3 Characteristics of a Successful Sales Manager

By Butch Bellah

You’re the sales manager. You got the job for a reason — you’re good at what you do. You’ve not only exhibited the skills to be a great salesperson, but you’ve got what it takes to be a manager, as well. If you’ve been promoted into this position, you’ll find yourself now supervising people you recently were working beside.

Successful sales managers stay humble

The most successful sales managers (or managers in general) are those who don’t even have to introduce themselves as the boss. Everyone knows who they are by the way they carry themselves, the way the act, and the way they treat others.

It’s much easier to pull your team along with you than to push them. And, it’s even easier still if they trust your leadership enough to follow you without having to be pulled along.

Being humble is one of the greatest qualities a true leader can demonstrate. And you’ve known (and probably worked with or for) someone who was just the opposite — it was all about them. They were the smartest, they were the best, they were the reason anything good ever happened. Is that the legacy you want to leave? Humble yourself and your sales team will want to run through a wall for you.

Successful sales managers are firm but fair

Establish a reputation of being firm but fair early on. If and when you must counsel, critique, or otherwise discipline one of your salespeople, do so in a manner that doesn’t undermine your position and doesn’t damage her confidence.

Have all the facts in front of you and take personalities and your likes and/or dislikes out of the equation. The salesperson you’re talking to should know exactly what happened, what you found to be the problem, and how you feel it should’ve been handled. There’s no place for veiled, vague criticism.

Your position should be firm — no wavering. Don’t show one ounce of uncertainty when it comes to handling difficult personnel situations. Understand the employee will have excuses, an opinion, and other ideas about what happened or should have. Listen to the employee, but ultimately, you must hold your ground.

Just as much as you should be firm, you should also be fair. Never, ever, ever play favorites. Always document any disciplinary action in writing. Remember that nobody is immune — even your superstar who exceeds quota every month. When you display fairness, it’s noticed by everyone. Trust me. The only thing noticed quicker is if you make a decision that shows or even hints at favoritism.

As you grow into your position, many of these things will become second nature, but there’s only one way to learn these skills and attitudes and that’s by doing.

One of the easiest ways to establish yourself as a fair manager is to never ask your salespeople to do anything you wouldn’t or haven’t done. Don’t put them in a position where they resent you for simply asking them to do their job. You’ve most likely done everything they’re asked to do, but if you enact a new policy or put in new requirements, humble yourself to do the same.

Successful sales managers are flexible and open to input

When you’re meting out discipline, you have to be firm but fair. However, as you set the tone for how you’re going to run your department, the best thing you can do is get input from other departments and your sales team themselves.

If you’re tasked with creating a policy manual or something similar don’t feel like you have to be the sole person working on the project. Recruit some assistance and not just from your top salespeople. Sometimes getting your weaker salespeople involved in side projects does them more good than it does your top-tier folks.

As you enact policies and programs, there’s no shame in changing direction if you feel the need to do so. The only exception to that rule is if you’re working on a commission program. Make sure you have that figured out from every angle before you ever trot it out in front of everyone.

Part of being a leader and a manager is to help others grow, and by soliciting their opinion you show them respect and that you value their input.

While you can limit this to just the sales department, asking for input from other departments strengthens your position as a manager and a leader within the company. This isn’t saying to pawn your work off on them, but about sincerely soliciting their input. The more opinions you get involved in a project the better.