Qualities of a Great Sales Manager
Every company looks for specific characteristics when seeking candidates for leadership roles. References and reputation only go so far in evaluating capabilities. For sales managers, look for qualities that build strong teams and motivate others to perform their best.
Whether you seek a new hire or promotion, here are several essential qualities of sales managers. Evaluating and prioritizing each of these will determine an ideal fit for your organization.
Proven leadership is essential. Spearheading a sales team is a multifaceted endeavor. It requires implementing company goals, delegating tasks, and inspiring others. It’s seeking new solutions and making smart decisions quickly. For potential sales managers, consider the following key leadership traits:
- The ability to share knowledge
- A willingness to embrace challenges
When hiring a sales manager, identify experience leading a team. Look for examples delegating and/or motivating others. If promoting from within your organization, consider their sales history, lasting client relationships, and established camaraderie.
Once a sales rep proves themself a leader, they should remain coachable. If they’re going to coach others, they must be receptive to feedback. They must then use it to improve their own and others’ performance.
Someone in line for this position already possesses effective sales strategies. They often have years’ worth of sales and/or sales management experience. However, the desire to learn and grow elevates someone from good to great. It paves the way for:
- Continuous improvement
- Eliminating complacency
- New opportunities
- Achieving greater expertise and performance
Despite a continuously shifting sales landscape, some managers stick with their tried-and-true methods. They then seek to implement these with their teams. However, clients want new approaches. And shifts in business require changing how sales processes are conducted. These changes require the ability to pivot and adapt.
Research in Brainshark shows the importance of coaching. They note that, if their managers were poor coaches, more than 60 percent of sales reps would leave. This makes it essential that managers participate in sales coaching and training. You can’t expect sales reps to buy-in to coaching their managers don’t know or follow.
Confidence in sales is a necessity. Research cited by LinkedIn shows that highly confident sellers outperform less confident ones by 31 percent. Confidence is shown in how the sales manager:
- Carries themselves. Is the person reliable, prompt, and put together?
- Delivers a presentation. Does the person engage others, have good pacing and persuasiveness?
- How they make decisions. Do they provide data to support their decisions?
- Asks questions. Is the person open to learning?
- Listens to others for guidance. How well does the person receive feedback?
In addition, confidence is a core quality of sales managers. However, super-sized egos rarely work in collaborative environments. This makes it imperative managers understand the difference between confidence and arrogance.
Confidence is the belief in one’s own skills and abilities. It doesn’t force these on others. It doesn’t have to. It’s earned through the way they carry themselves. Confident sales managers exhibit the following:
- Reliability, promptness, and professionalism
- The ability to engage and persuade others
- Leverage data to support decisions
- Ask the right questions
- Accept feedback
Great sales managers do not always know the right answer. They don’t have to. Instead, they use the available tools, resources, and people to find the best one. When hiring or promoting, look for self-assurance in a sales rep’s verbal and non-verbal communication.
Sales managers should be inherently curious, and their curiosity should drive others. This is invaluable because innovation pushes companies to grow and expand. When seeking a sales manager, look for people who:
- Are willing to take risks
- Discover new ways to do things
- Explore areas for improvement and growth
- Readily implement new processes and procedures
Innovative people always think a few steps ahead. They envision and execute change. This can positively impact company culture, boost sales team performance, and establish future industry leaders.
For sales managers, seek sales candidates who have developed and implemented new processes within their organizations. Also, ask how their ideas achieved a competitive advantage, increased efficiency, or boosted a sales team’s performance.
An analytical mindset supports innovation. Establishing a solid sales plan with set metrics is crucial to leading a sales team. A candidate who knows how to read and use data to drive performance guides an effective team. Analysis in sales helps to:
- Understand client motivation
- Establish forecasts and predict outcomes
- Identify opportunities
- Avoid repeating mistakes
A sales manager’s job description requires analyzing data and establishing sales objectives. This is achieved through forecasting and setting quotas to achieve realistic targets. However, the best sales managers must then use this data to inspire and motivate their people.
The traits that define effective sales leaders guide successful sales teams. An effective sales leader hits their targets, values client relationships, and motivates others. This is demonstrated through clear direction, persistence, and a positive mindset. When considering sales reps for promotion, gauge their ability to motivate. Note how they:
- Adapt to change
- Manage highs and lows
- Convey processes and their effectiveness
- Are respected by the team
Always look for a history of success and good rapport with colleagues and clients. Sustainable leadership requires more than just hitting set quotas. Well-respected motivational leaders generate perseverance and forward-thinking behavior in others.
A competitive edge can be a sales necessity. Like sellers, sales managers should be competitive. They must want to be the best. However, this must be tempered with a commitment to common goals. As the liaison between the C-suite and their sales team, sales managers must remain loyal to both.
Effective sales managers stand by their commitments. They earn trust and support through their transparency. They are steadfast in their day-to-day devotion to their work. On a resume, these characteristics may manifest as:
- Length of tenure
- Expertise with technology
- Unique skill sets, certifications, or ongoing learning
- Participation in regular sales coaching
Evaluating loyalty is often easier when promoting within. This is because you have firsthand experience with an employee’s dedication to their role and responsibilities. So, when hiring a sales manager, look first within your own organization. Your perfect candidate might be closer than you think.
Focus is the ability to prioritize and concentrate on the most pressing needs. Since a sales manager must juggle several tasks at once, it’s a critical trait. Focus minimizes impulsive decisions and negative consequences.
It allows a person to prioritize each responsibility and give each its proper attention. When evaluating sales reps for promotion, consider how they:
- Participate in sales meetings
- Effectively multitask
- Limit distractions for themselves and their teammates
A great sales manager focuses on first-priority matters. They do not allow distraction from daily interruptions. Experience has taught them to hierarchize problems, concerns, and what’s essential to performance and progress. This drive and focus should extend to their team.
Effective communication is essential to any leadership role. Communication is defined by how well a person transfers information to others. Sales requires the ability to present with confidence and establish personal connections. It requires active listening, collaboration, and problem-solving skills. When evaluating candidates for a sales manager role, consider:
- The clarity and conciseness of communication
- References or referrals from clients and colleagues
- Friendliness, confidence, and engagement
In addition, for potential sales managers, there are several less obvious cues to note. It’s important to consider both verbal and non-verbal communication, such as direct eye contact and good posture. An awareness of one’s own body language can indicate superior communicators.
Promoting Greatness in Sales
Salespeople who want to advance often think of their sales figures or length of tenure. While these can be factors, consistently demonstrating the qualities above is valued most. Often, identifying strengths and improving weaknesses in one’s own sales process best prepares sellers to be sales managers. At the very least, understanding the importance of these qualities is a first step to advancement.
For sales organizations, identifying these qualities in salespeople can determine those who will make great sales managers. Use these as a guide when hiring or promoting sales reps. Of course, sales managers have different approaches. Some are commanding while others are relaxed. Either way, these characteristics apply to all leadership styles. We hope this helps your organization find the right sales manager for your needs and team.
If you or a member of your team is seeking out additional guidance, consider Janek’s sales management training program. In this program, you or the potential candidate will learn all the invaluable sales manager skills needed to lead a highly successful sales team.
Editor’s Note: This article, first published in February 2021, underwent revisions to enhance its coherence.
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