It’s often the top-performing salespeople who are promoted to the position of sales manager. After all, they have proven themselves to be effective at the job and they have the charisma and grit to hit their targets and achieve their objectives. Surely, then, this is the type of person who would be a natural pick when a managerial vacancy presents itself?
Unfortunately, this is very rarely the case. It would be so easy to assume that the best salespeople also make the best bosses, but from a leadership assessment perspective, I can assure you that this rarely happens.
Leadership requires a whole host of skills and abilities, and in reality, not everyone is well suited to the role of a manager.
Promoting the wrong employee could be costly in a number of ways, resulting in a drop in employee morale, underperformance and a potential loss of sales.
Successful leadership selection is paramount. We need to ensure the right candidates are being given the chance to advance and prove themselves. We need to be mindful that the less obvious picks for management might actually be the people with the most potential. What’s more, it is essential that sales managers, once promoted, are provided adequate support on the job.
Being a sales manager can be tremendously stressful at the best of times, so it is necessary to give managers the tools they need to thrive for the sake of their engagement, morale and retention levels.
As an executive coach, I have found that the following skills are critical when it comes to developing an average sales manager into a genuine leader. Before recruiting a sales leadership team, these skills should be considered, and once sales managers take to their role, they should ensure they take the time and effort to improve upon these skills wherever possible.
Trust in leadership is critical for a number of reasons. Your sales staff need to know that you have their backs, that you are supportive and that you are all working towards the same goals. If your employees believe you are being deceptive, or they aren’t confident that you want the best for them and for the company, their trust in you will likely waver.
Sales managers should know that trust has to be earned. To inspire trust, managers should show that they are supportive of their employees’ career development, they need to be consistent and to model the behaviour and values that they themselves seek.
Great leadership is built on a strong, dependable foundation.
Managing is one thing, but micromanaging is another thing altogether — and it can be terribly detrimental to an employee’s development.
A great sales manager knows when to take a step back and allow those on their team to develop their own approach to their work.
No two people are alike and, as such, no two people will work in the same way — or at least they won’t achieve efficiency in the same way. As a sales manager, you need to be supportive of your employees’ independence, while encouraging them to achieve their sales targets.
Everybody has strengths and weaknesses. Some people work hard on denying their weaknesses, but great leaders are self-aware enough to address their development needs and improve upon them, while still playing to their strengths.
As an executive coach and an experienced business psychologist, a large part of my role entails helping managers, senior leaders and CEOs to honestly appraise their abilities and blind spots. Only by doing this can we take our management game to the next level.
According to one source, 91% of employees cite communication as a major managerial issue. As a sales manager, you should be constantly working on your communication skills. If your team is constantly failing to achieve their sales goals, if morale is low, or if your employees seem actively disengaged, you should question whether the fault lies with them, or with you as their leader.
A great leader should be a good communicator and a motivational coach but, unfortunately, as pointed out by Forbes, many leaders fall short in these areas.
During your discussions with your employees, instead of simply instructing, start listening, empathising and asking for feedback. Consider asking questions such as: “How can I help you perform better?” “What can I do to be a better manager?” “What parts of your job are the most interesting to you?”.
Asking questions such as this will prompt interesting discussion and improve the flow of honest, valuable communication.
An effective team begins with a shared vision. As a sales leader, it is your responsibility to assign company goals and values. Decide what’s important to your team, what you want to achieve and why.
Creating this vision is critical, as it will dictate the employees you take on board, the decisions you make as a company and your employee objectives.
Make sure that all your employees are aware of the direction and vision of your company. Get them motivated, make them feel a valued and integral part of the team and help them to develop the skills necessary to achieve your vision. Without this, your team will feel uninspired and aimless – but with a little guidance and zest, your employees will feel motivated to excel, helping your company thrive long into the future.