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

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Planning for Sales Success

To enter into a battle without a plan is the height of stupidity and arrogance. Such generals should be put to death for they risk the lives of their warriors…”

Sun Tzu, Chinese Military General, circa 2500BC

In all my years of business development management and consulting, probably the greatest challenge I experience is getting sales teams to invest the proper time and effort in planning. All too often it is neglected or not treated with the seriousness it deserves. And sadly, those who do plan often overcomplicate the process.

I am a firm believer in keeping things simple. Whether it’s a strategic business plan, a marketing plan, a sales plan for a territory, or an individual’s sales plan – it should be short, sharp and to the point.

Your sales plan should detail the how you are going to retain and grow existing business, as well as bring on new business. For both new and existing clients, your plan should include both strategies – the high level plans to achieve your objectives and tactics – the actions necessary to carry out your plan. Read more