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12 Tips for Being (or Hiring) a Great Sales Manager

– Want to Be (or Hire) a Great Sales Manager?

Many of the business owners I visited with at a SCORE CEO Forum recently were looking for advice on how to hire a sales manager or manage their own sales departments.  I just came across this article in Inc. by Geoffrey James, an excellent business writer, where he gives his 12 attributes every sales manager should cultivate. Because I have been involved with sales most of my life, I’m putting in my two cents as well, in blue.  So thanks to Geoffrey for sharing:Sales Manager lecturing team

Because selling is the most essential function of every company, there is no job more important than that of sales manager. Extraordinary sales managers play multiple roles, all of which are crucial to a firm’s short-term and long-term success:

1. Coach.  Identify the strengths and weaknesses of each individual on the sales team and expand each individual’s ability to contribute to the overall sales effort.  Don’t be afraid to do discuss weaknesses – they’ll thank you for it when they start making more money.

2. Teacher.  Help sales team members to develop, not just their basic sales skills, but the business acumen required to understand larger business issues. You MUST role play with scripts that work. If they can’t say it in role playing, they can’t say it in real life. The scripts should roll off their tongues smoothly, and then they can personalize them as they grow in skill. But give them a starting point for confidence in what works. And if their sales start to slide, it’s probably because they have wandered too far from the scripts (they got bored and started improvising).

3.  Mentor. Use experience and perspective to guide the sales process, warn of potential problems and provide tactical assistance in specific sales situations. Again, role play each of these situations again and again.

4.  Politician. Marshal the internal resources, both inside and outside the sales team, that will be required to ensure that each opportunity proceeds apace. Project your activities for a full year so that you give the company plenty of time to prepare. It also shows your professional side.Sales Manager with team

5.  Communicator. Communicate clearly and consistency the needs of the sales team to other internal organizations, so that they can better support sales efforts. Always speak positively of your team – it gets back to them one way or the other.

6.  Prioritizer. Ensure that the most important opportunities get priority so that the company can use its limited resources wisely. Salespeople need firm direction and definite goals.

7.  Recruiter.  Continuously search out and interview individuals who might become top contributors to the sales efforts. Salespeople like working for someone who looks out for them and encourages their best efforts. Talk about your team and their successes.

8. Surgeon. Cull out non-performers so that they don’t consume resources and bring the rest of the team down to their level. This is SO important. I once worked hard to become top salesman at a computer company, and a big account that I had put some work into finally came in. The sales manager gave it to the low-earning salesman of the group because he wasn’t earning enough to pay his bills, and it continued to happen – my accounts were cut back and given to others so that we all made about the same amount. Finally I realized that I had no future there. There is no room to be “fair” in sales – it’s not about hiring a bunch of people and keeping them all happy and equal. Hard work and success need to be rewarded, and resources that are going to people who aren’t able to do the job are wasted. Success in sales, more than any other department, can be easily quantified. It’s one of the reasons the job is hard – you can’t let your department be dragged down because you’re trying to be nice.sales manager telling fortunes

9.  Fortune-teller. Balance historical data, wishful thinking, and gut feelings to create a sales forecast that approximates future sales. If you know the average of how much time it takes to close a sale, you can plug that in to your sales labor hours and come out with a logical projection.

10.  Conductor.  Coordinate sales and marketing messages so that, when customers listen to your firm, they always hear the same tune. Back to scripting and role playing.

11.  Debriefer. Make certain that the entire company learns from both wins and losses, so that effective behaviors are repeated and ineffective ones are not. One of the CEO’s at the SCORE Forum says that he always calls and asks the client why they didn’t buy. What a genius – he stops from making the same mistake again.

12.  Diplomat. Share credit for both wins and losses among all contributing organizations, without creating either heroes or scapegoats. Especially share the credit with your great salespeople for making you look good – they’ll work even harder for you when they know the company recognizes their talents.

Thanks to Geoffrey James – you can read more of his excellent advice at Inc. online.

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  1. ice maker says:

    Because selling is the most essential function of every company, there is no job more important than that of sales manager. Extraordinary sales managers play multiple roles, all of which are crucial to a firm’s short-term and long-term success.

  2. ice maker says:

    I really like it!Thank you for sharing!

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