No one wants to be a bottleneck boss, but well-meaning sales managers often find themselves in that position. Over-scheduling and a lack of the right priorities can keep sales managers from getting back to their team members in a timely manner, causing lost sales and a loss of respect. Cultivate a leadership style that values coaching to grow your team and stay out of the bottleneck.
The best leader is a great coach. The first steps toward moving in that direction are declaring your purpose and sharing your new vision with your team. The focus of any sales manager is ultimately increasing sales and retaining clients. The best way to do this is to coach every team member to work toward these goals each day. Teach your sales force to be students of their clients. Salespeople need to anticipate needs and solve problems before the client even knows they exist. Communicate these values to each team member to avoid losing sales to the competition. Your team members need to know how to solve problems on their own. If they always need your reaction and permission, occasional lost sales from your lack of time to respond are inevitable.
One of the biggest challenges to switching from a directive and reactive management style to a leadership style focused on coaching is letting go of the fear of losing control of your department. Start by remembering that the sales manager and the sales professionals are all part of a team. On a team, each person needs to do their part in order to win the game. Pay attention to your sales team members, and learn their strengths and weaknesses. Show value for strengths by seeking out opinions and ideas from your team members. Minimize weaknesses by providing direct coaching in those areas. Keep your focus on making each team member more valuable. This method takes you out of the equation when problems arise for fewer lost sales.
Many sales managers choose to remain directive because of perfectionist tendencies. The road to change is rarely smooth. Expect plenty of bumps along the way. Start by focusing on each interaction and choice with a coaching-centered attitude. Cultivate a culture of sharing. Ask questions to improve your team's performance. If you have changed your thoughts and your beliefs about leadership, different choices naturally follow. Remember that it took a while to become that directive leader who solves everyone's problems. Likewise, it will take a while to become a leader who coaches team members to be able to answer their own questions.
It did not take one situation to become a bottleneck boss, and it will likely take many situations to move out of that position. Focus on growing your team and making good choices, one decision at a time. If you value a coaching leadership style in your mind, better actions will follow to help you move toward becoming a better sales manager.
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