Making sales is an inseparable part of doing business. Even before a business is established, the founder or entrepreneur must sell – pitch – the idea for the business to investors and potential business partners. Sales today, however, is not as straightforward as it used to. The market has evolved over the years and there are more hoops to jump through before a sale can be made in certain market segments.
Still, there are a lot of incredible salespeople who are closing deals and meeting their targets every day. There are also more strategic roles being made available in the sales department, including the role of a sales manager. What do you need to qualify for this role? Do you have the traits and skills required to excel as a sales manager? Here are the top traits and skills you need to master.
Integrity is everything in sales. You rely heavily on your credibility as a salesperson, and that credibly is built by maintaining integrity throughout your career. Integrity is a trait that can be built, but you still have to invest time and energy towards boosting your credibility by showing integrity at every turn.
As a sales manager, integrity becomes even more important. The salespeople working with you in the team will always look up to you for guidance, and the best way to steer them towards maintaining integrity is by doing so yourself. Once you start making compromises, you will lose not only the credibility you have maintained but also the respect of the salespeople in your team.
Naturally, you need to be a great leader in order to excel as a sales manager. After all, you are leading a group of people who are highly competitive, very motivated, and who are focused on their goals. To leverage team members and achieve your targets as a manager, you need to have the ability to manage every salesperson and process.
Being a leader is about creating a suitable environment for everyone else to excel. A sales manager cannot focus only on his or her individual goals. The manager must be willing to provide enough room for individual team members to grow, all while maintaining teamwork and making sure that everyone is working towards a common set of objectives.
That actually brings us to the next skill: planning. There is no way you can achieve tall and challenging objectives without careful planning. The market is more competitive than ever, the competitors are becoming sharper and more agile, which means you have to so much more to stay ahead of the market. This is where good planning comes in handy.
Planning lets you anticipate market changes, direct resources, organize workflows, and make adjustments to processes. In short, planning lets you refine the sales cycle so that every salesperson in your team can close deals effectively and efficiently. On top of that, planning gives you access to a broader view of the market, particularly with the insights and data that are available today.
Control & Monitoring
To complete the set, we have control as a skill. Planning is only the beginning. It is also the role of the sales manager to oversee the execution of created plans and make sure that the right results are produced. This means maintaining control at all times and making sure that sales activities are monitored correctly.
Monitoring is a crucial part of another important trait to have as a salesperson and a sales manager: accountability. Measuring performance and monitoring sales processes are how you can maintain the effectiveness of the entire team. You have to balance between maintaining control and giving enough room for changes and for team members to take action.
Leading by example is the only way to go in the field of sales, which is why experience is a must-have for those seeking to fill managerial roles. As a sales manager, your experience is invaluable because it allows you to solve problems and make decisions that are aligned with business objectives. In fact, experience is how you can anticipate problems before they happen.
Similar to many other traits, experience is not something you can gain overnight. Sure, you don’t have to make all the mistakes yourself – it is easier to learn from others’ mistakes and gain experience by observing – but you still need to put in the time in order to gain valuable experience as a salesperson. The more experience you have, the easier it will be to earn the respect of others.
Aside from being a leader, a sales manager must position themselves as a mentor. Salespeople under your leadership as a manager require coaching and open discussions. Every successful sales manager has the ability to bring out the best in his or her team members. The way to do that is through coaching and continuous learning.
As mentioned before, sales as a field is a lot more complex than before. There are steps to complete in a sales funnel and more requirements to meet before customers are happy and deals are closed. Sales managers must always be the first to learn about market changes and must be able to communicate those changes to the rest of the team.
Speaking of communicating, having good communication skills is a must. In today’s world, every professional needs to have good communication skills to succeed, and the same is true for those wanting to fill the role of sales manager. You can learn more about the importance of communication in business management on this site.
As far as being a sales manager goes, good communication isn’t just essential internally. As a manager, you may still be required to deal with larger clients and close bigger accounts, and your communication skills are the most valuable instrument to complete these tasks. Communication is also how you maintain good relationships with strategic customers and partners.
Every salesperson must have a high level of confidence, but the trait is even more important when you are a sales manager. Confidence and self-esteem are crucial if you want to keep the entire team motivated. It would be difficult for salespeople in a team to achieve their targets (and be confident about it) when the manager is not so sure about the future.
Confidence, just like other traits, can be improved. If you have low self-esteem but you want to pursue a management position, there is no better time to start working on your confidence level than right now. Take courses, pursue a higher degree, or enhance your skill as a salesperson to gain extra confidence in the field.
Technical & Business Management Skills
That brings us to the next skill to sharpen: business management. Keep in mind that you will be doing a lot of strategic, management, and administrative work as a sales manager. Knowing how to perform these tasks, mastering the technical side of business management, and even earning a business management degree are highly recommended.
A sales manager must work with leads to achieve business objectives. It is often the sales manager’s responsibility to drive product development, ensure a consistent quality level, and work with other departments such as marketing and corporate communications to shorten sales cycles and boost conversion. Many professionals take EMBA courses. EMPA is an executive MBA that seasoned professionals take up to improve their careers. You can check executive MBA vs MBA to understand the difference.
Last but certainly not least, every sales manager must be very good at managing projects. Every sales activity is actually a small project to execute perfectly. A sales cycle is just a series of those small projects waiting to be completed effectively and efficiently. Closing leads is a matter of completing those projects in a timely manner.
Project management becomes a crucial skill in a sales management role. In certain markets, salespeople can be working on hundreds of leads at any given time, and those leads – and the activities that go along with pursuing them – are not valuable to the company unless they are managed meticulously and with extra care.
Becoming a Sales Manager
The opportunities are there for you to pursue. There is no doubt that the market is growing, and more sales managerial positions are being made available. Companies who are expanding to new markets – and new regions – are actively looking for capable candidates to fill sales management or similar roles. Becoming a sales manager is not a far-fetched goal to pursue.
That said, you have to have what it takes to succeed in this role, and the traits and skills we discussed in this article are the ones to master first. They are crucial to any sales manager (in any industry) and they will help you perform brilliantly as a manager. With good leadership, open communication, and a team capable of achieving their targets, nothing is impossible.
The challenging market makes filling the role of a sales manager even more exciting. You have to adapt to market changes and be in close competition with some of the best players in the industry. You need every competitive advantage you can get to stay ahead of the competition. The 10 skills and traits we covered in this article are the competitive edge every sales manager needs to have to succeed.