5 Characteristics of Great Sales Managers

5 Characteristics of Great Sales Managers
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The Impact of Great Sales Managers
Companies that focus simply on the skills of their sales reps and neglect to provide targeted sales management training for sales leaders overlook a critical leverage point to increase sales performance. There is a powerful link between the effectiveness of front-line sales managers and revenue growth. When you understand the characteristics of great sales managers, you can take advantage of this link.

At our clients’ organizations, effective sales leaders create effective sales teams.  Data from our leadership simulation assessments and recent studies back this up:

  • Wilson Learning found “high-skill” sales managers drove 29% higher revenue performance and 16% higher customer satisfaction than managers with low-skill ratings ? regardless of the business sales skills of their salespeople.
  • Vantage Point Performance found a 39% difference in revenue performance between the top and bottom quartile of 518 sales managers in Fortune 500 companies.

So, What Makes a Great Sales Manager?
Our over three decades of sales strategy, sales culture, and sales talent experience across multiple industries and geographies leads us to conclude that there are five characteristics of great sales managers that make the biggest impact on revenue growth, profitability, win-rate, cycle time, client satisfaction, and sales team engagement.

  1. Great Sales Managers Ensure Strategic Sales Clarity and Cultural Alignment
    Great sales know that their sales teams must understand, believe in, and fully commit to the go-to-market sales strategies for success.  They also know that the sales strategy must go through their sales culture to be successfully implemented and eliminate any friction points.

    In fact, our organizational alignment research found that the alignment of sales strategy and culture accounts for 71% of the difference between high and low performing sales teams.
  2. Great Sales Managers Are Accountable for Team Success and Failure
    Great sales managers are accountable for their team’s performance and results. They understand that their success as a sales leader is 100% dependent upon the success of their team.  They know how to set meaningful and fair performance expectations, proportionately reward accomplishments, recruit top-quality sales reps that fit, and are willing to quickly, compassionately, and fairly replace sales reps who underperform despite good sales coaching.
  3. Great Sales Managers Prioritize High Potential and High Performance Sales Accounts
    Great sales leaders understand that not all sales accounts and sales opportunities are of equal value and potential.  Based upon an agreed upon ideal target client profile and unique value proposition, high performing sales leaders focus on what matters most.

    Effective sales managers help their sales team identify their “A” strategic sales accounts and then they expect and require that reps spend the majority of their time and effort on these high potential customers.  They then help to create processes and approaches to treat “B” and “C” level accounts accordingly.
  4. Great Sales Managers Regularly Review Sales Territories
    Top sales leaders frequently reassess sales territories, sales quotas, and sales team assignments in order to optimize growth and engagement. They look closely at emerging opportunities, changing markets, and the specific sales skills needed in each account and for each sales territory.  They are open and transparent about adjusting goals, approaches, and resources allocations to maximize sales team performance and engagement.
  5. Great Sales Managers Are Highly Effective Sales Coaches
    Rather than manage from behind a desk, great sales managers operate as sales performance coaches in the field. They understand the power of real-time feedback and the thoughtful career development of their reps.  Research backs up this approach.

    Recent McKinsey research found that top sales organizations commit 79% more time coaching their sales reps.  Our own sales research found that sales reps who are consistently coached outperform their peers 4-to-1 in terms of quota attainment.

The Bottom Line
High-performing sales organizations invest in and support their frontline sales managers because great sales managers are key to driving sales growth. Do you frontline sales leaders have the confidence and competence to lead, manage, and coach their sales teams to higher performance?

To help ensure that your sales coaching matters, download  The Biggest Sales Coaching Mistakes to Avoid According to Top Sales Reps

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