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  • Duane Cashin

Competencies of Great Sales Managers


What comes to mind when you picture a great leader? Is it your football coach from high school? A great boss? Maybe it’s your superior officer from your career in the military. Lots of people come into our lives and are placed in positions of leadership, but only a few are great. Who are they to you?


Whether we’re talking about sports coaches, military officers, or senior executives in business, strong leaders are hard to come by and make all the difference.


The same is true in business. Strong and effective sales leadership is the most critical piece required to build a high performing sales team. In fact, a study published by Harvard Business Review found that 69% of salespeople who exceeded their annual quota – top performers – rated their sales manager as being “excellent” or “above average.”


However, hiring sales managers, the leaders of your sales team, is one of the most frequently botched tasks in all of recruiting. People have a tendency to want to promote superstar sales reps into manager positions thinking the competencies of a good salesperson naturally translate into the competencies of a good sales manager. They don’t. Sales rep and sales manager are two vastly different roles with two vastly different skill sets. If you rush the hiring process, you’re destined for trouble.


We know the cost of a bad sales hire is enormous and reverberates across the company in a myriad of ways from lost market share to damaged sales team morale. This is not a mistake you want to make.


Thankfully, there are ways to mitigate this risk, and it starts with knowing the competencies possessed by the world’s best sales leaders.


Here are the top 5 competencies of great sales leaders:


1. Recruiting


Great sales leaders attract, acquire, and develop talent. They understand that recruiting proven talent has the biggest impact on their ability to meet aggressive revenue targets, and they work tirelessly to improve the recruiting process. They know that their talent acquisition and development plan can’t just be tied to the sales strategy, but it needs to link to the corporate strategy to remain agile.


2. Strategy


The best sales leaders understand industry trends and patterns; they take a data-driven approach to analyzing market and territory potential and use this information to optimize the size, structure, and profiles of their teams to ensure the sales strategy is successfully executed.


3. Motivation and Coaching


Great sales managers know that sales teams that possess energy and confidence are successful, and they know how to keep morale high whether business is at a peak or in a slump. The best sales leaders develop unique approaches that are tailored for their people, understanding that each team member is unique. There is not a one-size-fits-all management approach. The best leaders adapt their style to get the most out of every team member while keeping them aligned with company objectives and strategic priorities.


4. Vigilance


The best sales leaders are vigilant about achieving quotas, and they keep their team focused on daily, weekly, quarterly and annual goals. They are not easily distracted from their core mission and don’t let obstacles impede their ability to achieve their objectives.


5. Relationship building


Developing relationships (not becoming friends necessarily) is a pivotal role for sales managers. They must build and maintain relationships with every department in the company so that they all support the effort to acquire, maintain, and grow the customer base, and they must build and maintain relationships outside the company to attract and retain customers.


Again, notice that the things that make a great salesperson, things like daily prospecting efforts, rejection immune, execution of closing tactics, full adoption of CRM, gaining audience with decision-makers, don’t appear on the above list. The competencies required for a sales manager are different. Sometimes a superstar rep will end up in a manager role, but more often, the same person won’t be able to fulfill both roles.


Don’t make the mistake that too many companies make: equating a person’s individual sales success with their ability to recruit, train, and lead a sales team that consistently achieves and exceeds budget. Consider these 5 competencies and utilize the right tools in the hiring process. We’re here to help you build a strong sales organization.

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