Ask the question: “What qualities does somebody need to have in order to be or become an effective sales manager?” to a number of HR practitioners and you will get as many answers as the number of people you have asked. Aside from that, everybody has his own perspective on those qualities. ‘Good communication skills’ for instance, is one of those qualities with many definitions and points of view.
Ask in a discussion group to name the #1 quality a (sales) manager should have and you will get different answers from almost everybody. Let’s face it, we all look for this all-round professional, who has all the qualities we can think of and a few more but it is unlikely that we will ever find the ‘perfect’ match. We are all human and we all have our flaws.
A sales manager should have at least a few skills but there is one aspect that is overlooked in many cases:
The right mind-set
This is the most important aspect. Skills can be taught and trained. But if you don’t have the mind-set than all these skills won’t bring you far.
So what should this mind-set be?
Team player. This sounds logical but is a difficult one at the same time. Very often we see that the best performing sales rep gets a promotion to sales manager. But what is the mind-set of a successful sales person? Usually, a sales person is a ‘loner’. Somebody who does his own thing, has his own territory, runs his own ‘small business’ within the company. It is rather difficult for somebody like that to all-of-a-sudden change into this great team player, who is responsible for the achievement – read sales- of others.
A team player has eye for and feels responsible for everything that is happening in and to his team. He is there to help, to encourage and to create the circumstances in which his team is able to perform and to feel safe and engaged.
Engaged. A sales manager (in fact every manager) should be engaged. Engagement means to be committed to the cause, the mission, the vision and the values of the company. A sales manager wants an engaged team and not just a bunch of people who are only willing to work as long as there is the pot of gold at the finish line. Sales people should be engaged too and not act like horses with blinders on, running as hard as they can to reach the finish line.
But one can only start building an engaged team if one is engaged himself. In other words: Lead by example.
Stop selling. One of the biggest mistakes a sales manager can make is to keep on selling. He is now a sales manager, not a sales person anymore. He is there to develop his team, to make them sell more, better, smarter or whatever the goals are. The team will not develop as long as the manager does things himself. The manager needs to start managing. Coaching, training on-the-job and helping his team members to grow; that is his task now.
There is a whole skill set that a sales manager should have, like sales skills, communication skills, negotiating skills, presentation skills and so on. They can all be developed but changing a mind-set is difficult. So if you are in need of a (new) sales manager, I would pay attention to that aspect first.
By John Hester