What Makes a Great Sales Manager?

Whether you are looking to hire a sales manager or are a sales manager yourself, you know that the way a sales manager behaves and leads can make or break the success of a sales team.

Finding (or being) a good sales manager isn't just about ticking the boxes on a list of desirable traits. It's important to know the most important activities a sales manager will perform, and what's the best way to do those activities for maximum effectiveness. Here's our list of the vital things a sales manager must do, and do well.

Knows Who to Hire

Ongoing recruiting and hiring is the life-blood of any sales team. Sales is a high pressure, high stakes job, and only a manager who expects and prepares for the inevitable attrition will be able to build and maintain a successful team. However, unless your sales force is tiny, don't expect to dump the entire job of recruiting on your sales manager, leaving him or her with limited time to do the rest of his or her job.

Ideally, you should have a recruiting specialist (or department), or hire out the job of posting ads and scrubbing resumes on Monster, Careerbuilder, and other job boards. Your manager's job is to interview pre-qualified candidates, sell the opportunity to them, and effectively determine which of those candidates are worth hiring. If the manager is too picky, you'll end up with a headcount crisis, because there won't be enough new recruits to keep the team fully staffed. On the other hand, if the manager doesn't vet the candidates properly, he or she will spend a lot of time hiring and firing sales representatives who just weren't destined to work out. A good sales manager can effectively judge potential and avoid red flags, as well as get every new recruit excited about the job before they start.

Knows How to Teach

Don't assume that just because someone is good at sales that he or she is also good at teaching other people how to sell. The talent for doing and the talent for teaching don't necessarily overlap, and should be evaluated separately.

The first few weeks of employment are an important time for a new sales representative. Effective onboarding is absolutely crucial if they are to reach their full potential ad feel motivated to stay with the company. A good sales manager will have a talent for integrating new recruits in the team, and teaching them what they need to know as quickly as possible, so that they are able to hit the ground running and build immediate momentum. 

However, just as important as starting out strong is having a well-thought-out, consistent strategy for ongoing training. A sales manager needs to know how to incorporate both product knowledge and sales skills into regular, well-planned sales meetings. Making sales meetings organized, interesting, and applicable is the sales manager's job. He or she should be comfortable giving presentations, leading role-plays, and tailoring what happens in training to the specific needs of the sales team.

Focuses on the Individual

A good manager is more mentor than boss. To keep each member of the team performing to his or her potential, the manager needs to take an individual approach. He or she should make time for regular one-on-one meetings to evaluate strengths and weaknesses and provide individualized instruction and help. Rather than simply managing the numbers, a good manager manages the people on his or her team, catching potential problems early and correcting small mistakes before they cause major disruptions to production.

Good managers are good listeners, and their sales representatives feel understood and supported. But they are also positive and direct when problems need to be addressed, and proactive about implementing personal improvement programs or disciplinary action when necessary. They take the time to get to know their teams and understand the motivations and needs of every individual, in order to more effectively help them to reach their performance goals.

Effectively Builds a Team

While individual mentoring is important, a sales team is more than a collection of individuals. A good manager takes the time to pay attention to when team morale is dragging, and make it a priority to understand the root causes and do what it takes to get the team in tip-top shape again. But the best managers go farther than that, planning team-building activities and helping the team feel like a family.

Good managers know how to balance competition and cooperation. They encourage healthy competition in a spirit of fun, but help their sales representatives to develop friendships and also incentivize them to work together to achieve common goals. 

Does your company need assistance developing the processes and training methods that will enable your sales managers to effectively manage their teams? Netpique sales outsourcing can help. Contact our sales outsourcing experts today for a free consultation about how we can meet the needs of your sales department.