The 4 Skills of Great Sales Managers

skills of great sales managers

In my last post, A Sales Management Truth: Why Top Sales Hunters Don't Make Good Sales Managers, I conclude with a list of the 4 skills of great sales managers that drive sales growth. These include:

1. Hiring and selecting top salespeople.

2. Training & development.

3. Managing & holding people accountable.

4. Leading & motivating.

Notice that none of these include being a great salesperson, possessing in-depth product/service knowledge, or having extensive industry expertise which is typically what my customers tell me they are seeking in thier next great sales manager. I agree that these are all things an effective sales manager needs to be fluent in, however, they are not the things that make a person a great sales manager.

To help you better understand this, I'm going to explain this top 4 list more thoroughly to help you better identify what a great sales manager must possess in order to build and manage a high performing sales team. So let's begin:

1. Hiring and selecting top salespeople.

To hire great salespeople, you must have a well-defined hiring process. This is not something you can achieve by relying on your instincts or some other magical powers you think you may possess. This requires a well-thought-out process and tools that 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.This begins with getting clear about what the salesperson is selling (products and/or services), who they are selling to (decision-makers titles), how long the sales cycle is, and what the average sale in dollars is. This helps you define the complexity of the sale and the type of sales person who can be successful in your environment. One size does not fit all!

Based on the above sales data, you then 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 Vs just measuring the end game of closing the sale. For an example  and template for creating this type of job description:

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2. Training & development.

A great sales manager understands that on-going training is critical towards success and has the ability and a process for training their salespeople. Some of these include:

a)     Company history, culture, process, systems, clients, target market/prospects, etc.

b)     Products and services.

c)     Sales Training, which includes the ability to develop (if not already in place) a well-defined sales strategy and process (I will provide more on this in a future post.)

When a great sales manager knows how to do these things effectively, their 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.

For more on this, read my two-part blog series, Zero to Sixty in 90 Days: Getting New Hires Productive ASAP.

3. Managing & holding people accountable.

As mentioned earlier, a common mistake of many sales managers is only holding their team accountable to the end result of closing a sale. To be truly effective, a sales manager should monitor and measure the activity that leads to a sale and these 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 & 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. Remember the old adage, “People don’t care how much you know until they know how much you care.” 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.

The good news is that you don’t have to guess. There are a lot of great personality assessment tools on the market that will help you determine precisely what motivates your team members. Two I recommend are the MPO personality profile by Ngenio and the Values Index by Innermtrix.

Your Turn:

What do you believe are the skills of a great sales manager?

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