for management skills – and it gave an insight into using each conversation with my team members as opportunities to coach them. Time and Priority Management helped me to prioritise my days more effectively which is crucial in order to be successful.
What is the biggest reward of your role?
Biggest reward – I guess there’s two levels to it. There’s working with clients closely, understanding them and building a great relationship with them, and getting to a point where they trust you enough for you to support them – but also to challenge them and I think that’s a real sweet spot.
Why is that rewarding?
I find it really rewarding because it shows that you’ve gotten to a level of understanding and knowledge about the client. And have learnt to be able to provide the highest quality in support, and have a close relationship, with the client. It makes me feel good. Makes me feel like I’ve achieved something. Satisfaction out of something.
What about your biggest struggle?
Biggest struggle is managing time, I think. Managing time to have so many responsibilities and trying to understand all the account managers and their clients. So, looking at my team, the guys have their own clients but in part they’re almost my clients too, because it’s my responsibility to ensure they have great relationships and experiences with us.
That’s one of the reasons I work two days a week from home, so that I can do the sales-person bit. When I’m in the office, you’d notice I’m in meetings pretty much all the time, with my team, with managers and with the directors to make sure the team is fulfilling their objectives – but when I’m out I’m concentrating on my own stuff. I need to be able to wear two hats and wear them both well!
So it gives you a quiet place to think?
Yes, it allows me to focus on achieving my goals, planning and wear the Account Manager hat so that I can put the needs of my specific clients first. They, along with my team, rely on me to be both an account manager as well as a sales manager so I need that time to make sure I achieve both objectives.
What’s the hardest thing about managing sales people?
I think sales people, in general, think differently to other people in other roles – being able to manage their expectations, manage their motivation, and keep them hungry is probably the hardest thing. It’s keeping people who are working at a high level to continue working at that level and keep the consistency.
Keeping them motivated to be successful, to go the extra mile for their clients, making sure that they’re hitting Speak First’s high standards – that is probably one of the hardest things.
Individual sales-people think differently. You’ll get very different types of sales people as well. You’ll get people who are just driven, you’ll get sales-people who love relationships and building ties with their clients and those who love to challenge and push boundaries with their clients. One of the hardest things is managing the different characters in a team. In my team, they are very different. Some are more experienced some less so. The chemistry in a sales team is very important too because it affects how you motivate them.
Different people have different strengths, and you must be able to manage that to get the best out of each person, sometimes you have to make tough business decisions because you may find that you have a good personal relationship with an individual, but they are struggling to achieve their objectives, which affects the team’s chemistry.
Do you think if you weren’t as driven, you’d have progressed to manager?
You have to want to be the best. That was my thing. If you’re not driven in sales, you’re not successful, you can’t have people in it who think “it’s just a job” because it’s not an easy job – it’s a very challenging job. I’ve seen so many people struggle with it and I’ve seen what works and what doesn’t work. It’s 24/7. Particularly when you’re in a global role, because you have clients calling you all the time because they’re on a different time zone to you and you have to accommodate that.
If you’re not driven and you don’t want to be successful, and you don’t have an objective or aim of where you want to get to, the chances are you won’t get there. You have to set yourself a goal. It doesn’t tend to happen for people who are only willing to put in 50% but expect to get 100% out of it. You generally have to put in 200% just to get 100% out of it.
How do you strike a balance?
That’s a great question and in all honesty it’s really difficult. Wearing two hats adds up to double the pressure and responsibility to be achieved in the same time. As I said earlier, I have split my week into different days with various priorities. So the days when I am out of the office I can focus on my personal target and when I am in the office I focus on the team, running sales meetings, 1-2-1 meetings and setting the objectives/direction for the team. It does mean however (like I said earlier) that I don’t ever seem to switch off. With global clients I am constantly either on calls or at client meetings early in the morning with Asia Pacific clients, throughout the day with EMEA, and evenings with USA.
How do you handle the pressure of the role?
That’s another good question. I do believe that if you’re someone who doesn’t like pressure then sales is probably a career which you would find difficult and definitely wouldn’t like. We are under pressure each day to deliver, which can be stressful. I’ve always been someone who enjoys pressure, the challenge and the responsibility that comes with it. I try my best to enjoy the pressure and use it to drive me on. The biggest way I handle pressure is to plan ahead, to be prepared and to understand the situation so I can, to a small degree, predict the road ahead. Without doing this in sales, you're simply setting yourself up to not achieve your goals.
A great insight from Jun, into the world of a Sales Manager. But what did you think? Are your thoughts and experiences different? Let us know!
If you're interested in finding out more about the courses Jun has attended, you can find detailed outlines here.