How to Manage a Successful Sales TeamWant to boost your business? It's time to set your salespeople free.

As economic times become more uncertain, companies are increasingly seeking to boost their sales operations to try to capture more market share. But properly running a successful sales department requires a special touch and technique.

As a consultant, I've spent years studying the behavior of successful salespeople. In many cases, high-performing salespeople have strong personalities. They're the types of people described as social and verbally aggressive. They're optimistic, good persuaders, visionaries of the big picture, people-oriented, and team-oriented.

Great salespeople also tend to be into solving problems and driving for results. They're positive in their attitude, powerful and authoritative.
The traits that make them so great at sales also can lead to traits that present difficulties for managers. They can be impulsive, demanding and unrealistic in their expectations. They may lack attention to detail and are often disorganized.

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If you are more methodical, analytical or process oriented, you may get easily frustrated running a sales department. But those who are good at running a sales department learn how to manage around these issues.

There are certain styles of management that I've often found are a good fit for sales departments. Here are four tips for managing successful sales pros.

  • Avoid rulemaking. Great salespeople generally want freedom. They want autonomy. Compliance doesn't work for these people. The better you're able to remove the obstacles and set them up to produce those results, the more successful they will be -- and you will be. Don't ever tell them what they can't do, because they will simply focus their creativity on finding ways to overcome your rules.
     
  • Become a coach. That means asking, not telling your high performers what to do. Ask them to put themselves in your shoes over a particular issue, and discuss a variety of possible options. Let them own the solution to whatever obstacle is at hand.

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  • Let them do what they do best. In order to motivate and lead salespeople effectively, you want to think about what's important to them and what drives them. If you have employees who are not great at details and writing proposals but they're great at selling, then let them sell. Find someone else to compensate in some way to support them on the detail.
     
  • Give them pats on the back. You need to recognize them. Especially with top-performing salespeople, money isn't often the main driver. It's really about being respected. It's achieving and getting those results.

If you adapt your management style to meet their needs, and understand the behaviors needed to do it, you'll have a lot fewer headaches. And your salespeople will thrive.

This article is an adapted excerpt from The Perfect Hire: A Tactical Guide to Hiring, Developing and Retaining Top Talent by Katherine Graham-Leviss published by Entrepreneur Press, 2011.

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