Sales Management Styles (And Which One to Avoid)

Sales Training | Sales Coaching | Sales Leadership

One key takeaway from the pandemic is the heightened importance of how sales managers communicate with their teams. Since the beginning, managers have dealt with a myriad of employee issues that require empathy and understanding.

Unfortunately, many managers who were steeped in simply telling their teams what to do struggled as those messages fell silent. This was especially true with sales professionals who realized that they had many more employment options given the robust labor market (i.e., power had shifted from the company to the individual).

Choosing the right management style for your sales team can make all the difference. While directly telling someone what to do seems expedient, the effects are often short-lived and met with resentment. Instead, it is better to think about the desired impact of the communication and tailor the message in a way that it will be best received and understood.

While the nature of the communication will differ depending on the type of communication, managers should always communicate professionally and in a respectful manner.

Typically, manager communications will fall into one of the following categories, each of which requires different communications styles.

Performance Management

Performance management focuses on achieving results. Unfortunately, many managers spend way too much time reviewing outcomes as opposed to focusing on the underlying behaviors that drive the results. Highly effective performance management communications include four elements.

  1. Expected results
  2. Specific behaviors required to achieve those results
  3. Metrics for both the results and the underlying behaviors
  4. Timeframe for completion

As part of this framework, the manager must make sure that the expected results and associated behaviors are reasonable so that they can secure buy-in from the sales team. In addition to a higher probability of success, setting achievable goals promotes a culture where reps are focused on hitting the goals as opposed to just “doing their best”.

Sales Coaching

Sales Coaching focuses on skills development and should be collaborative in nature. By taking the time to listen and understand the sales rep’s perspective before providing input, managers will earn the salesperson's trust and increase the sales rep’s receptivity to the advice being offered. Great coaches recognize and reinforce strengths, offer input and encouragement on areas for improvement, and provide regular feedback on progress.

Sales Leadership

Sales leaders leverage communication to motivate and inspire their teams. This method of communication, however, is often misunderstood as being reserved for super charismatic managers who give inspiring keynote speeches.

While there is nothing wrong with an inspiring keynote, it is the day-to-day actions and communications of the sales leader that motivate individual team members.

It is important for managers to keep in mind that sales reps have individual needs and desires. Their motivations can include money, recognition, independence, teamwork, excellence… and great sales leaders take the time to listen and understand what is important to each member of their sales team. As such, they can personalize their communication so that it aligns with what matters most to that specific sales rep.

While the nature of management communication will vary based on the desired goal, there are a few principles managers should apply in all their communications.

  • Authentic: Trying to emulate someone else’s style will usually fail.
  • Honest: Provide honest, accurate feedback in a respectful way.
  • Professional: Use language that professionally conveys your message.
  • Empathetic: Showing empathy improves receptivity.

By adhering to these principles, managers will improve how they manage, coach, and lead their teams. Learn more about how you can improve the efficacy of your sales teams' efforts with our white paper linked below.

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About Norman Behar

Norman Behar is Chairman and Managing Director of the Sales Readiness Group (SRG). He has over 25 years of senior sales management experience, and is recognized as a thought leader in the sales training industry. His blog posts and whitepapers are frequently featured in leading sales enablement publications including ATD, TrainingIndustry.com, and Selling Power.