Seven Types of Sales Managers
September 11, 2013 Editor 0
Over the past decade, I’ve worked closely with hundreds of vice presidents of sales, and like all of people, each has a unique personality. Some are gregarious. Some are assertive. Some are action-oriented. But even as I observe their individual differences, I have recognized patterns of behavior, which have allowed me to catalog their styles of sales management.
I have found that seven management styles are most prevalent: mentor, expressive, sergeant, Teflon, micromanager, overconfident and amateur. Most likely, a sales leader will use several different management styles and move from one style to another depending on the situation.
To better understand these sales management styles, I asked more than 60 top vice presidents of sales from leading high technology and business services companies to estimate what percentage of their time they used a particular management style, and then to rank the applicability of the style to the success in their role on a scale of 1 (least important) to 5 (most important). Below, you will find a description of each style and the average results for the study group.
Mentors are charismatic leaders and sales experts who measure their success using three criteria: exceeding revenue goals, creating an environment where the entire team can succeed, and helping all team members realize their individual potential. Mentors are confident in their own abilities and possess the business insight to know what needs to be done and how to do it. On average, study participants reported they used the mentor management style 26 percent of the time. In terms of importance as a driver of success, they gave mentor management style the highest ranking of all the styles at 4.3.
Expressive managers are people-oriented with a flair for sharing their emotions and amplifying the emotions of those around them. They have a natural ability to put people at ease but are also quite comfortable extolling or admonishing the team. Expressive managers create an environment where a considerable amount of energy is focused on how their organization is thought of and perceived within the company. Study participants indicated they used the expressive management style 30 percent of the time on average and ranked the style’s importance at 4.
The sergeant is named after the field sergeant in a military organization. Sergeants develop an intense loyalty to their team, perhaps even greater than their personal loyalty to their company. They are hard workers who are constantly worrying about their “troops.” They will even sacrifice their own best interests and tolerate personal hardships if they feel it will benefit their team. The sergeant management style is used 18 percent of the time on average and its importance was ranked at 3.2.
Teflon managers are pleasant, agreeable, and polite people. However, unlike sergeants, they tend not to have deep personal relationships with their sales team members. Another characteristic of Teflon managers is their ability to stay above the daily fray of politics. Regardless of the situation, Teflon managers are even keeled and rarely frazzled. The Teflon management style is used 10 percent of the time on average and its importance was ranked at 2.
Micromanagers are the most organized and methodical of all the management types. They have a strong sense of responsibility to their company and they pride themselves on achieving their revenue goals. They tend to be all-or-nothing thinkers who want things done their way. The micromanager style is used 7 percent of the time on average and its importance was ranked 3.3.
Overconfident managers tend to be more self-centered. They are charming and gregarious in public, excellent on sales calls. They tend not to be open to feedback and will get the job done their way and succeed at any cost. The overconfident management style is used 6 percent of the time on average and its importance was ranked at 1.8.
The amateur management style should not necessarily be equated to someone who is new to sales management. Rather, the style reflects that the person is outside of their comfort zone in a new management role, working with an unfamiliar product at a new company, or in a new industry. As a result, their management style may suffer an identity crisis until they are able to build back their practical sales experience. Study participants indicated they experienced the amateur management style 3 percent of the time on average and ranked the style’s importance at 1.
The structure and effectiveness of the sales department will mirror the sales management style of its leaders. This is because sales leaders naturally imprint themselves on their organization. Therefore, it can be argued that the vice president of sales is the most important person within a company because this person is in charge of an organization’s most critical assets: customers and the revenue they generate.
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