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3 Crucial Traits of a Good Sales Manager [They Are Not What You Think]

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Which cricket fan doesn’t remember Sachin Tendulkar?

Tendulkar was by far the best batsman India had until the last decade. Naturally, after Mohammed Azharuddin, he was the obvious choice as the Indian cricket captain.

But captaincy is one of the few blemishes in Sachin’s remarkable career. To his credit, he was gutsy enough to admit that he was not captainship material and suggested the names of Ganguly and Dhoni, who propelled Indian cricket to great heights.

Many times, leaders assume that top performers will also make good managers. They believe that promoting such performers into management will not only motivate everyone but also benefit the company’s top-line and bottom-line. It’s a win-win!

And nowhere is this more evident than in sales. Top sales performers almost always get promoted as sales managers.

But things don’t always turn out like the movies. Often, top performers end up being poor managers. Sales numbers and morale dip. Eventually, the leadership either lets things continue the way they are or replaces the managers with someone from outside.

A good salesperson doesn’t always make a good manager. Here’s why
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Why A Good Salesperson May Not be a Good Sales Manager

As human beings, people value outcomes, which is also why top performers are valued. Since they can get the outcomes we expect (and sometimes exceed expectations), leaders hope that such people can get others to deliver results.

But the techniques that some superstar salespeople use are questionable. They might lack structure and discipline, could sweet talk customers who don’t need the product into buying, or just have a natural flair for selling. They might not work for everyone.

Selling may be an art or science depending on how you see it. But sales management is definitely a science that demands structured planning and action. Lack of this is why salespeople struggle to become great sales managers.

There’s also another reason. Every professional apart from sales executives has a handbook on how to perform their duties. Think of finance, operations, admin and HR.

But things are not so black and white for sales, especially for managers. While businesses and brands invest heavily to train sales executives to do better, they rarely train sales managers to become better.

3 Traits that Make a Sales Manager Effective

Like we mentioned before, sales management is a science. Effective sales managers apply scientific processes to empower their teams to achieve their respective business goals and contribute to the organization’s overall goals.

Here are three traits that separate good sales managers from the rest.

1. Managing by Activities

Most sales managers focus purely on outcomes. During reviews, they focus only on what happened in the previous week or month, and their advice to salespeople is to “make more sales.” As a result, they cannot predict the sales pipeline and the entire sales function runs purely on luck.

But effective sales managers focus on the activities that will lead to sales more than the sales themselves. They don’t just tell their people what they want but also provide guidance on how to achieve it.

Train your sales managers to track the number of relevant meetings being conducted, proposals sent, and so on. This will give your managers better control of the sales process.

Sales managers who track activities are far more successful than those who focus only on results
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2. Interpreting Data

It’s easy to pull out data from CRM software and show it in beautiful presentations. It’s difficult to explain what it will take to improve these numbers. But it’s doing the latter that helps businesses and brands achieve their goals.

Many managers give extensive presentations with pie-charts and graphs. They also whip out impressive jargon on what businesses should do to achieve their numbers. But ask them how to do it and they often share more jargon to hide the fact that they have no idea.

Effective sales managers don’t just know how to receive relevant data; they also know what to do with it. For instance, if the goal is to increase quarterly revenue by two percent, they understand through analysis that they need four new customers, for which their team should meet twenty relevant prospects.

Managers who can understand the relationships between numbers are more likely to achieve their goals than those who can present numbers in stylish formats.

3. Coaching versus Instructing

There are three types of managers.

The first type helps people to figure things out by asking open-ended questions and guiding them when they’re stuck. People under such managers understand how to achieve their goals and also come up with innovative (ethical) ways to do so.

The second type demands that people follow their exact instructions and give their people all the answers. People under such managers get so used to getting the answers that they outsource all their thinking to their managers. (Then managers complain that their people don’t take any initiative.)

The third type doesn’t engage with people at all. People under such managers, well…

[If you know any other type of manager, do leave a comment. We would love to know.]

It’s a no brainer that sales managers who are effective in the long-term belong to the first category. Sales managers in the second category might be effective for a short period. But eventually, they become bottlenecks in the sales process themselves.

Effective sales managers help their salespeople get unstuck by having a structured review process in place, for which they rely on data from a CRM Dashboard.

Invest in training your sales managers to become better coaches and you’ll see that your salespeople automatically become better at performing their tasks and achieving their numbers.

Summing Up

Sanjay Bangar was a mediocre player for the Indian cricket team. But he is one of the most effective assistant coaches that the Indian cricket team has had. Ditto with Sir Alex Fergusson.

These people prove that you don’t need to be a spectacular performer to be a good (or exceptional) manager. You need to trust the process more than the outcome, not just through your words but also your actions.

Identify the people in your team who like structure in their working style and train them to be good sales managers. They will justify your faith by getting you the results you want with far less heartburn.

If you want to know more about how to train your sales managers, click here.

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