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5 Tips for Software Sales Managers in 2021



Software sales is a demanding profession, between prospecting and selling and dealing with the ups and downs of surpassing your metrics or falling short of them.


What could be more difficult than being on the front line of sales?


How about being a sales manager?


Sales managers are responsible for the performance of the entire team. They have to answer to their own regional sales manager, or perhaps even to corporate. When your team is doing well, that part of the job can be a pat on the back. But when they’re not, it can feel like being caught between a rock and hard place.


Being a software sales manager doesn’t just involve knowing the software or the software sales process for that particular SaaS. It involves other factors like the psychology of motivating a team, the empathy required to help struggling associates, and the strategy of mobilizing the strengths of every player on the team. You’ve got to be a coach, a general, a friend, a mentor, and sometimes...even a parent.


Wow, what a lot of hats to wear! Let’s take a look at some ways to manage the stress of that and lead your team to the top of the charts in 2021.


Understand the strengths of your team.


You’ve probably heard of the dichotomy between growers and builders, or as they’re often called, hunters and farmers. Hunters love to look for new clients. Farmers prefer to deepen the relationship with existing clients. Most sales reps are not good at both, and they’ll do best when they’re put in the role that best matches their talents. There are also plenty of different spaces in the sales cycle where someone may excel, and other spots where they may languish in frustration. Keep lines of communication open with your reps and help them develop an idea of a career path that might be the most fulfilling. Sometimes shifting to a different place in the company will benefit both you and them.


Incentivize performance.


Don’t underestimate the power of a pizza party. Sales managers who incentivize performance will routinely find that their reps perform better. Additionally, it sends a strong signal to your reps that you really appreciate their performance. Words of appreciation go a long way in a review, but tangible expression of thanks makes the job a lot more engaging for the average person. It’s also good to periodically invest in some goodwill gestures regardless of performance, such as buying your team lunch or coffee. Check with your own higher ups to see what kind of budget can be allocated for these moments, whether they involve food, gift certificates, or take-home prizes.


Develop a positive work culture.


The exact components of developing a positive work culture will vary depending on what your team does, but in general, fostering a positive work culture means celebrating the success of sales reps in a group setting, while issuing constructive criticism in private. Here is something that sales reps don’t like: the sound of breathing down their neck! Learn how to monitor the performance of your reps without coming across as controlling or creepy. A good way to do this is to avoid real time feedback in the middle of a demo and wait until a private moment. Though this may seem obvious, it’s also easy to forget in the heat of the moment. Encouraging a solid work-life balance for your employees also is a huge help.


Hope for the best and plan for the worst.


Well...not the worst. Leave disaster preparedness plans to HR! Set high standards for your sales team, but not ones that are astronomically impossible. However, it is good to set the bar a little bit above what you think they can do. In the event that they fall short, at least they will have met your desired metrics. Achieving 80% of a stellar goal is a lot better than achieving 100% of a mediocre goal. A more nuanced but important component of this point is setting individualized goals and plans for each member of your team. Not everyone on the team should have the same uniform goals. Also work with underperforming reps to create an action plan if they are falling short of their metrics.


Lead by example.


It’s likely that if you’re in a managerial position you had some experience as a software sales rep yourself, perhaps even at the same company. You shouldn’t be afraid to hop on a difficult call or lead a demo to show reps what to do. Your own experience is an invaluable mentorship tool to help them develop their own sales craft. Leading by example also means creating a positive work environment, a point we touched on earlier. If you want your reps to get along as a team, set the example yourself by being friendly to your reps and showing genuine care for their personal lives, as much as is appropriate.


Assemble a great team.


Assembling your sales team, if you have control over who joins it, is your chance to nip problems in the bud and curate the best talent to get the job done. All the other points we’ve outlined above will be much easier to implement if you get everything as right as possible right from the start.


Unfortunately, as a manger you know that there are plenty of other concerns competing for your attention in the world of software sales. A dud of a candidate hiding behind a resume they paid someone else to put together can easily obscure their true viability, should they put on a suave performance during their interview.


This is why working with a software sales recruiter with experience in the software industry can save you a huge headache. A software sales headhunter can offer you pre-vetted talent in terms of job seekers to fill the software sales roles you need filled. I’ve been a software sales recruiter for almost four decades, and I have a constantly growing pool of excellent candidates I can connect you with, based on the unique needs of your team. Let’s get in touch! Send an email to mike@michaelblair.com and I’ll make sure you have the talent you need in 2021.

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