How To Make Your Rural Sales Manager Successful (+ 6 Skills Sets They Need)
Rural sales teams get a lot of support from their managers but who supports the sales manager?
We know high-performing sports teams are only as good as their coaches (think Graham Henry, Dick Tonks, Noeline Taurua, Steve Hansen or even Phil Jackson).
The same goes for any rural sales team.
Coaches need continual coaching so it makes sense that sales managers need the right support structures so they and their sales teams can be the very best they can be.
“Too often people get promoted out of doing what they actually like to do or are good at doing.” – Warren Berger
So often we see the highest-performing rural sales reps promoted to regional or national rural sales manager roles but given little or no training to succeed in their new role.
They are somehow expected to know what to do. Instead of setting them up for success we set them up to fail, especially when we don’t support them.
The set of skills they need to succeed as a sales manager are completely different skills to the ones that served them so well as an individual rural sales rep.
And isn’t it ironic that we spend so much time on-boarding and inducting our new sales rep recruits but we often fail to do the same with our newly-promoted sales managers.
Just because they were brilliant as a rural sales rep doesn’t always guarantee they will be brilliant as a rural sales manager.
A lot can get lost in translation and focussing on what they were good at in their old job won’t always make them successful in their new job.
As leadership expert and author Marshall Goldsmith famously said:
“What got you here won’t get you there.”
6 Skill Sets All Rural Sales Managers Need
Here are list of the top skill sets any newly-promoted regional or national/regional rural sales manager needs to acquire and master:
Skills Set #1: Pipeline propensity scoring
Sales managers need to negate the “happy ears” syndrome we see many sales teams afflicted with. Often information from the front-line can be biased because it is self-reporting (it often sounds like “yeah we had a really good meeting and it was a great conversation“). That’s why we encourage 2 brains are better than one on some sales calls to ensure there’s accuracy in the outtakes. The best way to properly qualify a prospect is to see if your rural rep has another date in their diary, can accurately identify where that prospect sits in your sales process (assuming you have one) and knows the role and rank of their buyer committee (multi-level selling).
Skills Set #2: Facilitate at the front line
Sometimes your sales team need you with them shoulder to shoulder. Spending the day with your sales team is often time well spent so you can see and observe with your own eyes how well they are performing. Sales reps often work remotely and get lonely feeling unsupported when they don’t get enough love and attention from head office. Don’t sit back in your ivory tower. Show them you care by getting out there with them.
Skills Set #3: Contribute to cold calls
Show them how you do it and gain the respect for it versus sitting behind your desk demanding it (a case of “do as I do” not “do as I say”). Actions always speak louder than words. Record the calls, revise the scripts and become better.
Skills Set #4: Sales team segmentation
Like customers, you have to know what personas you’re working with so you can talk their language instead of yours. That way you stand a much better chance of cut-through and truly motivating the members of your sales team (you can download your own sales team segmentation cheat sheet for free here)
Skills Set #5: Sharpening your own saw
What skills and strategies do you need to succeed as a sales manager? Who can coach the coach? What courses or conferences will you attend? How will you lead yourself before leading others? How will you set the standard?
Skills Set #6: Constant communication
Your sales team need your support at the start of the sale, not at the end. Top of the cliff vs. bottom of the cliff stuff. Don’t come steaming in at the end of the sales asking what’s gone wrong. Set them up for success at the start. Ask questions like:
- Is this the right type of customer for us?
- Do they fit our philosophy?
- What specific problem can we solve for them that others can’t?
- Are they people we want to spend time with?
- Do they have the resources to pay us?
Constant communication and qualification are key.
If you want the very best from your sales team, you have to get the very best from your sales manager.
These six steps are a good start.
If you’re struggling to set your rural sales manager or rural sales team up for success and need a hand, let’s schedule a qualifying call to see if we can help you here.
PS. We’re running a pilot programme for newly-appointed sales managers and will be offering the course at a discount before we go live. Get in touch if you want to be one of the first ten.