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Sales Managers – The Real Role

Superstar sales managers are far rarer to find than are superstar salespeople. The truth is that no one will ever perform any better than they are expected to perform…coached to perform or held accountable for their level of performance. It is this expectation and ongoing development role that the most effective sales managers fulfill.

Sales managers need to have mastery over a large number of things. Here are just a few:

  • Management know-how
  • Teambuilding expertise
  • Sales knowledge
  • Problem solving
  • Morale building
  • Time management
  • Product knowledge
  • Political skills
  • Account management
  • Goal setting skills
  • Motivational techniques
  • Self-management
  • Business acumen
  • Interpersonal skills
  • Supervisory skills

Although all of these are essential skills for being a productive sales manager, there are lots of others that play just as important a role.

Among those are:

  • Integrity – Simply doing what is right no matter what the outcome.
  • Consistency – Salespeople need to know, with some degree of predictability how their sales manager will act or react to issues or events.
  • Tact – Quite often it is not what someone says that is important. Just as often as not it is how they say it. That is tact.

All of that having been said, it is important to know that the sales manager is the one person who can influence sales and productivity more than any other person in an organization. Sales managers generally interview and hire salespeople, guide their growth then mentor and direct salespeople. Let me ask you this essential question, “Can the presence of an ineffective sales manager negatively impact a sales organization?” You know the answer to that question as well as I do!

So, let’s be more specific. Here are the ways that poor sales management can impact a sales organization:

  • Low morale
  • Salesperson turnover
  • Poor hiring practices
  • Plateaued sales
  • Low closing ratios
  • Poor sales or product knowledge
  • Non-existent teamwork
  • Perception of favoritism
  • Salesperson animosity
  • Poor client relationships
  • Ineffective communication
  • Lack of consistency
  • No controls
  • Too much control
  • No direction
  • Resistance to embrace new ideas

We could likely go on forever with the problems. What is the bottom line here? Sales managers can, quite simply, make or break a sales organization. Period.

One of the most perplexing problems I have faced is this one: How much sales management training do sales managers generally receive? The answer? Very little.

Sending a sales manager to a leadership symposium is great. The problem? Leading a sales organization is not like leading any other type of organization. The same is true when a sales manager is packed off to a management seminar or any other short-lived, relatively disconnected training that is far too general to be of any value to them.

The inevitable result is a reliance on their own gut-instincts, modeling of the behavior that their sales manager used with them or the application of general principles when a very specific set of skills is required.

Here’s the challenge. Selecting, training and managing sales managers could be the single most important function any organization could have. The military knows that. Enlisted personnel need the guidance of street-smart, demanding NCO’s. Platoons are led by platoon sergeants, the company is led by its first sergeant. Salespeople need to be led, too. But they need to be led by highly trained and skilled leaders. Don’t presume for even one minute that just because someone is made a sales manager that they can fulfill that role as ably as the situation may demand. They need to be trained. Your organization has too much riding on it to leave it to change. Don’t run the risk.