Confessions of a Sales Manager
The sales manager is arguably the most critical position in any organization. Not just responsible for revenue, but responsible for revenue through the ability to influence several sales representatives.
The sales manager needs to fully understand the organizational strategic plan, both short and long term. She must ensure that their customer profile will allow the strategy to come to life. The team she leads must understand how to make it happen every day. Oh, and let’s talk about the team.
The sales manager needs to find what is unique about each person on the team, particularly their biggest strengths, and then turn those strengths into actions, so they can individually successfully execute the strategy. And she needs to make sure it is happening Every. Single. Day.
As a former VP of sales and COO with responsibility for sales, I have tracked individual sales manager performance across many companies. Additionally, many of our Butler Street engagements allow us to track the best sales managers from multiple industries. As a result of our research and interviews, we have identified common characteristics and behaviors that lead to consistently strong results. Here are seven of the most common confessions of these successful sales managers:
- I wanted to be a teacher. The best sales managers get great personal joy out of sharing their knowledge with those that follow them. They love seeing the "light bulbs" go off and enjoy the questions and the calls that are akin to extra tutoring.
- I love numbers, however not as much as I love communicating. They know that profitable growth is the only desirable outcome and they can manage a P&L and a dashboard as good as their finance counterparts. However, they don’t obsess over the numbers, they use them as a guide for advancing their team’s skills and to correct where necessary as close to the moment as possible. Growth of their team is reflected in the numbers, so that’s why they love the numbers.
- My coaches were my role models. Whether it was athletics, music, language, or some other extra-curricular activity, the person that helped shape their behavior as a sales manager, was a coach. Someone who helped them face the facts when they were making mistakes and created an environment for them to succeed. Someone who pushed them hard, but always held their best interests above all. Someone who instilled in them that success is a team effort and failure is individual.
- I know how to say no and mean it. Again profitable growth is the only desired outcome. That means that some ‘sales’ are just not going to be worth it. Either the relationship is too competitive, the solution we are selling is not part of our strategy or the sale could harm our brand. No matter how excited their sales person gets over an opportunity, if it isn’t a fit, it isn’t a fit. Period.
- I prefer respect over friendship. Enough said. Their job is to make their team, each and every one of them successful. If they garner respect, they can do that.
- I love solving puzzles. Getting the big sale requires strategy. It requires understanding so much about the client’s decision-making process and criteria and the level of influence each key player holds. It requires understanding how the relationships stack up. It requires understanding the client options and competition. It requires understand the solution sets available to solve their clients' problems. It’s a puzzle and they love helping their team work through it and get it right.
- I take great pride in the success of others. They don’t need the credit or the glory. They don’t need the kudos. They don’t need to make the sales calls or be the one to close the deal. They need their team to feel those emotions. That’s what makes them tick.
Butler Street is a management consulting, training and research firm dedicated to helping companies and their people grow. We can help you develop your sales managers and find and develop tomorrow’s leaders. Contact us.
Mary Ann McLaughlin serves as a Managing Partner at Butler Street, a leading management consulting, training and research firm that focuses on client and talent development. Prior to Butler Street, she served in executive roles for 13 years including chief operating officer, president and managing director. A Six Sigma Champion certified executive, McLaughlin leverages her robust process background with 32 years of sales and operational experience.
A recreational triathlete, McLaughlin has completed three marathons (Chicago 2x, Marine Corps) and numerous triathlons. She holds a B.S. in Marketing from Bradley University.