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3 Qualities of a Great Sales Manager

Leadership

The three things that makes great sales manager are ability to

  • Coach
  • Absorb pressure
  • Build a team

I got this insight when I ran into an old friend late last evening. He currently works for a sales organization and was completely stressed out. When i asked for the reason for his stress, he indicated that the sales pressure being exerted on him by his manager is actually freaking him out.

When I dug deep, he indicated that their organization follows the Jan – Dec sales cycle, which meant that they are in the last fortnight of the year and there is enormous pressure to close deals and achieve their sales quotas and he has not been able to achieve his quota.

He indicated that there were no deals in his pipeline that could be closed in the next fortnight. He indicated the same to his manager, yet, all the manager says is that, it is not acceptable and that he needs to bring in a few more deals so that he comes closer to achieving his quota and his boss to achieve his stretch target.

Now, this had me thinking. What can the sales manager achieve by doing this. There can be only 3 results from this:

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  1. My friend goes out to some of his prospects, provides additional discounts, persuades the prospect to buy. This is not a great thing for his organization.
  2. He is unable to do any further closures, which will only add to his anxiety and pressure. I am sure that my friend would leave that organization at the first opportunity, which is also not a good outcome for the organization.

So, this made me think what could the sales manager have done differently. I could think of the following which could have made a positive difference to my friend achieving his quota and staying loyal to his manager and the organization:

  • Coach: Any sales manager’s first responsibility to his team is to be their coach. In all probability, he has already been there, done that and has been good at this, which led him to his current position. So, how can he use his experience to coach his team members (depending upon their individual needs). Every sales executive has some are of the sales process, where he could appreciate some coaching. So, a sales manager needs to identify the areas where individuals in his team need coaching and use every conversation, opportunity to coach. As in any team sport, a good coach can inspire any team to achieve success, previously thought impossible.
  • Absorb pressure: In any sales organization, there will always be pressure to achieve quota. Can a sales manager absorb some of the pressure when he knows that his team is giving their 100% and there are genuine reasons for not meeting quota or closing deals. Common practice is to put additional pressure on the team to achieve their quota rather than provide a cushion. A great sales manager needs to be able to gauge the situation and provide cushion or exert additional pressure accordingly. In any case, if the teams knows that their manager can and is willing to absorb pressure, they will go all out to avoid such a situation.
  • Team: A great sales manager builds a team and not some individuals who compete with each other. It has been very rare that a sales manager gives more emphasis to the team doing well together rather than pitting each member of the team against each other. With selling becoming more and more complex (simple sales models are disappearing and moving to the web), it is critical that you work as a team to succeed in this complex selling world, learn from each other and support one another.

These are my thoughts. I would like to know your thoughts on this topic. Do you agree or disagree? Are there any other qualities that make a sales manager great?

Do let me know by commenting on the post below or tweeting your response to me on twitter (@rmukeshgupta).

PS: I thought that the article in HBR , “To build a great sales team, you need a great manager” was very well written and bring forth the importance of having a great sales manager on your team.

Comments on this Article: 1

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  1. This is a great perspective piece. It sparked me to think about adding pressure to a seemingly impossible situation. Sales groups have done it forever so there have to be fundamental reasons. Here are the insights I came up with. Additional pressure in the face of the impossible causes:
    Kicks the maybes off the fence
    Additional activity gives new perspectives (like you can’t see what opportunities are over the hill until you get there)
    Increases the ‘fight’ subconscious response which causes intense thinking and creative solutions.
    When the pressure is too great something may explode and that is a serious downside. Perhaps the answer for this Sales Manager could come in Herb Cohen’s words, as he smoked his cigar at a seminar, “You have to care, but not too much!”

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