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What makes a truly successful sales manager?

Transitioning from a successful salesperson to a successful sales manager can be something of a challenge. Beyond being great at selling, you also need be great at managing people. Balancing the two competencies can be struggle, especially when people management hasn’t necessarily been a requirement in your skillset before that managerial opportunity materialised.

Here are the five attributes that are key to becoming a successful sales manager:

1.     Strategic planner

Make no bones about it, sales management is a strategic affair. Yes, there are lots of operational responsibilities, but overriding this is the importance of sales managers being able to direct the activity of their sales teams through a carefully considered strategic plan.

2.     Master of change

Sales is constantly evolving. Products change, customers change and the approaches and tactics that used to work in the past won’t always work in the future. As we continue to feel the impact of globalisation and megatrends such as digitalisation, one thing is for certain and that’s that nothing is certain. The way that sales people work will have to change too.

One of the most difficult tasks a sales manager has is to support their teams in a constantly changing marketplace. Sales managers must be ready to consciously and proactively abandon everything they know and adapt to a new normal. They must be able to lead their sales team into a successful future by navigating and adapting to uncontrollable and unpredictable changes in economics, technology, and finances.

3.     Outstanding coach

The sales team is the number one tool that sales managers have at their fingertips to achieve their sales objectives. Without a high performing team, failure is inevitable. Coaching as a concept is easy to subscribe to but in reality, few organisations invest enough time or money into ensuring that sales managers have the practical skills that they need to coach their people.

4.     Constant communicator

An effective sales team is a responsive sales team where support from the manager and communication between team members is imperative to ensuring that approach and tactics take into account the knowledge and experience of the whole team. Successful sales managers know that they need to be available to offer guidance and advice at the same time as making sure that they are communicating exactly what is required. They ensure that communication happens on both a formal and informal basis and they create a platform where honest feedback and expertise is shared.

5.     Inspirational leader

Research continually shows that people perform best when they have an inspirational leader; someone who puts the needs of the team before their own and is focused on motivating and inspiring their people to achieve outstanding results. Sales leadership is both an art and a science and the best sales managers recognise that they need to be equally competent at leading in the hard business sense (targets, sales tools, finances, prices) as they do in the people management side (motivating, providing feedback, developing skills, providing support).

A leadership training programme that blends online learning activities with face to face and group learning activities will be essential to instilling these attributes into your existing and future sales leaders and enabling them to leverage the collective capabilities of their teams to achieve exceptional results as a collective.

The right programme should be tailored to your business, with content built around realistic interactions with existing customers to reflect the way your business operates. Often businesses invest in tick-box training exercises but an effective development programme should take place over a sustained period, giving your sales managers a realistic opportunity to cultivate these essential attributes on the job.