The Top Five Qualities--and Three Wild Mistakes--That Define a Great Sales Manager

Effective sales managers are key to organizational success. These are qualities to look for and mistakes to avoid when hiring sales managers in your business.

7 min read

Being a great sales manager is no easy feat. Your team’s success depends on you making sure your reps are closing those top deals and every member is engaged and inspired. But what are the qualities that make a great sales manager – and what are the worst pitfalls to avoid?

Five Star Sales Manager Qualities

1. Being an Outstanding Coach

Enabling your team to work to the best of their ability is possibly the most important quality of a sales manager, and that means being a great coach. There’s a clear difference between sales training and sales coaching: training means delivering a structured lesson to two or more, while coaching involves one on one mentoring tailored to that individual.

Great managers can adapt their coaching style for each rep, reflecting how they absorb information and their own individual strengths. By being a great and consistent coach, you empower your team to improve their results – and ultimately protect your long term success.

2. Hiring the Right People

Learning how to interview and ultimately hire the right people is possibly the most difficult part of a manager’s job. Stars focus on competency-based hiring rather than experienced-based; I myself avoid looking at resumes and go straight to the candidate’s abilities.

There are exceptions to this rule – for example, where the rep is bringing a portfolio of clients into their new organisation. But generally if you can ensure that you have the right mix of skills in your team, you will be building a long term winning formula. 

3. Intervening at the Right Time

Stars are able to pick the right moment in the sales process to step in and support the deal. It’s important for managers to allow reps space to build relationships and complete the sales process, but then ensure that they spent their (limited) time in the most effective way.

That means observing from a distance, then chiming in at the very beginning of the process and in the closing stages. That way managers can ensure they’re adding the most value without overstretching themselves – or stepping on reps’ toes.

Automation tools like Xactly Insights can help managers identify reps with declining performance at those at risk for turnover. That way, their they can truly intervene at the right time.

4. An Analytical Approach

Great sales managers have a sharp, analytical mind. Advanced CRM and commission calculation platforms produce lots of data that managers can access. Those who succeed in this role will not only read this data, but work out the story that the data is telling—and then act on that. Sales managers should be able to unlock the power of their data – and create more informed sales strategies as a result.

5. Prioritise, Prioritise, Prioritise

There are a hundred different things that a sales manager can do in an average day – and often as many calls on their time. The best of them will identify the areas where they can add the most value – coaching a team member, supporting the close of a major deal, etc.  and ensure that those tasks are done first. That way you can ensure that you are best-placed to drive your team forward to success.

Three Mistakes to Avoid

1. Focusing on the Administration 

While all managers must deal with tracking, under-performers tend to spend too much of their time on this. Administration can be a huge burden, not just on sales managers but the entire team. While it’s important for managers to have awareness of the number of calls and emails reps are sending, you shouldn’t spend too much time getting bogged down in this detail; investing time in coaching will reap more rewards in the long term.

2. Micromanaging

It can be tempting as a manager to get very involved in the minute detail – both of the sales process and the way that reps are working. But micromanagement is a big mistake that will stifle the development of team members and ultimately lead to bad feelings in the office. Managers should trust their team to act and spend their own time more productively.

3. Abusing the Position

The worst leaders can try to use their position to exercise power over the team. This is destructive behaviour that will ultimately damage the prospects of everyone. Managers should consider their approach carefully – and be aware that their position is a privilege, not a right.

As a final thought on sales manager qualities, the best always remember that they work for their sales reps, and not the other way round. Stars do their best to work in the interests of the reps at all times – because the team’s success is their success. Managing by this strong philosophy will help to deliver outstanding performances, time and time again.