9 Things You’re Doing That are Holding Your Sales Team Back

As a sales manager, you want to do everything within your power to help your team succeed. However, there may be several things that you’re doing—or failing to do—that’s making it difficult for your team members to achieve their full potential.

Here are nine common sales managers’ bad habits and how to address them.

1) Failing to create a framework for accountability

Sales representatives who know that they will be held accountable for their results are more focused, motivated, and perform better. Holding team members accountable requires more than setting quotas. You need to check in regularly with your team members to ensure that they’re on track to meet their goals. In many cases, it is helpful to set micro-goals that build-up to the larger target.

When checking in with your sales team, let the sales representative take the lead. Set the expectation for them to discuss details on deals in progress. Your reps need to be honest with you about what needs to happen for the deal to close and how realistic the prospect of completing the deal soon actually is. If sales team members are struggling to stay on track with their goals, help them come up with a plan to get back on track. They’re more likely to be transparent if they sense that you’re there to coach.

2) Setting vague process for qualifying prospects

This is a common scenario on many sales teams: A sales rep turns in a sales forecast that looks good. Then the rep falls far short. In many cases, the reason for this is because reps aren’t using sound forecasting methods.

To avoid this problem, set clear standards for qualified prospects. Make it clear to your team that prospects must meet the criteria in order to be included in sales projections. If your sales reps are still over-projecting, then there’s something wrong with the process.

3) Being focused on troubleshooting/damage control rather than coaching

You became a manager because you know how to sell. So when you see your team members making obvious mistakes, it’s tempting to just swoop in and fix it. However, this management style prevents them from learning and becoming self-sufficient in the long run.

When you observe a team member struggling, use it as a teachable moment. Ask them to think through the misstep and brainstorm a better way to tackle the problem. This encourages your sales reps to take ownership.

Remember, your job as a sales manager is to teach skills that last. Investing time in coaching skills provides more dividends than holding your reps’ hands through one sale at a time.

4) Not spending enough time on product training

Even the most talented sales reps will struggle if they’re not armed with product information. This means that product training needs to be an ongoing priority, not a one-time event. When new products and features are rolled out, it’s especially important to keep your team looped in. Everybody needs to be on the same page in terms of understanding the product’s benefits and capabilities.

It’s also helpful to understand the market, competing products, and what makes your product different. If possible, ask happy customers to come in and speak to your team. They can provide firsthand information about the product and its benefits.

5) Relying only on numbers at the expense of observations in the field

Metrics are critical for evaluating your sales reps’ performance. However, if you feel like you spend most of your time buried in data, you’re probably not spending enough time doing hands-on observations.

Get out of your own office and make sure you’re spending plenty of time observing your team members’ work processes and providing one-on-one coaching. Their specific strengths and weaknesses as salespeople aren’t always apparent from the data alone, so you need to make sure you’re getting a complete picture. You want to use both qualitative and quantitative evaluations to guide your team.

6) Spending too much time coaching the lowest performers

Many managers spend the bulk of their time coaching low performers. On the face of it, this makes sense: If you can get low performers to become average performers, your team will make gains. However, you can also make significant gains by coaching average performers into top performers and helping your stars to get even better. In some ways, this may be easier because mid-tier and top-tier performers have already demonstrated their capabilities.

Obviously, you shouldn’t neglect low performers, but you should devote time to every member of the team. There is no salesperson so good that they cannot become better through quality coaching.

7) Failing to appreciate team members’ individual strengths and preferences

Some sales managers mistakenly believe that their team members should replicate their own methods. But it’s not your job to turn the rest of the team into clones of you. Instead, carefully review their strengths and create a work environment in which they can thrive as individuals. Ask for feedback: “Is this working for you?”

8) Forgetting to reinforce material learned in ongoing training sessions

It’s easy to assume that if you taught your team members something once, you don’t need to return to the same subject matter. However, studies on learning consistently demonstrate that new concepts need to be reinforced before people really start to get it. When designing your continued learning program, include opportunities for reinforcement.

9) Refusing to experiment with new methods and tools

If you’re consistently meeting your goals, it may be tempting to say that you don’t need to change. But the best sales managers are willing to experiment and push their team in new directions. Consider implementing one or two new initiatives every quarter. If it doesn’t work you can always jettison it, but you should always be experimenting.

If you can overcome these nine common mistakes, you can lead your sales team towards improvement.

James Meincke

Director of Marketing @ CloserIQ. Previously Recruiter @ ManpowerGroup & Freelance Social Media Strategist. University of Wisconsin Journalism & Strategic Communication Grad.