Qualities of Successful Sales Managers
It's not uncommon for the top salesperson on the team to be promoted to the role of a sales manager. After all, this is someone who has mastered sales, so he must be the perfect guy to run a sales team, right?
There's just one problem: sales management requires an entirely different attitude and skill set from sales. So before you consider pursuing a sales management career, ask yourself whether you possess the following attributes.
Works Well With Others
Many top salespeople prefer to work alone. They prefer the independent feeling of being on the phone or out on the road pursuing their own prospects.
But sales management requires you to work closely with other people all day long. Not only do you have to work with your team, you will also be expected to report back to upper management on a regular basis.
You will need to have great listening and communication skills and, since you're also a people manager (working closely with others), you'll need to show the people on your team you care about them, too. That means communicating with each team member effectively in a way they'll understand. After all, not everyone is created equally.
Comfortable Depending On Others
Salespeople are responsible for their own quotas. If a salesperson fails to make his sales, he might blame the economy or bad luck, but he can't blame his own team.
But sales managers goals are based on how well other people do. If his team succeeds, he succeeds. This doesn't sit well with many people – particularly former salespeople.
In order to succeed, he'll need to be able to motivate his team, and be able both challenge and inspire those around him. After all, he is the one who is responsible for giving the team its mojo.
Has Management Skills and Experience
Few salespeople have any experience with management. Of course, everyone has to start somewhere with any new skill, but jumping into sales management without management experience makes the transition much, much harder. A salesperson who is strong in other sales management skills will have a better chance than one who is already struggling in other areas.
Again, here's where communication, empathy and people management come into play. All of these are very important if you're going to be a manager of any kind, especially a sales manager.
Is a Company Person
Remember those communication skills? Here's another reason why they come in handy for a sales manager.
One of a sales manager's most important tasks is conveying information from upper management to the sales team. Any time there's a change in the compensation plan, a new product or a territory revision, the sales manager has to explain it to the sales team.
But just explaining is not enough — and here is where that experience as a sales person comes in handy. He has to essentially sell them on the changes. If the team doesn't like or accept management's policies, there will be serious trouble, and it's up to the sales manager to keep that from happening.
Can Handle Meetings...Lots of Meetings
If you hate sales meetings, guess what? Sales managers have to attend a lot of them. Not only does a sales manager run the regular sales meetings, he also has one-on-one meetings with individual team members, meetings with marketing, meetings with upper management, etc.
During meetings with salespeople, the sales manager is responsible for coordinating things and making sure the meeting is productive. With other departments and upper management, the sales manager has to represent his sales team.
Sticks to the Office
Unlike most salespeople who spend lots of time out of the office and visiting prospects, sales managers spend the vast majority of their time inside the office. There may be occasional offsite meetings or ride-alongs, but for the most part, a sales manager has to be in his office where he can be easily reached by his sales team.
A Sense of Optimism
Let's face it, no one likes a stick in the mud — especially if it's someone who's higher up. So it's important that a manager have a sense of optimism and humor. This is a key quality in a leader — someone who can see the bright side even when things may start to look a little murky.
Sales can be a little unpredictable because the business depends on the economy and the way people and companies spend. So if things end up becoming a little slow, you'll want to know your manager will help prop you up with a positive attitude instead of bringing you down.
Able to See the Big Picture
A salesperson is responsible for his own quota and accounts. But sales managers have to juggle the whole team's needs. This can be a real problem when several salespeople need help at once. Sales managers are also often responsible for setting quotas, drawing up sales plans and forecasting — which requires plenty of analytical thinking. A sales manager who can't plan well can end up torpedoing his own team.
Another part of this equation is the ability to look into the future. Being able to keep a pulse on what's needed for the continued success of the team and the company is an important quality to have in a sales manager. This means keeping tabs of employee numbers, quotas and any other developments — and being able to predict whether these may need to change going forward.