8 Skills Every Great Sales Manager Possesses

Customer Service Skills

Sales Managers are the driving force behind the success of any great sales organisation and, for this reason, it can be a tremendously rewarding profession. At the same time, it is a highly demanding role and is known to be an incredibly stressful career path.

In a PayScale survey, the role of “sales account manager” was rated the second-most stressful job, with 73% of respondents rating the role as “highly stressful”. Managers need to meet quotas, inspire their teams and convert quickly — and there is rarely a ‘slow day’ to relax.

You need to be a very particular personality to be a successful Sales Manager, with just the right skills, characteristics and strengths. If this is a role you’re looking to pursue, you should know that depending on the size of the organisation you’re working for, you’ll be responsible for leading a team of salespeople, setting goals, building a sales plan, analysing data and hiring the right people.

To ensure a long, successful and rewarding career as a Sales Manager, you should make sure you have the following skills in spades.

1. A Great Sales Manager Knows How to Motivate and Inspire

You might have been promoted to the role of Sales Manager because you are incredible at your job and you get great results.

That’s a good start, but it’s no longer the most important part of your role. Now you’re a Sales Manager, it’s less about your performance and more about the performance, productivity and results of those around you.

As a Sales Manager, you should keep this in mind and put effort into inspiring and motivating your sales team members, encouraging them to maximise their potential. This can be an art as no two employees will be motivated in the same way. You’ll have to get to know each individual on the team and understand their strengths and weaknesses, their preferences and their real motivators.

You should also keep updated on the science of motivation — once you understand that intrinsic motivation is far more effective than an extrinsic reward, you are well on your way to propelling your team to greatness.

2. Sales Managers Need to Be Good Communicators (This Includes Listening)

In order to be successful in almost any career, you need to be a good communicator. You need to interact and collaborate with your co-workers, express your training needs to your supervisors and ask for feedback when you need it. Being a Sales Manager is no different.

The best Sales Managers know how to set aside “sales speak” and talk in plain English in order to connect with their team. This allows real connections to develop, ensuring your team will feel comfortable coming to you for advice and reassurance, and to express their training needs.

As a Sales Manager, you should be authentic, honest and transparent with your communication, remembering the value of active listening — your team needs to know they are being heard and that their opinions matter. A 2015 poll revealed that 38% of employees felt that when their leaders dismissed their ideas, they lacked initiative — and initiative is of the utmost importance in the world of sales.

3. Effective Sales Managers Encourage Skills Development

You can’t expect your sales team to continually meet and surpass their goals and quotas if you aren’t giving them the appropriate tools to advance and improve.

Great Sales Managers are aware of the importance of skills development and encourage it at every opportunity, providing the right sales enablement tools when necessary.

On top of providing the right training, effective Sales Managers instil in their team a sense of purpose and growth — they need those on their team to feel this drive and to ultimately take responsibility for their own career paths. Training pays for itself in the long run. In fact, the Association for Talent Development has shown that companies that provide comprehensive and ongoing training programmes have a remarkable 218% higher income per employee than those without.

4. Modern Sales Managers are Fair

Sales might be a pressure-fuelled world. You might have your own quotas to fill and you might, on occasion, feel overwhelmed with it all, but that shouldn’t affect the way you treat those around you.

The best Sales Managers have a degree of patience and know how to treat their employees fairly and with respect. By doing this, Sales Managers know they will get the most out of their team in the long term.

A degree of empathy is also necessary for this role. Use all your experience up to this point in your career to inform the way you treat your team – bearing in mind the best and worst traits of the managers you’ve worked under thus far.

If the majority of your team agrees with the statement “my Sales Manager treats me fairly”, you know you’re doing a good job and that you have earned the respect of your team.

5. Forward-Thinking Sales Managers Give Regular and Positive Feedback

All managers need to deliver feedback to their team in order to keep them in top form. These days, the tendency is towards regular performance discussions, rather than single annual appraisals. As a Sales Manager, this means you can keep apprised of your team’s performance while remaining up to date on any issues.

During regular feedback conversations, great Sales Managers are aware of the power of positive feedback. After all, managers who focus on strengths are much more likely to achieve above-average performance levels when compared to managers whose focus lies elsewhere. This isn’t to say managers should only deliver positive feedback and turn a blind eye to poor performance — rather, they should allow employees to perform to their strengths and give them appropriate sales training to improve in the future.

Constant negative feedback can be demoralising and frustrating for employees, especially when they are genuinely giving the job their all but not getting the results they want.

6. Sales Managers Need to be Realistic with Regards to Goal Setting

Sales is largely about targets and quotas — but these goals need to be realistic, or they’re doing no good to anyone. Great Sales Managers are aware of this and know how to set SMART objectives — objectives that are:

  • Specific
  • Measurable
  • Agreed-upon
  • Realistic
  • Time-bound

These goals are more likely to be inspiring and, most importantly, these goals are more likely to be achieved, which is beneficial to everyone involved.

7. Great Sales Managers Lead — They Don’t Micromanage

Sales Managers are often driven by performance based on metrics and deadlines.

When this is the case, they might find themselves resorting to micromanagement. The problem is, when Sales Managers spend their time micromanaging and effectively doing the jobs of their team, they aren’t doing their own job, so things fall behind. On top of this, employees get frustrated and dispirited. Before long, they’ll be looking for a position elsewhere, where they will be given the space they need to develop and learn.

Great Sales Managers are leaders, not micromanagers. They create and share a vision with their team, while providing each member with the support and tools they need to become a strong and invaluable part of the team.

8. The Best Sales Managers Make Sales Fun

Most importantly, great Sales Managers have a passion for what they do. They genuinely care about sales, but they also care about the happiness of their team, meaning they want them to have fun, too.

Cultivating an atmosphere of positivity and fun will boost productivity and engagement levels for your company, which will prove that you are a great manager with the skills you need to succeed and thrive in the years to come.

Further Reading from Skills You Need

The Skills You Need Guide to Interpersonal Skills eBooks.

The Skills You Need Guide to Interpersonal Skills

Develop your interpersonal skills with our series of eBooks. Learn about and improve your communication skills, tackle conflict resolution, mediate in difficult situations, and develop your emotional intelligence.

About the Author

Charlotte Powell is Head of Design and Marketing at a sales enablement platform that aims to improve sales team success, engagement and confidence.