Great sales people often ask me about what it takes to make the next step in their career. For some it’s a role that shifts them from retail to wholesale sales. For others it’s a discussion about whether or not they are ready to pursue a role in sales management. In all these discussions, one thing is very clear. Many of the best salespeople would make awful sales managers. And likewise, some mediocre sales people will end up being stellar sales managers.
So what does it take?
While the list of what it takes to be a great sales manager is somewhat subjective, here is a list of must-have skills I’ve put together based on many of the successful managers I know.
1. Disciplined and performance oriented. A good sales manager needs to always have an eye on improving the performance of their team. You need to be able to enforce accountability, recognize what needs to be improved, and be a coach to those improvements implemented. Additionally, you must also be prepared to take action when performance problems arise, and are not properly resolved.
2. Always ready to “Tow the Company Line”. Being loyal to your company is a key component to being a successful sales manager. I can guarantee that on a regular basis you’ll be caught between your company’s directives, and your staff’s desires. A good manager must be able to resolve that conflict, get the team on board, and work with his team to develop the necessary strategies to put the team of track to meet company goals.
3. Business based decision making skills. This is more of a mindset than a skill set. Your decisions must be based on what’s right for your business – not on the emotion of the decision. You need to understand your business, your customer’s business, and what it takes to make both successful. Then act accordingly.
4. Customer focused. In a sales management role, it’s very easy to become employee focused. You can get caught up in basing your daily activities around implementing things with your staff, and helping them with concerns or opportunities. However, what you must never do, is lose focus of the customer.
5. Sensitive to needs. As a manager you need to understand what drives each of your employees, in addition to what it takes to gets things accomplished with your supervisor or senior management. If you can understand their points of view and what drives them. Good things will happen.
6. Put the ego away - forever. Being a great sales manager is about being a great leader, coach, and business developer. It is not about how great you are and your past victories. You will need to admit when you are wrong, and have the ability to change your point of view
7. Be a problem solver, not a problem identifier. Simply pointing out problems and telling others to fix them is not leadership. Helping others develop and implement solutions to their problems is what makes a great manager.
8. Healthy and Energetic. As a manager, you’re an example to everyone. Stay healthy and you’ll have more energy. Increased energy = increased performance potential. It is that simple!
9. Solid core values. Without a strong value system, it’s tough to make a good decision. Without sticking to your values and principles, your team will wander and not produce results.
10. Thoughtful and a good sense of humor. It’s a lot easier to follow the leadership of someone you enjoy being around!