It was mid-career; I was feeling complacent but bored and knew nothing about the 4 skills needed to become a sales manager. I sought advice from my then-VP of sales on what I would need to be a sales manager. He replied, “A whip and a chair.” I knew he was thinking that I did not have the hard-hitting determination to make demands of the sales team that, in his opinion, would lead to success. He was old-school. As a hard-nosed pitchman, he would sell to anyone with a pulse. Often, he overpromised and then dealt with the fallout. He was truly a short-sighted seller. His major accomplishment was getting himself a C‑suite position. He had little appreciation of the four skills needed to become a sales manager.
What? Only four? I hear you. Of course, there are a multitude of skills that encompass those needed to be a sales manager. But for the sake of being focused and getting to the fundamentals, let’s just concentrate on some basic skills and how and why they will serve you in today’s sales culture.
4 Skills Needed to Become a Sales Manager
It might be tough to hear, but it’s true: Prospects don’t care about your company’s product or service. They only care about their problems and how you may be able to help solve them. Customer focus means talking to prospects who are a good fit for what your company offers. Moreover, today’s buying audience is complex and well-informed. Your team needs to be prepared to engage with them or they won’t listen.
There is nothing so inspiring as reaching a tough-but-realistic goal or as dispiriting as failing to reach one that was always out of reach. This requires strong analytical skills and an ability to draw meaningful and productive conclusions to the benefit of the organization. Forecasting and goal setting also form the basis of strategizing sales plans which are, again, your job to implement. Planning is not a one-time activity. It requires updating with changes in the market and customer requirements.
The effective sales manager knows that team members must feel fulfilled – personally and professionally – in order to remain productive. They must feel a sense of purpose and growth and believe their future will be one of achievement, personal pride and recognition. Leading, delegating and motivating are skill sets closely aligned with managers who drive success through patient coaching and hands-on mentoring. The sales manager must communicate in the way each individual team member needs. Some people learn best with words, others with visuals, others with hands-on examples. The best sales managers can balance the tactical with the strategic. They can jump into the trenches to help close deals and mentor their sales teams while remaining focused on delivering strategic, long-term revenue growth.
When the sales manager solves problems, they ultimately make the salesperson’s job easier and improve the company’s bottom line. Many believe the single most important task of a sales manager is to "clear the runway" for the sales team. The innate ability to address issues in the moment and make wide-reaching adjustments when it appears the problem is not isolated is a skill developed with experience, insight and intuition.
A sales manager’s job comes with a wide range of responsibilities, all of which involve uniting the entire department to work productively towards fulfilling company goals. The job is tough but not necessarily, ‘lion tamer’ tough. To succeed, you'll need to tap into these 4 skills needed to become a sales manager. You'll also need compassion, empathy, intelligence, insight and resilience.