By Dave Christofaro and James Touchstone, Directors, Sales Performance International
Sales leaders face a challenging dilemma when promoting or hiring a sales manager. You’ve probably heard warnings about simply putting the best sales people into management - it doesn’t always work well. Wayne Gretzky was the greatest hockey player of all time, but not the best coach. The same was true for Isiah Thomas, Pete Rose, Bart Starr and Diego Maradona in their respective sports.
But, if you don’t always promote an elite performer, who do you select? Do you promote an average seller? Or hire an outsider who isn’t familiar with the nuances of your business? It’s a difficult decision - and one that can make or break the performance of a sales team.
It’s hard to know the answer until you understand each candidate at a deeper level, and how they fit against an ideal profile of a good sales manager for your organization. Picking the “best” candidate depends on how well you define what a “good” sales manager looks like for your team, validate that definition, and apply the model consistently in sales management selection and development.
To start identifying the traits you should consider, download our sales management competency and attributes listing.
While we find a diversity of competencies and skills in the management ranks of our clients, there are certain characteristics that all effective sales managers must possess. These common characteristics include:
- The discipline to manage systematically
The most effective sales managers use a systematic approach. They establish a routine cadence for inspection and coaching, and conduct pipeline and opportunity reviews regularly. Most of these managers are former sellers who achieved their numbers consistently by developing, perfecting, and executing sales with a high degree of discipline.
- The desire to help others improve
Sales managers must also have the will to coach and develop others. Notice that we say “will,” but not necessarily “skill.” Some competencies can be more easily trained and learned than others. You can train managers in coaching skills, but if they are not naturally inclined to coach, then they will not apply those skills effectively.
- The courage to ask hard questions
Courage is another important trait that we see in effective sales managers. They must have the courage to ask tough questions about opportunities that may create discomfort with a “happy-eared” sales rep, or cause a rep to walk away from a deal because it doesn’t meet the minimum qualification criteria. A good sales manager needs courage to confront challenges that they encounter in the sales process. Courage is very difficult to train, since developing the self-confidence to cope with risk and uncertainty comes only with experience.
We’ve assembled a list of essential sales manager competencies and attributes to consider when evaluating candidates on your team. Download this list to develop your optimal sales management profile, and make identification of your next manager easier.
Dave Christofaro is SPI’s Talent Analytics Practice Leader, focused on providing sales talent optimization services for effective assessment of sales teams, and enabling improved hiring of sales professionals.
James N. Touchstone is SPI’s Director of Learning and Development, responsible for the creation and enhancement of advanced sales methodology and skill enhancement programs. He is also co-author of The Solution Selling Fieldbook.