Top 3 Key Skills Required For A Sales Manager


Sales Managers are the vital cog in the wheel of an organization. They manage the sales team – the foot soldiers in the field. They are responsible for their performance and the revenue they bring in. A skilled sales manager can get the best performance from his team even his team members are just about average. On the other hand, an average sales manager might demotivate even a skilled salesperson and this will result in disastrous results for the organization.

So, a lot of thought has to be given before giving/promoting a person with sales manager responsibility. Traditionally somebody who has worked as a sales executive and promoted as a sales manager commands more respect and loyalty rather than somebody who is directly pushed-in in the managerial position. But this cannot be completely avoided (i.e direct or lateral recruitment as they call) and it is done on behalf of the overall organization policy. Enough care should be taken by the management as well as the recruit not to alien the existing sales force.

A sales manager is expected to manage the sales team, support them, motivate them and provide the resources which will help them to achieve more and earn more. A sales manager is expected to have excellent communication skills, good technical and product knowledge and excellent sales skills. In addition to this, there are some other key traits that a sales manager is expected to have. Let us see some of the key skills required by a sales manager from the organization perspective:

Team Player

The first and foremost skill required by a sales manager is to be the Team Player. Any manager’s key prerequisite should be this but in a sales manager position, this assumes greater importance and significance. A good sales manager enjoys the trust and commands the respect of the sales team. It does not come automatically and it has to be earned by the manager. A poor manager completely demotivates the team and this can result in sub-optimal performance of the team.

The manager should help his team members achieve their target, help them earn incentives, commission, bonus, help them in closing some key accounts, guide them in their day-to-day activity, improve their technical and commercial skills, listen to them and more importantly mentor and groom them to the next level. The manager can be firm and tough but should not be a bully. The manager can get the target achieved by working closely with the team. Any manager who helps his team member enough incentives/commission to earn (which the executive is not able to earn earlier) will command good respect.

The foremost mistrust and fear any salesperson have on his sales manager are that of stealing his account gogoanime. And this is more pronounced if the sales manager also has an individual target other than the team target. It is always better to clear this fear beforehand – if the sales manager does not have his target, it is relatively easier to convince the salesperson. If the sales manager does have his target then it is important to clarify how it does not conflict (say, for example, the manager focuses only on accounts having more than x amount turnover, or in a different territory, etc)

The other factor which concerns the salesperson about his manager is that of favoritism – and the resultant problems – territory encroachment, issues in lead forwarding, proportional time spent with the sales executives, especially if the team size is large. A skilled sales manager should manage all these dexterously and get the best out of the team. The manager should know the strength and weaknesses of each of his team members and accordingly handle them.

Getting Things Done

While being a team player is an important skill, the core thing that any manager needs is a – a can-do attitude he should have the necessary skills and attitude to get things done. Being popular is not a virtue, but achieving the target is the necessity. And if it needs some tough decisions a manager should unhesitatingly take it.

Say, for example, a particular sales executive is consistently under-performing, even though his territory has the best potential among his team. A good sales manager identifies the problem and if indeed the issue is with the executive, either he ensures that the executive improves his performance or a replacement is soon found, even if it means firing the employee.

Tough, unpleasant decisions have to be taken if it is warranted. A sales manager’s job is to increase sales varianceTV, increase the revenue, increase the market share, kill the competition and not win the popularity contests. The key task for the sales manager is to achieve his goals and targets with the (limited) resources he has at his disposal. The goals and targets are well defined, planned and communicated.

The manager should be focused enough and ensure that the team is aligned with that and the team is moving towards that goal. Overall the objective should be to work in line with the organization policies and the conflicts, escalations are to be handled accordingly. It should not affect the core activity of the team.

Collaboration And Teamwork

In modern organizations, none of the activities are done in isolation. One should be able to communicate, collaborate and work together with other teams to achieve the goal. Apart from handling his direct team, a sales manager should be able to coordinate, collaborate and work with the team members of the other departments – telesales, pre-sales, marketing, customer support, accounts, technical and administrative team.

Say, for example, the sales manager should work closely with the marketing team on doing some sales promotional activity, participating in few events, follow up with the leads, get some sales collateral’s done, etc. To handle a big-ticket customer, the pre-sales teams help will be needed. The customer support team can get good references from the existing customers as they are working closely with the customers. All the above activities should be done with cooperation and enthusiasm and without any ego clash of mutual disrespect.