Growing Numbers Growing People

The most successful sales managers focus as much on growing their people as they do on growing their numbers. Here’s why you should, too.

It’s almost a universal law: every year, your sales targets will be set higher than they were the year before. That is the nature of sales–you constantly need to Grow. The. Numbers. Without increasing your headcount, naturally. Or your expenses.

So how does a successful sales manager keep on improving the organization’s performance year after year? One way is by focusing on the people, the hidden gems in your organization, and turning them into diamonds. In fact, if there is one thing I have learned in my time as a sales consultant, it is this: the best way to grow your numbers is to grow your people.

Think of every employee as a raw diamond with a hidden potential that is just waiting to be explored and refined. You just need to do some digging and invest the time needed to get access to it.

Growing your people

From time to time, most of your employees will ask themselves whether they are fulfilling their full potential. All too often, they’re not. And the sales manager is often to blame.

Sales managers are expected to have a clear focus on sales. Consequently, you might easily forget that it’s just as important to focus on helping your employees become better at what they do. For the sales manager, it starts by thinking about how you can improve the competencies of your direct reports with a long-term perspective. In other words, make your people your strategy.

As a manager you can through dedicated focus help them fulfill their potential. In return you get a more efficient sales force, making it easier to reach further with less.

Coach, coach, coach!

The most efficient management initiative is coaching. Contrary to common beliefs of many sales managers, coaching does NOT mean giving your employees all the answers. It means asking all the right questions—questions that will empower your employees to reach new understandings and new ideas about their way of working—and to commit to doing something specific about the insights and drive positive change. There’s a world of difference between saying, ”We need to increase sales by 5% this year” (command) and asking, “If we were to increase sales by 5% this year, how do you think we could best do it?” (question).

Coach your employees by asking questions, and let them come up with the answers. You’ll be surprised by the effect. And so will your employees.

And when you create annual development plans for your employees, make sure that they are relevant not only to your targets but also to the life goals of each individual employee. After all, most people don’t find their motivation in simply growing sales, but from growing personally as a part of their job.

Repetition is key

To have a real, long-term effect, your approach to coaching, and your focus on growing your people should not be confined to the annual employee review or budget meeting. It’s a style of leadership that your employees should feel week after week. Growing your people is like exercising. If you only do it once a year, you will not get any results worth speaking of. If you do it regularly, on the other hand, you’ll quickly get in shape, and you’ll stay in shape.

And your employees will start to shine like diamonds.

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