A sales manager plays a key role in the success of the sales team, setting the tone and culture of the organisation. Competence in achieving exceptional results through leadership makes an effective sales manager.

A good sales manager can only prevail through learned and applied skills – being able to manage a team by getting all the individuals together to form a cohesive unit and focus on making successful deals is an art itself, especially amongst the tough competition. However, there are practices which can help sales managers not only manage but lead in the right direction.

Being strategic – setting goals and expectations

To be an effective sales manager you need to deliver a form of strategic perspective. Managers need to be clear about the direction the team should be taking and be specific about what is expected. This means knowing what your team goals are on an individual and personal level and how you can personally and collectively work towards the team’s strategic goals.

Being honest and realistic about goals and expectations from the outset means each team member knows what they are accountable for and when, including the rewards for meeting expectations and ramifications for not. To be effective the goals need to follow SMART criteria, i.e. Specific-Measurable-Attainable-Realistic-Timely. The manager should help the team develop a plan so that they can stay focused and achieve their goals.

Ability to train and coach

Sales managers are experts on the company’s products and processes and so should be able to pass on that knowledge to the team. Hence, paving the way for salespeople who are confident in solving problems and making decisions.

Ongoing coaching demonstrates commitment. Adaptive coaching which provides valuable and focused one-to-one support takes into account each individual salesperson’s needs. It illustrates the sales manager’s understanding of the diversity of selling techniques which lead to success.

Providing guidance, regular and constructive feedback is a difficult skill to master but important in building sales staff confidence.

Manage sales performance

Keeping a close eye on sales processes with a focus on what is driving sales outcomes makes effective sales management. Measuring sales team performance via metrics and indicators helps sales managers target improvements in quality as well as quantity. They are better able to anticipate any opportunities or uncertainty and resolve in good time. Even a small positive development in communications, such as an agreement to follow up on a lead or submitting a proposal, can encourage a successful outcome.

Providing frequent and regular feedback on team members’ performance is beneficial to both the manager and salesperson. Constructive feedback reinforces the manager’s engaging role with the team and contributes to their development.

Communicate regularly

Communication is a fundamental function of a manager. Strong communication fosters a dynamic exchange of feedback, suggestions and ideas with each salesperson understanding the role they play and the processes and tools they will use. It demonstrates how managers encourage creativity and help the team grow and learn, becoming a united team.

Manage by leading

The ability to lead is also a quality of an effective sales manager. Influential in an individual salesperson’s ability to reach or exceed their quotas, sales managers have the ability to nurture a sales culture focused on targets and high performance. Continuously looking for ongoing improvements through incremental steps and a streamlined sales process, they motivate and build confidence in the team.

Encourage development

As sales managers strive to be better leaders, they advocate the importance of maintaining commitments and targets. In order to allow the sales team’s performance to improve, time needs to be allocated to courses and training opportunities to build salespeople’s skills and enable them to grow professionally.

At the same time, managers also need to improve their own performance through personal development. They should also be willing to put in the extra work required to progress.

Recruit quality talent

As well as focusing on improving sales team performance, sales managers are also responsible for talent acquisition – identifying, recruiting, developing and retaining the best sales people available. This means assessing skills critical to the role and attributes that closely align with the organisation.

A competitive nature is a key characteristic of a good salesperson and searching for one who has the natural ability to sell is important.

Consistency is vital and understanding sales management is the first step towards becoming an effective sales manager. Commitment to proficiency in the above will lead to a more productive and profitable team culture. Being able to maintain these practices will promote continued growth.

Creating engaging, compliant sales presentations is an essential skill for all sales professionals.

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