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David Jacoby

By: David Jacoby on August 30th, 2023

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Choosing the Right Sales Management Style

Sales Management

Are you looking to maximize your team's performance? Dive into the four pivotal sales management styles—Directing, Selling, Participating, and Delegating—and learn how to strategically apply each one to elevate your leadership and boost those sales numbers. Don't just manage—lead with impact and flexibility! 

Mastering the Four Management Styles

One of the most important aspects of being a sales manager is your ability to influence your sales team.  Only if you can affect the thoughts, actions, and behaviors of your sales team can you be an effective sales manager. 

Influence is critical to all aspects of your role as a sales manager, including keeping the sales vision on track, motivating the sales team to achieve the sales vision goal, providing your team with overall direction, challenging and driving your team, and so forth.

If you do not have the ability to influence your sales team, then you are not functioning as a manager. There are two interacting methods you use to influence your sales team: motivation and management style. I previously blogged about motivation here, so let’s consider management style.

Management style is the approach you use in different situations to achieve desired results through your salespeople.

For example, your approach may need to be heavy-handed and forceful when discussing sales results. Other situations may require you to be participative and supportive. The challenge is to select the most appropriate style for each situation.

There are four distinct sales management styles you can use to influence your sales team. Your ability to identify when each style is appropriate and use each style effectively is critical to your role as a manager.  The four sales management styles are directing, selling, participating, and delegating.

#1 Directing

Directing is primarily one-way communication. You tell the salesperson what you want in an autocratic manner. Although directing has a negative connotation when considered in terms of leading or managing, it is appropriate and effective in specific situations. Directing requires confidence in the information you provide and specificity in delivering it.

Use a directing style:

  • With new salespeople
  • To communicate decisions
  • To provide instructions
  • At impasses
  • When directed from above
  • To communicate policy/procedures

#2 Selling 

Selling is persuading a salesperson or the sales team to move in a particular direction. You attempt to gain commitment by convincing others that what you’re saying is true or is the best option. In selling, you give the other party the opportunity to respond.

Use a selling style:

  • To introduce a different selling technique
  • To present a new concept, idea, method, or procedure
  • To exceed already-established sales goals
  • To challenge the sales team

#3 Participating

Participating is used to get input, buy-in, feedback, or opinions from the sales team. The participating style encourages two-way communication and an open, honest exchange of ideas. You have an opportunity to access a variety of ideas and to show that you respect and value the input of your sales team. You can enhance their sense of being valuable members of the team. 

Use a participating style:

  • To get a salesperson’s perspective on problems
  • To obtain suggestions for improving individual performance
  • To coach
  • To obtain information on the progress with an account and to brainstorm strategies for further development

#4 Delegating

Delegating is empowering salespeople with the freedom to do their jobs or to enhance their personal development. Salespeople who have demonstrated the ability to work successfully and independently often have the confidence to continue to perform with little supervision. 

Delegating is often difficult for some sales managers. This is not uncommon since sales managers typically are interested in, concerned about, and feel responsible for their salespeople and want to stay involved. The key to the delegating style is monitoring and follow-up to keep yourself assured of the continued efforts and success on the part of the salesperson and to allow the salesperson enough room to do the job confidently without feeling you are “checking up.” This is the least interactive of the four management styles.

Use a delegating style:

  • With successful salespeople who have demonstrated abilities and expressed a desire to work independently
  • To empower salespeople for job enrichment or challenge
  • To develop individuals by building their confidence in their own ability to work successfully with little supervision
  • In tight periods

Although each sales management style is separate and distinct from the others, you will find that many situations require more than one style.

For example, in a sales meeting, you may need to use the selling style to introduce a new sales strategy and follow that with the participating style to get ideas on implementing the strategy. You need to be flexible within situations as well as from situation to situation. 

The more flexible you are, the greater your ability to communicate with people and influence their behavior in the desired direction.

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About David Jacoby

As a Managing Director at Sales Readiness Group, A Part of SBI, David helps large B2B sales organizations improve sales performance. Previously, David was a Principal at Linear Partners, a sales consulting firm providing sales strategy, sales operations, talent management, and interim management services to emerging growth companies. In the past, David has served as Vice President of Business Affairs of Xylo, Inc., where he was responsible for the Company's business development, sales operations, legal affairs, and financing activities.