How to Identify Potential Sales Managers

By Butch Bellah

It’s natural to for sales managers to gravitate toward potential managers — those who actually want additional responsibility and can handle the job of taking it on. You’ll know who they are even though they make up only an estimated ten percent of your sales force.

Although you may set up your own criteria and traits you look for, some run through virtually 100 percent of people willing and able to carry your organization into the future:

  • Positive attitude: These people tend to exemplify what it means to be positive. They’re almost always upbeat and see the glass as half full rather than half empty — and their attitude tends to be infectious. Others like to be around them and seek them out in a crowd

  • Motivated: These people don’t have to be hit with jumper cables every morning. They’re ready to go, motivated, and looking to grow. They tend to have a magnetic personality that draws others toward them. Leaders are like that — they create an aura others want to follow.

  • Goal oriented: You rarely meet a successful leader who isn’t goal-oriented. Your future leaders have very specific goals about where they want to go, what they want to do, and how they plan to accomplish it.

    Most of them can tell you where they want to be a year from now, five years from now, and more. These members of your sales team take it upon themselves to establish weekly, monthly, and quarterly sales targets — and usually hit them.

  • Problem solvers: This one is big to me. You know people who are problem finders. They love to and almost live for the chance to point out flaws instead of using that same energy to find a solution. In contrast, your managers of the next generation are problem solvers.

    They see a problem and take it upon themselves to either correct it or bring you the solution. They’re always thinking of how to do things bigger, better, and more efficiently. If a customer has an issue, they don’t say, “that’s not my job.” They solve the problem first and then look for the cause afterward.

  • Action oriented: Leaders take action. Sure, they’re thinkers, but they are also doers. Once a plan is in place they are generally the first out making it happen or at least testing the waters.

  • Creative: Your leaders of tomorrow are creative — creative in their approach to their job and with ideas on how to help their customers. They aren’t satisfied with a “that’s the way we’ve always done it” attitude. They tend to question a lot of things, and at times you may find yourself disliking this trait. Get over it. You want creative people leading your organization — they’re the pioneers.

  • Hungry for knowledge: These people are sponges — soaking up everything they can. They have a true desire to learn, whether it’s through asking questions, reading, attending workshops, or whatever. This is by far the most desirable characteristic because it can’t be faked — a person either wants to learn or she doesn’t. You may have heard, “readers are leaders.” You’ll find a lot of readers in this group — and not reading junk, either. They’re reading the latest sales books, blogs, or otherwise seeking knowledge.

  • Positive people skills: True leaders have to have the desire to help others. They take less credit and more blame and are as happy for other people’s success as their own. They don’t lead people as much as they have people follow them.

If a member of your sales team demonstrates more than two or three of the traits in this list, let her know you see bright things in her future. These people thrive on feedback, and you want them to know that if they aspire to grow, you want that growth to occur under your roof.

There’s a reason why this is the smallest of the three groups: commitment. A lot of people have the desire, they just don’t have the discipline it takes to follow through and learn what they need to know, do what they need to do, and sacrifice today for the good of tomorrow.

These people are few and far between. If you have one, don’t let her go. If you have a really good one, never let her go! It may be a long time before you have another opportunity to develop someone like that.

Responsibility is a funny thing. Some run to it while others run from it. No matter which way they run, if they’re great salespeople there should be a spot for them on your team as long as the responsibility they’re shunning isn’t the basis for their job. It’s one thing to not want more responsibility, but it’s an entirely different thing to not accept the responsibility that comes with the job.

Though they are willing to work for what they want, the salespeople (or really anyone) who fall into this category tend to be impatient. They know where they’re going and want to get there as fast as they can. They don’t want a lot of red tape holding them up.

Communicate with them regularly and provide proper feedback on where they are and what the next steps are in their journey.

Look for ways to include these people in industry programs allowing them to learn and grow. You may find this group of young leaders to be very much into personal development. You should spend as much or more on their personal development as they do. Their growth into management should be just as important to you as it is to them.