Simply put, successful sales teams start with highly effective sales managers.
Through our work with successful sales organizations across the nation and globally, we have discovered a set of skills and characteristics that the most effective sales managers all have in common.
Need to know how to hire a sales manager? The following 16 skills are what set highly effective managers above the rest, enabling their teams to achieve above-average results and their organizations to succeed.
1. FIND the best people for the job.
Sales managers take responsibility for their team’s success, starting with hiring the best talent they can find. Recruiting and hiring the best costs more, but saves loads of time and money on training — and also protects you from failure in the future. Great sales managers look for people who fit well with the organization, and they aren’t afraid to hire people who are actually better than they are.
2. KNOW how to sell.
They use a customer-focused sales process, and provide consistent coaching to their team that will help them execute the process.
3. INSPIRE their team to succeed.
There is a time to manage, and there is a time to lead. Metrics and deadlines are a great way to measure performance, but not to drive it. Leaders look forward, not back. They work to develop themselves and their teams, and find ways to motivate and inspire their people to strive for excellence.
4. SET the pace.
The sales manager sets and manages the cadence of the team. Every organization has a heartbeat and a sales team thrives when all the components of the sales and management process follow regular standards and schedules. Great sales managers use the tools at their disposal to track performance and provide feedback quickly and regularly — in real time, if possible — so sales reps don’t feel a need to stop and check in while deals are in motion.
5. CULTIVATE a high-performance sales culture.
Having a process, setting goals, and monitoring the pipeline are good and necessary, but culture eats strategy for breakfast. Great sales managers don’t rely on theoretical or arbitrary programs to drive sales team performance. Align and leverage the team’s social network with organizational goals, giving them targets that are practical, comfortable, and natural for them and for the team’s cultural expectations.
6. DEFINE a process.
The sales team needs to know and practice a standardized process for approaching, qualifying, working with, and closing the customer. Great sales managers know it is possible to over-engineer the sales process, though a rigid, complex process can just confuse the reps and tie their hands. Real-time feedback from the manager can help reps maintain flexibility and make adjustments as necessary in dynamic sales environments.
7. GET INVOLVED in sales enablement.
Sales teams need tools to help them understand and track their progress. Great sales managers leverage CRM tools like Salesforce, and are regularly involved in coaching reps to ensure they are using the available tools effectively and have all the support they need to succeed.
8. MEASURE the team’s performance.
The quality of any strategy is only as good as its execution, and metrics are the guideposts along the way. Great sales managers focus on a set of critical metrics, or key performance indicators, and pay attention to how their team is performing. They can then act on that information to increase the effectiveness of decisions going forward.
9. MANAGE the forward pipeline.
This isn’t the same thing as forecasting; effective sales managers understand the difference. Forecasting is focused on late-stage deals, and does little to help with future quarters. Forward pipeline is actually focused on the future development of sales, which ultimately impacts later forecasts.
10. COMMUNICATE with their team.
Nothing is more important to sales makers than knowing what is expected of them and when it is expected. Great sales managers keep their communication clear and their expectations well defined, so that team members know what to aim for, and understand what will happen if they hit it (or not).
11. LISTEN to their team.
Communication is a two-way street. Effective sales managers keep their doors open for questions, and solicit feedback and ideas from their team. This ensures the sales makers know they are valued, respected, and supported, and can also lead to positive innovations.
Coaching is the responsibility most neglected by sales managers, because it requires them to borrow time from their already busy day. Great sales managers, though, place a high priority on coaching; they know it builds confidence and drives production. Scheduled or not, coaching should happen in the moment and at every opportunity.
13. HERD the cats.
Sales professionals are a unique breed. High performers, mavericks and very competitive individuals can be a challenge to work with and lead. Great sales managers know how to motivate, reward, and leverage this type of cat — maximizing performance, minimizing conflict, making good reps great, and using their success to motivate others.
14. WATCH leading indicators.
Great sales managers are always thinking ahead. They pay attention to small changes and trends, and catch minor issues before they turn into big problems. In doing so, the effective sales manager prevents bad habits developing into lasting weaknesses that cost productivity and sales.
15. PROTECT their time.
Good time management habits maximize the manager’s and the team’s ability to reach goals. Great sales managers set clear priorities and goals, eliminating demands that don’t help drive revenue and enabling their teams to make the most of their time by focusing on activities that are aligned with important goals.
16. CELEBRATE success.
“The greatest leader is not necessarily the one who does the greatest things. He is the one that gets the people to do the greatest things.”