Much has been written about what makes for a good sales manager and effective sales management strategy. But as every sales rep, manager and executive knows, it’s often the intangibles that separate good sales managers from the great ones.
Below are seven key attributes I most often find in the best, most successful sales managers. In this case, I’m defining success not only by how well they hit their number, but how well they inspire, empower and prepare their teams for sustained success as well.
Even with a well-defined sales process, a consistent brand position and standardized tools, successful sales managers are constantly innovating and improvising to get more out of the market and their teams. This goes for everything from objection-handling to internal contests and more. The very best sales managers are both creative and disciplined, meaning they’re able to not only come up with great new ideas to test, but also effectively triage and measure their effectiveness.
You can’t play favorites. You can’t adjust expectations too often. When your sales reps are facing adversity and a highly-dynamic selling environment (often where “no” is the most commonly-heard answer), consistency on the part of the sales manager is extremely important. Consistency drives trust and credibility for sales managers, which allows them to get away with occasional bursts of creativity without implying that the entire ship is turning a different direction.
Great sales managers drive their bosses and often their marketing counterparts nuts. They’re always asking questions – why is it like that, how did that work, why didn’t we try it this way, should we participate in this new user group, etc. Similar to creativity, however, curiosity is best executed when there’s a level of discipline and accountability behind it. Asking questions is one thing – having a productive opinion and volunteering to help identify or execute the answer or solution is quite another.
4. Conflict Management
No matter the size, age, nature or overall make-up of the sales organization, there will be conflict. I’ve heard some inside sales managers describe their culture as somewhat akin to middle school. Ineffective sales managers, this environment, take up the role of that vice principal you remember who was always in charge of discipline. More effective sales managers enforce behavior and discipline standards but do it in a more productive way – leveraging their standards of both consistency and fairness to get the team back focused.
Don’t mistake this for optimism. Great sales managers don’t need to be glass-half-full people all the time. But they need to exhibit confidence in their teams, their products, their companies and the daily/weekly/regular processes that deliver results. Sales reps look to their managers daily for guidance and direction – not only in where to focus but in how to act. Confidence from the top down drives behavior, effort and results.
6. Can-Do, Will-Do Attitude
I’ve worked with sales managers who have great ideas but rarely get their hands dirty. The best sales managers lead by example, regularly roll up their sleeves and work right along side you. They join you on sales calls, build the next-month sales promotion, dig through lead list options with the marketing team, and otherwise focus plenty of time and energy not just on managing but also doing.
Not necessarily calm as in quiet or shy. Calm as in patient. Even-keeled. Passionate at times but generally a combination of consistent and confident, steady when the day or the last sales call or the markets are roiling. This provides a foundation for the entire team to drive from.
Read more: Steps to Success for Sales Managers