As a sales manager, you are the link between the decision makers at the head of your company and the salespeople doing the daily work on the ground.
Your job is to see the big picture from the leader’s perspective, understand it and communicate it to your team.
You also have to understand the day-to-day reality that your team faces, how it relates to the big picture, what works and what does not and communicate it to the leadership.
Managing a sales team is a challenging job, and it can be easy to lose sight of your purpose in the whirlwind of daily tasks.
Use this list of ten top behaviors of good sales managers to check yourself and stay on course.
10 Essential Qualities of Good Sales Managers
1. You Manage Expectations.
One of the primary functions of a sales manager is to facilitate communication between leadership and your sales team.
Providing thorough and accurate information to both your sales team and the company’s decision makers minimizes opportunities for misunderstanding and makes the entire company more effective.
Be honest and realistic with your bosses and your team about the goals you set and the progress you expect to see.
Thankfully, managing expectations effectively is more about having the right frame of mind than it is about doing more work. Any time you communicate decisions from leadership or information from your team think, “am I helping to set accurate expectations?” and adjust your delivery accordingly.
2. You Observe.
Good sales managers pay careful attention to their salespeople, even beyond job performance.
When sales managers take it upon themselves to get to know their team members, the task of managing actually becomes easier.
Understanding what makes a team member tick, what frustrates him/her and even the issues he is dealing with away from work can helpfully inform the decisions you make regarding promotions, how you motivate your team and who gets assigned which tasks.
3. You Communicate Regularly.
Salespeople thrive in environments with clear expectations and frequent feedback. This does not necessarily mean you need to hold meetings or performance reviews more often, but any time you get the opportunity to give feedback to a salesperson, especially if it is positive, you should take it.
Regular acknowledgement and feedback helps salespeople calibrate their workflow to better meet your expectations.
Communicating with decision makers above you is similarly important, because it is reassuring for them to know what is happening in their company and keeping them in the loop means you are less likely to surprise them with bad news for which they could have been prepared.
4. You Advocate For Your Team.
If you have done a good job hiring the right talent for your team, you should be happy to defend their interests. Your team’s wellbeing in the workplace is your responsibility, so do everything in your power to ensure each person’s success and fair treatment within the company.
Stand up for your people if they are unfairly criticized and try to represent them well. Consider how big decisions will affect their work, and do not be afraid to bring up issues you see from your unique perspective that leadership may not anticipate.
5. You Motivate Your Team.
Salespeople tend to be motivated by competition, structured goal setting and progress tracking. It is your job as a manager to use these tools to help your team members perform consistently and progress in their careers.
Positive reinforcement is always more effective than negative reinforcement, so motivate with rewards for good performance rather than censure for bad and deliver constructive criticism behind closed doors when necessary.
6. You Act Like a Coach.
Coaches train their teams, give constant feedback, do what they can to help players make progress and then step back and provide space for the team to win or lose on their own.
Good coaches provide structure and guidance and encourage cooperation, then let the team take credit for their own successes.
A coach will maintain leadership while building relationships with their players by showing interest in their wellbeing and also maintaining a professional level of personal distance.
Think of yourself as the coach of your sales team and act accordingly.
7. You Encourage Constant Development.
Taking an interest in the professional development of your salespeople inspires loyalty like nothing else.
Making time for skill building courses, mentorship and opportunities to try new things will help your sales team be more confident and effective while providing the added benefit of showing each salesperson that you care about him and his career, not just his job performance.
8. You Are Consistent.
The quickest way to undermine the respect you have worked hard to develop in your professional relationships is to be inconsistent in the way you manage.
Playing favorites, doling out unfair or unpredictable consequences and going back on your word will teach your team and the people you report to that you cannot be trusted.
Consistency reflects well on your character and puts your team at ease so they can focus on doing their jobs. If you make a mistake, the only way to restore the lost respect and trust is to acknowledge it, apologize, and make an honest effort to do better in the future.
9. You Delegate.
Good managers know their strengths.
You can maximize your efficiency and make your job more enjoyable by focusing your energy on tasks that utilize your strengths and delegating tasks that could be completed well by others.
Managing a team is a big job, so it is in your best interest to share the workload.
It can be scary to relinquish control over something you care about, but if you have a good team you should give them opportunities to step up and take on additional responsibilities.
10. You Make the Right Hires.
A sales manager’s job is infinitely more doable when he has a good team, comprised of salespeople that possess a natural aptitude for sales. Combining a sales aptitude assessment with a thorough behavioral interview process is the best way to ensure that new hires have the Drive required to succeed in sales.
Salespeople with Drive also tend to be easier to manage because they are naturally optimistic and motivated by competition and achievement.
Finding salespeople with Drive can be tricky, but it is worth the extra effort to find talented professionals at the beginning and avoid wasting money on training and managing the wrong people for the job.
Which qualities do you think are necessary to be a good sales manager? What should a manager avoid doing?