Snapshot of a Successful Sales Manager

Over the past few months I’ve posted a number of articles on the roles that successful sales managers must perform. I’ve written about leadership, coaching, planning, performance management, reporting and hiring. All critical roles that accomplished sales managers must master and continually develop.

But I’ve often been asked to summarise what I believe makes a sales manager successful – to sum it up in a few succinct sentences. A few sentences to summarise such a diverse and important role is difficult. But I have put together my thoughts that hopefully highlight to key elements of sales management success.

“You get the best effort from others not by lighting a fire beneath them, but by lighting a fire within”…Bob Nelson

However, let me start by sharing with you the key reasons I have found sales managers are NOT successful:

  • Selling is what they know best and they want to stay in their comfort zone – they spend more time selling than managing
  • They don’t realise that managing is less about personally meeting performance objectives; and more about assisting and allowing others to develop to meetpersonal objectives and contribute to team objectives
  • They take ownership of top-end accounts
  • They take over sales situations
  • Delegating is less comfortable for them – many managers want to do everything themselves
  • They don’t trust members of their team to handle important accounts
  • Worse than not trusting team members, they play favourites
  • They are fire-fighters who cannot provide a clear sense of direction for members of their team to follow
  • Their compensation plans are not structured to make it in their best interest to manage their team to deliver
  • They don’t give credit where it’s due. Worse, they take credit not rightfully theirs
  • They do not like being bearers of bad news – particularly up the management line

So, if these are the traits and actions of ineffective sales managers, what does the effective sales manager do differently? Firstly we need to realise a good sales manager does not necessarily need to be a good salesperson. The skill sets required to be successful in each role are inherently different, and I have both worked for and employed sales managers who had not beed successful in sales roles. Here are some of the common attributes I have found in the successful sales managers I have worked with:

  • They are effective schedulers
  • They have comprehensive knowledge of the market, their company, the competition and their products/services
  • They can clearly present the value proposition of the organisation across all target markets
  • They understand and continually learn ‘how to sell’ – the most appropriate sales methodologies and processes for their business (note I do no say they can apply these as effectively as their sales people might)
  • They have a strong alignment with other departments, increasingly so with marketing
  • They set and work to priorities
  • They think more ‘we’ and less ‘me’
  • They have excellent communications skills – at all levels and in appropriate context
  • They have a strong interest in coaching and developing their team members
  • They understand a champion team will win out over a team of champions
  • They know their place in the team
  • They understand respect has to be earned; they do not have the ‘authority’ to demand respect
  • They constantly look to develop themselves – all too often training focusses on the salesperson/team and not the sales manager

“No coach has ever won a game by what he does [on the field]; it’s what his players do that counts”…Paul Bryant, US Football Coach

Successful sales managers understand their responsibility is to help their team achieve their goals. They understand how to leverage the strengths of individuals in a non-manipulative way for the benefit of the team, the company and most importantly the customer. They help their team understand their weaknesses and help them develop. Ultimately, it’s about leading, not doing.

This article was previously posted on Linked In.