A successful sales manager has many qualities – organized, a great communicator, the ability to look at the big picture, problem solver and so much more. Being a sales manager is a big job and over the years we’ve seen it all. From department managers with no sales experience to top salespeople being promoted to a management position. Looking to become an effective sales manager, need to hire a sales manager, or simply wonder what makes someone great at their sales manager job? Read on as we dive deeper into the skills that separate the average sales manager from those who are successfully managing a team.
What are Sales Managers Responsible for?
Sales managers can impact your entire organization, from reaching sales goals to motivating team members. In order to understand what makes a great sales manager, let’s be clear on the job itself.
Sales managers’ roles may vary slightly between companies and industries, but for the most part some expected duties include:
- Planning, budgeting and forecasting
- Creating sales strategies and techniques to hit sales targets
- Ensuring sales processes are documented and followed
- Hiring, motivating and advising sales team members
- Providing the sales team with proper tools and technologies to succeed
- Holding team members accountable to metrics and key performance indicators
- Maintaining and enhancing client relationships
The points above are a general look at what to expect from a sales manager but admittedly there are plenty more. We’ll talk later about how a manager can handle these well, and what to look for in the right match for the job.
But first, we’ll first take a look at the instances where managers may lack some skills, negatively affecting the company.
Common Issues for Sales Managers
While every industry has their unique challenges, it’s safe to say that there are some uniform problems that sales managers everywhere must face. Some of the most common issues that a sales manager may be confronted with are:
Having too much on their plate
And because of this, they end up neglecting the development of their sales reps. It can be easy to get wrapped up in other responsibilities – reporting, meetings, numbers, etc. — and forget to put time into helping your sales team grow. Studies show that a primary reason sales people leave a company is when they don’t feel their manager cares about them and that the company is not investing in their development.
Not using data when crafting an approach
We live in an age of analytics and data proliferation, and leveraging them is becoming more and more important even for sales managers. Sales managers need to use the tools at their disposal – CRMs especially – to measure and analyze the right things and to produce meaningful metrics and key performance indicators that will help their sales teams focus on the right things.
The tendency to micromanage
Typically, one of the biggest issues for new managers is being able to take a step back and let their reps do their job. When you’re used to being a sales rep, it can be hard to not micromanage or do the job yourself. But as a manager, that’s exactly what needs to be done. Learn to back off and guide your team members through the process and help them make good decisions toward closing their deals.
Investing time and effort into your relationship with the marketing team can be very beneficial for your organization. Marketing and sales teams should be on the same page and establish clear and common goals that are well-defined to eliminate overlap. Bridging the gap between your sales team and the marketing department could have a great impact.
Have you ever had trouble with any of the four problems above?
It’s not uncommon and it won’t be the end of your sales team, unless no one makes a change. While these challenges are to be expected at one time or another, there are some red flags that a sales manager may not be fit for the job.
Some key indicators of weak sales management include:
- a lack of communication with and between sales team members
- inadequate pipeline metrics or inaccurate pipeline reporting
- inconsistent recruiting or high sales rep turnover
- limited training or sales program offerings
- no focus on developing culture, poor team-building or lack of respect within the sales team
Each of these red flags can be reversed with proper training, but if it’s gone on too long it may be time to look for new management.
Now that you know how to spot an ineffective sales manager, let’s shift our focus to the positive. What are the qualities to look for to put the right person in place managing a team?
What Makes a Great Sales Manager: The Skills to Lead
When seeking top sales management, many companies have a sort of wish list they hope to fulfill with the best candidate. Here are the characteristics that we recommend looking for when hiring a sales manager:
Sales managers must be organized, analytical, and great at sales, but as a manager they should have the ability to motivate and inspire their sales reps to maximize their potential. Great sales managers understand their team, their individual strengths, weaknesses, and help reps build on these foundations.
2. Ability to Train and Mentor
What good is a manager who is great at sales but they can’t spread the knowledge to other team members? Sales managers should be a resource for your sales team and help them develop and sharpen their skills. The ability to effectively communicate and share your talents with your team is key for them to learn and grow in their roles.
3. Good Strategist
A top sales manager will utilize data and have strong analysis abilities that they can use to create strategies, both short and long term. Great sales managers will make smart plans based off of relevant information, especially those from key accounts/opportunities.
Good sales strategy also involves a well-organized CRM. A sales manager who understands and incorporates this knows how to bring it all together.
4. Calm, Collected, and Focused
These qualities are of course very important to being an effective leader. Sales leadership is not for the faint of heart. Being able to remain calm under pressure is essential, otherwise that stress can trickle down to other team members and prevent everyone from doing their best work.
5. Solid Communication Skills
This one might seem obvious, but being a sales manager means working and collaborating with all types of people. Having good ‘people’ skills will be key in working with sales teams, clients, direct reports, and higher-ups. The ability to communicate clearly is just about everything here.
These five skills are just a handful of the ones that make up a great sales manager, but it’s a great place to start. If you’re interested in developing your own skills or you need management training for your current sales leaders, we have a program for you.
We offer a Certified Sales Leader Program, an in-person training led by an experienced VP of Sales, who will also coach and consult your Sales or business manager. Through 16 lessons we will focus on the entire sales management skill set and supplying needed sales processes and tools. We will guide your team on how to relate the practical application of the program for future success as well as an idea of how to implement these proven practices for your company.
For further insights, check out this article on becoming a manager after being a sales rep.
Sales Leadership Coaching with 360 Consulting
To expedite meeting and exceeding your sales goals, it might be time to call in reinforcements. Schedule your free consultation here to find out how we help sales teams break sales records.