What Makes a Sales Manager Successful?

I want to talk about what makes a sales manager successful, those keys traits and skills that set the great sales manager apart from the regular sales manager. The following are the four key areas that every great sales manager must master in order to build and manage a high performing sales team.

1. Hiring and Selecting Top Salespeople

To hire great salespeople, you need a well-defined hiring process. This isn’t something you can achieve by relying on your instincts. To hire great salespeople, you need to utilize the tools that can help you determine if the candidate has the specific knowledge, skills, and behaviors to be successful in your organization. It requires obtaining complete clarity around the role, which begins with clarifying what the salesperson is selling (products and/or services), who they are selling to (decision-makers titles), how long the sales cycle is, and the average sale in dollars. This will help you define the complexity of the sale and the type of salesperson who can be successful in your environment.

Then, based on the above sales data, you  need to determine the tasks they must perform to accomplish the sales objectives, the knowledge required to effectively perform them, the ideal and/or required behavioral traits, and most importantly, how success will be measured in doing all these tasks--as opposed to just measuring the end game of closing the sale. For an example and template for creating this type of job description, download our FREE Peak Performance Profile eBook:

2. Training and Development

A great sales manager understands that ongoing training is critical towards success and has a process for training their salespeople. This training process includes:

  • Company history, culture, process, systems, clients, target market/prospects, etc.
  • Products and services
  • Sales Training, which includes the ability to develop (if not already in place) a well-defined sales strategy and process

When a sales manager knows how to do these things effectively, his or her new salespeople should be fully productive within the first 90 days. That does not always mean they will be closing sales at that point if say, you have an average sales cycle of 6 months or longer, but you will be able to monitor and measure their activity that will lead to them closing sales.

3. Managing and Holding People Accountable

A common mistake of many sales managers is only holding their team accountable to the end result of closing a sale. A sales manager should monitor and measure the activity that leads up to a sale, and sales activity metrics should be established for each salesperson. These metrics can include the number of new prospects identified each week, the number of sales meetings they have, the number of proposals submitted, and the percentage of qualified opportunities in their pipeline, which typically is 3 to 5 times the sales goal. 

A sales manager should also have a weekly one-to-one session with each of their salespeople. During the one to one, the manager should review what the salesperson has done towards the accomplishment of these metrics, what they are going to do, and what help they might need to accomplish their objectives. This will help the sales manager identify where and how to help each salesperson.

4. Leading and Motivating

Leading is about inspiring people to want to follow you. This is not accomplished with a big stick but rather by showing your team you care about them as people. Your people need to know that you have their back and that you are there to support and help them grow.

A great sales manager also understands that all salespeople are not the same: they each have their own unique set of motivating factors (one size does not fit all). The sales manager’s job is to determine what motivates each of their salespeople, and then apply that technique to meet their needs.

There are a lot of great personality assessment tools on the market that will help you determine precisely what motivates your team members. I recommend checking out the MPO personality profile by Ngenio and the Values Index by Innermtrix.