So you want to be a sales manager? It’s a rewarding and tough job that requires the skills of a good parent, the vision of a CEO and insights of a psychologist. This unusual combination of skills is the reason many companies struggle to find the right person to lead their sales organization. Ask and answer the following questions to see if you have what it takes for success in leading a high performance sales team.
Are you more motivated by the thrill of the hunt or the thrill of development? Great sales manager’s get their juices flowing when they hear about the success of a salesperson on their team closing a big deal versus their own success in closing the deal. The successful sales manager likes handing out pats on the back instead of seeking applause for their efforts. Like a proud parent, the proud sales manager brags from the sidelines, ‘that’s my boy/girl!’
Can you wear two hats at one time? A sales manager must be sensitive to the challenges faced by field reps and present those issues to corporate personnel. At the same time, a sales manager must understand the big picture and profitability which means saying no to some of the sales team’s demands. (No, we cannot carry one more item in the warehouse.) It’s called managing up and managing down. The key is not wearing any one hat too long because it results in bad hair and bad decisions.
Can you sell or can you teach someone to sell? Once you earn the title of sales manager, it doesn’t matter how well you prospect and close. The only thing that matters is how well you transfer those skills to the sales team. You might be able to close enough deals the first year as a sales manager to hit the company quota. It’s a guarantee you can’t hit that quota year after year just on your own abilities and time. The best sales managers develop salespeople who are better than them at closing the business. It’s called talent transfer and transformation.
Can you see into the future or are you stuck in the past? The difference between a sales manager and a sales leader is that a manager is stuck in the muck and mire of day to day operations. They can only see what is happening ten feet in front of them. The excellent sales leader lifts their head, identifies future opportunities and executes strategy to capture those opportunities. They know how to work on the important, not just the urgent.
Are you a fun lover or a fun hater? You can be very serious about business and also be very serious about the business of fun. Sales representatives, by nature, enjoy humor and fun. A great sales manager has the ability to diffuse tense situations by pointing up the humor even in tough situations. The effective sales manager knows they have two quotas’ to hit each year: the fun quota and the sales quota.
Are you willing to be lonely a few days a year? Yes, it’s true. Being a sales leader brings new meaning to the words, ‘lonely at the top.’ When it’s time to execute change because of consumer demands, profitability or competition, you may find yourself leading the charge---alone. Raising the bar on performance seldom brings an immediate ‘atta boy’ from the sales team until they see how the changes positively affect their compensation and longevity of the company. Good sales managers are okay going it alone when the challenge calls for such behavior.
How are you at trying on shoes? Great sales managers are emotionally intelligent and take the time to know each person on their team and find out what personally motivates them. The effective sales manager may wear loafers, Crocs and spike heels all in one day because they know each salesperson is on their team is unique and can’t be mass managed.
Will you leave the office? There is only one person signing everyone’s check and they are called a customer. You can hold all the brainstorming meetings that you want in the corporate office; however, it is the customer who really knows what’s important. Get out of the corporate white house and meet with key customers to see and hear their stories. There is always something lost if you are just getting information from the sales team and surveys.
These are just a few of the qualities that make up a successful sales manager. How did you do on the questionnaire? Are you ready for the job?
About the Author
Colleen Stanley is president of Sales Leadership Inc., a business development consulting firm specializing in sales and sales management training. She is the author of ‘Emotional Intelligence For Sales Success’ and ‘Growing Great Sales Teams.’
Disclaimer: The views and opinions expressed in this article are strictly those of the author. CPSA does not endorse any of the companies, products and services mentioned within this article.