Every sales manager has a unique style based on his or her distinct personality. Still, it’s possible to put each into one of seven basic types, according to a recent article in the Harvard Business Review.
The publication identified the seven management styles that are most prevalent: mentor, expressive, sergeant, Teflon, micromanager, overconfident and amateur. Most sales leaders use a mixture of these diverse styles, altering their recipes depending on the need presented. Indeed, perhaps the best managers in any field are those best at reading situations and picking an appropriate style.
HBR asked the top vice presidents of sales for business and technology service industries to say how often they use each approach and how important each is (on a scale of 1 to 5) in their overall success. In terms of propelling your own sales career forward, it’s worth considering which styles might be most effective for you.
Here’s a look at some of the results:
Mentors are persuasive leaders that are able to create an environment conducive to tapping into both team and individual potentials. Mentors are certain of their own abilities and possess the business acumen to know what needs to be done and how to do it. Study participants reported they used the mentor management style 26 percent of the time. They also gave the mentor management style the highest ranking of all the styles identified in terms of importance as a driver of success, with a 4.3.
Expressive managers are both people-oriented and adept at showing their feelings in manipulating the emotions of those around them. Expressives have the ability to use their charm in putting people at ease, but are also quite comfortable in alternatively lauding and criticizing their team. Study participants indicated they used the expressive management style 30 percent of the time on average and ranked the style’s importance at a 4.
Sergeants are equated with the rank of field sergeant in the military. Sergeants in business develop an intense loyalty to their team, perhaps even greater than their own personal regard for their company. These type of leaders are tireless operatives who are constantly concerned about their subordinates, a.k.a. their “squad.” 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. Unlike sergeants, though, they tend not to have deep relationships with their sales team members. Teflon managers tend to stay above the daily fray of politics. Regardless of the situation, Teflon managers are even-keeled and rarely rattled. 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 systematic of the management types. Those using this style have a strong sense of responsibility to their company, and also pride themselves on achieving their 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 self-centered. They are charismatic and gregarious in public, and 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 reflects that the person is in a new management role, working with an unfamiliar product at a new company, or in a new industry. As a result, his or her management style might suffer from confusion until there’s time to build practical sales experience. Study participants indicated they experienced the amateur management style 3 percent of the time, and ranked the style’s importance at 1.
Studies like this are more than an exercise in labeling. The structure and effectiveness of a sales organization reflects the management style of its leaders. It’s worth taking a step back and thinking about your own style or styles. Are they working for you? And, are they having the effect you want?