INSIDER: Proactively Managing Your Team

December 1, 2010

By Drew Johns, MBA Candidate

There are two different types of sales managers, those that wait and react to a situation after it occurs and those who proactively engage themselves to ensure their sales team is fully equipped and prepared to take on any situation. A manager with a reactive temperament thrives on chaos and has trouble communicating with his team, especially articulating plans and objectives. These types of managers are preventing the sales team from reaching their full potential and inhibiting their ability to succeed. On the other hand, a proactive manager is ahead of the game, someone who always thinks before acting, and someone who develops and motivates her team. Proactive managers invest in their teams and create a culture that fosters communication where goals and objectives are clearly defined. They plan ahead, have their eye on the future, and they know how to get there. In ProActive Sales Management: How to Lead, Motivate, and Stay Ahead of the Game (2009), William Miller examines the proactive sales manager and offers insights into how to efficiently and effectively manage both the big-picture strategic decisions of your team and the day-to-day operations. This article will investigate the skills you as a manager need to be proactive.

Proactively Managing Your Team

THINK POINT #1: Proactive managers understand that communication must occur and must be personal

They have to be able to communicate up the chain, down the chain, and across the spectrum. Brokerage leaders or managers must be able to utilize multiple sources of technology to ensure they are reaching each individual quickly and effectively. However, proactive managers use technologically mediated communication sparingly. Technology is crucial to keeping information flowing and staying connected; however, proactive managers recognize and leverage face-to-face communication. They understand how essential personal interactions are.

THINK POINT #2: Proactive managers know when to coach and when to counsel; they know when to use a positive vs. a negative framing

Coaching deals with the interpretation of facts based on past experiences. Behaviors associated with guiding, directing, and teaching are crucial when developing your team. Counseling deals with personal issues and comes from your emotional side. Behaviors associated with listening, consulting, and deliberating can help you extract responses and arrive at a mutual agreement (Miller 2009, p. 143). The "coaching/ counseling wheel," as Miller refers to it, is a tool to use when deciding what action is appropriate for each situation. The wheel will help you plan ahead of time on how to deliver a message to the agent or employee using the most effective approach. It can also be used when developing your situational analysis, establishing objectives, and implementing strategies. Some examples of responding to various dimensions of the coaching/counseling wheel include:

  1. Positive Coaching - "I know you can do this and I have confidence in you, now go out there and do it!"
  2. Negative Coaching - "You have procrastinated for too long. If you don't do it, disciplinary action will take place."
  3. Positive Counseling - "I am concerned about what's going on, you have always done well. What is going on?"
  4. Negative Counseling - "I am irritated and upset because this situation is hard to understand. I don't know if there is even a solution. What's going on?"

A proactive manager will praise her sales team three times more than she criticizes them to instill a sense of pride among the team (Miller 2009, p. 157).

THINK POINT #3: A proactive manager has clear cut goals that are mutually agreed upon and regularly updated with his employees

These goals have measurable objectives and are developed over time. Setting SMART (specific, measurable, attainable, relevant, and time-bound) goals can act as a roadmap to guide your actions. Goals should be revisited often to measure, define, and redefine the objectives to stay focused on the target. Fine-tuning goals on a regular basis facilitates communication between the broker/manager and the agent/employee, as well as interaction between the different layers of management.

THINK POINT #4: Proactive managers develop motivational programs that encourage growth as well as results

Engaging with client is a very emotional game and keeping your sales team motivated is a critical factor that drives success. While each person is in charge of her own motivations, proactive managers use external factors (actions and events) to make people to feel, do, or think a certain way. To encourage a competitive environment, a reward system needs to be relevant, unbiased, and well planned to heighten the level of excitement. Frederick Herzberg created a model that separated workplace factors into two categories: motivation and maintenance. The maintenance factors deal with simple workplace issues, where motivational factors deal with praise, reward and recognition, and learn-and-grow challenges. A proactive sales manager will consistently develop and grow his team by using learn-and-grow challenges. Ideas and challenges will foster an innovative culture that will push each individual and drive the team to meet its objectives. Positive motivational actions centered around praise, rewards, and challenges are key elements in hiring, motivating, and keeping top performers.

A proactive manager who communicates effectively through coaching and counseling, establishes clear cut goals, and motivates the sales team, will have the essential skills needed to cultivate capable and competent agents and team members.

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Recommended Reading

Miller, William "Skip." (2009). ProActive Sales Management: How to Lead, Motivate, and Stay Ahead of the Game (2nd ed.). New York: AMACOM.

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About the Author

Drew Johns, MBA Candidate, May 2011, Baylor University
Graduate Assistant, Keller Center for Research

Drew is a first-year graduate student from Mansfield, TX. He earned his BBA with a major in finance from Baylor University.