Do Not Underestimate the Impact of Sales Manager Roles and Responsibilities
The appeal of promoting star salespeople to sales management in order to scale growth growth is alluring. Unfortunately, successful individual sales hunters and farmers rarely have the necessary characteristics of great sales managers at the ready. And when it comes to performance, selecting and developing sales managers matters a great deal.
- Done wrong, you could be removing a top solution seller and putting both revenue growth and client satisfaction at risk.
- Done right, our research shows that high performing sales managers can increase sales team performance by 4x.
Sales Manager Promotions Gone Wrong
Ill-considered promotions to sales management is not unlike the story of technical experts being promoted into managerial positions without enough formal new manager training and support. Unprepared new managers quickly learn that the skills and knowledge required as an individual contributor are vastly different from what is required to successfully lead, manage, and coach a team. Similarly, unqualified sales managers are apt to fall back on old individual sales behaviors that no longer apply and reactively enforce the very practices that they tried to avoid as a sales rep.
The Successful Sales Manager Roles and Responsibilities
We know from our leadership simulation assessment data that successful sales managers consistently focus on three areas:
- Creating Sales Clarity
Successful sales leadership starts with strategic clarity. Our organizational alignment research found that winning sales strategies account for 31% of the difference between high and low performing sales teams. For sales teams to have the context to perform at their peak, the go-to-market sales strategy must be clear enough, believable enough, and implementable enough to achieve your objectives.
Sadly, sales reps rate their company’s sales strategy as 50% less clear than their bosses. So sales manager roles and responsibilities start with co-creating a compelling sales strategy that answers the key sales strategy questions and focuses on balancing three critical and integrated sales metrics in a way that aligns with their company’s sales culture and sales strategy.
— Sales Revenue
While most organizations measure some combination of revenue, margin, win rate, portfolio mix, deal size, and sales cycle, revenue generated is consistently rated as the #1 metric to determine the success of a sales team. Regardless of what makes sense for your unique situation, the key is making the metric clear, simple, fair, consistent, just-doable, and transparent.
— Customer Satisfaction
Customer satisfaction helps to predict customer loyalty, retention, and growth. Smart sales managers ensure that customers are happy with their sales force, their products, and the overall experience.
— Salesperson Engagement
Top sales talent is hard to find and often harder to keep. The most effective sales managers ensure that they do what it takes to garner motivation and commitment from their sales team.
- Creating a High Performance Sales Culture
Once the sales strategy and success metrics are clear enough, sales manager roles and responsibilities should include creating the sales culture for their sales team to perform at their peak. Many sales leaders still mistakenly believe that culture is “soft HR-type stuff” that can be ignored because it does not have a quantifiable impact on performance.
Successful sales organizations and leaders know better. They understand and leverage their sales culture to create peak performance in four ways:
— A Clear and Modeled Sales Culture
To impact performance, the desired sales culture (how things get done) must be clearly articulated to employees and consistently monitored, modeled, and rewarded by sales leadership. Anything less will create skepticism and misalignment.
— Aligned and Believed Behaviors and Actions
For your sales culture to matter, it must not only tie directly to your strategy, but the sales force must also believe that it is a key driver in helping them to achieve their targets. This includes ensuring that sales reps who are high performers are perceived as consistently living your desired sales culture. Any cracks in the system can pull down sales performance.
— Experienced and Consistent Behaviors and Actions
To be effective, employees must experience your company’s desired sales culture on a regular basis with a predictable cadence. Your sales culture should boost your sales force’s “immune system” by keeping the sales team healthy and defending against behaviors and actions that do not match how you want things to get done.
— Balanced Soft and Hard Performance Management
On the “soft side,” meaningful sales cultures make employees proud and motivated to do their best at every turn. On the “hard side,” accountable cultures ensure that substandard performers (when given the required support) must improve quickly if they wish to remain employed. Different from the old-school “up or out” mentality, this “improve or move on” mentality ensures that sales reps focus on and are rewarded for measurable performance improvement.
- Playing the Right Role at the Right Time
While the specific role of a sales manager varies according to an organization’s strategy, sales processes, and situation, sales manager roles and responsibilities include the ability to play three critical roles well:
— Sales Strategist
In the role of sales strategist, effective sales managers set a clear direction and path for the sales team that is aligned with the overall business strategy. This includes defining the target market, ideal target client profile, positioning, market differentiation, competition, sales territories, market segmentation, sales and distribution models, and the aforementioned sales success metrics.
— Sales Proprietor
In the role of sales proprietor, sales managers utilize their operational and managerial skills to monitor, control, and review sales activities versus sales plan. This includes managing the sales team’s budget, sales forecasts, sales processes, sales methodologies, systems, and plans in addition to making the tough decisions on pricing and team structure.
— Sales Coach
In the role of sales coach, sales leaders hire, coach, engage, develop, and retain their people in alignment with their sales culture while using their knowledge and experience to understand customers, help close deals, and move the team forward.
The Bottom Line
Sales manager roles and responsibilities matter. Unfortunately most research shows that sales managers spend at least half of their time fighting fires and dealing with administrative tasks that do not move their sales teams (or their customers) forward. To succeed, do not let your sales managers get caught up in non-value-added activities.
To learn more about how to be a great sales manager, download What Sales Managers Really Need to Know About Sales Coaching