How to Manage A Team of Experienced Sales Reps

As you start your professional journey towards salespeople’s leadership, there’s always new information to learn and to take in. But one “issue” you might come across is managing salespeople who might have even more experience than you. However, this should not be cause for concern – in fact, there’s much to be glad about if that is your case,

Some might feel insecure or uncertain of their abilities in this scenario, or perhaps it can make them unsure about how to speak to these more experienced reps. Here’s some useful advice to help you handle reps who are a bit more experienced in the field.

1. Value your team members’ experience and consider it as an asset for your team

One good thing about having people in your team that are even more experienced than you is having access to all that know-how you would normally take years to acquire. Understand which rep knows more about what and give value to their opinion and their suggestions. Whether they give it in a simple conversation or in a meeting, you must keep in mind that it comes from a place of experience and from people who are knowledgeable about the market – and often, they know things about it that don’t change with time.

2. Be honest about your own experience – even when you don’t have any

Honesty is of high importance in a team. If there is ever a moment where you are hesitant or you feel like you don’t have sufficient knowledge or experience to make a decision, it is not wrong to say so. Especially because your more experienced coworkers will be able to tell if you don’t really know what you are doing! It’s better to be transparent about your experience – or the lack of it – than end up making the wrong decision for the team.

3. Display reliable leadership

As you try to balance experience and decision-making, at the end of the day, you’re the one managing your team and you make the calls. Just because there are members of your team who are more experienced in selling than you are, doesn’t mean they’re also better managers. There are people who are skilled in selling but not in managing salespeople. Yes, it is important to listen to what others have to say, but you are the only one who has the whole picture, and you’re the one answering for the company’s performance. You might be inclined to constantly give in to what your team is saying, especially in the case of more experienced employees. Remember to trust your knowledge, your experience, and your instincts – most times, they are the things that put you in that position. 

4. Be a leader, not just a demanding boss

Experienced or not, there is not a single employee who enjoys a tyrant of a boss. So as you speak to your salespeople, you should always lead them, not just boss them around. Being considerate and respectful goes a long, long way with coworkers, and the same applies to manage positions. It’s one thing to even be assertive at times, but to demand things “just because” is unreasonable. Make sure your team knows the reasons behind what you are asking, and be as clear with them as possible.

5. Don’t hesitate to consult your team for suggestions

Are you not sure of where to go next? How about discussing your options or even your doubts with your team? That is actually when that experience will come in handy the most! Discussing a certain situation with experienced reps can help you see things from a different perspective, probably one you wouldn’t think of on your own. If two heads are better than one, just imagine what a whole team can come up with. Additionally, treating your employees as equals and showing how much you value their input can make your employees respect you more.

6. Treat people management as a constant learning process

Another thing that will certainly help you become a better sales leader is to keep learning about managing salespeople. As a leader, you will come across all kinds of situations with all types of coworkers. While it is hard to predict all of them, educating yourself can certainly help you in dealing with any possible scenario. 

A great way to actually do that is to speak to your HR department and ask for some guidance. Not only do they have the most experience dealing with other people according to company standards, but they‌ ‌can also connect you with other professionals and potential mentors so that you can continue to improve that aspect of your professional career.

7. Be patient about difficulties with new trends and technologies

Some more “experienced” employees might be accustomed to certain processes, tools, or technologies. Adapting and adjusting to the many changes in the market in terms of technology and day-to-day tasks can be a bit challenging for them. Be sure to set aside some time for sufficient training to make sure everyone on your team is up to date.

8. Find a mentor

A mix of theory and practice is what makes a good professional, so as you get all the practice you can at work, you should also look into learning as much as you can. Learning from the job is one thing but learning from successful sales leaders who have methods to make you better understand what you need to know about managing salespeople can be more effective. They can point out things to keep an eye on that you wouldn’t notice on your own.

Wrapping Up

The market and this industry may continue to change and evolve but some things remain constant. Sales is also about human behavior. What experienced reps have to offer will always be valuable, even if you do not choose to abide by their suggestions. Whether to learn from past mistakes or to follow traditional concepts, knowledge, and experience are too precious to be taken for granted.

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James Meincke

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