Sales! The coveted profession for many.
It all starts with being a sales rep and then slowly climbing the ranks to sales managers and so on. Sales, after all, is one of the most critical business functions. It drives business, puts it onto a growth path, and supercharges the revenue pipeline. It makes sure that revenue keeps hitting the bank accounts.
But what is required to ace sales?
Had this been a decade ago, we would name skills like networking, people skills, and resilience as the only skills required.
But, as tech alters most fields and everything becomes more data-driven, sales also require a bucket of skill sets. And one of the primary goals for all sales professionals is the sales manager position.
However, here is a question!
What does it take to be a sales manager in today’s age? In an age where industries are diverse yet equally focused.
The new-age sales manager must have the right mix of all the essential soft skill sets and also a few tech skills.
But before we dive into a listicle of skill sets required, let’s revise the basics first.
Table of content
What and Who is a sales manager?
Sales managers are the torch bearers responsible for driving the sales engine.
The magnitude of roles and responsibilities differ from organisation to organisation. A small business or a startup might be working on a lean team, and sales managers could be taking care of multiple sales teams at once.
Shift to a big corporate or enterprise, sales managers usually have one or two teams and report ground-level activities to the sales director or VP of sales.
Usually, a sales manager overlooks their respective team’s performance, and is responsible for team coaching, assigning territories and targets, hiring a sales team, and reviewing quota attainments.
The above make up the responsibilities in a nutshell, but the above tasks themselves fall into specific buckets that best define the KRAs of sales managers.
Sales Manager Responsibilities
As we outlined above, the responsibilities of a sales manager and their magnitude differ from company to company. However, there are a few of them which are common and form the main responsibilities one way or the other.
Here are the ones regarded as the most important ones usually.
Recruiting a winning sales team:
The foremost priority for any sales manager would be to recruit a team comprising of go-getter sales professionals.
How and whom you hire will after all drive the revenue engine.
So recruiting a winning sales team comes first. Parallely there also comes a task to identify the strengths and weaknesses of the sales team so as to channel them correctly for best performance.
Identifying and aligning sales goals
Once you have a good sales team and have identified individual strengths, it is essential to chart and freeze sales goals.
Now, there will be collective sales goals as a sales team, and then there’ll be individual sales goals for all your reps. It may sound like a straightforward task, however, sales goals cannot be just high ambitious figures.
Sales goals must be broken down into short-term, mid-term, and long-term. Further, the frozen numbers should align with the company’s capabilities and immediate future roadmaps.
Impart sales training and coaching
This is one of the essential yet basic tasks of sales managers. Sales managers must assess their sales teams’ performance on an individual level periodically.
This must be followed by specific training and coaching. Best performers must be isolated and efforts should be done to replicate their performance practices across the team.
It is also crucial to identify the average performers and the reason behind their average performance. As average performance can be due to various reasons, it is essential to map out the reasons for all to take the desired action to train, coach, and correct.
Given the nature of sales today, especially when most sales are happening remotely for software, analysing and reviewing sales calls can prove to be beneficial. Therefore, sales managers must identify a way to do the same.
The above three buckets largely define the responsibilities of a sales manager. What about the various skills that one needs?
Here is a listicle of the must have and most in demand sales managers skills.
Here are 17 skills to look for when hiring a sales manager
1. Hiring and recruiting
No wonder, this comes as one of the firsts. Sales managers must have good recruiting skills. They must be able to recognize the right fit for their teams.
Recruitment is a skill that takes time. It is as tactful to interview as it is to give one.
2. Performance management
Coaching and training are integral, but so is performance management.
These terms are often used interchangeably, however, it is essential to have a clear understanding if you want to make it as a sales manager.
Performance management refers to reviewing your sales reps’ performance. A strong hand in performance management skills will help you gauge the overall sales productivity and identify the loopholes early on. It also includes charting out individual weaknesses and strengths coupled with imparting critical constructive feedback wherever necessary.
The work doesn’t end here, managers need to monitor if feedback is taken constructively and acted upon.
3. Active listening
Effective communication is a must-have in order to excel as a sales manager. However, this includes active listening as well. Many sales reps feel that their ideas are not heard and are usually sidelined.
If one aims to be sought after as a sales manager, one must listen patiently and actively. Try to give a trial to the ideas of your subordinates and practice brainstorming sessions. This will help build an image of easy accessibility and will promote inclusivity among teams.
Active listening is all the more important in a remote setting.
A study outlines that 64% percent of the 675 US professionals said that their leaders make decisions without seeking input. A 2015 poll outlined that 38% of employees feel that their leaders dismissed their ideas.
Therefore, active listening is that one skill that can help you climb the ranks and also win your team’s confidence.
4. Math and Excel skills
Sales is a science as we said. Today’s sales managers must be skilled enough in math and excel skills to themselves perform best.
With a lot of data around to analyze, having sound excel knowledge will make things a lot easier. Further, as most of the data can be captured and analyzed, sales managers can also do trend analysis to forecast success and optimize their processes along the way.
5. Effective Communication
Communicate, communicate and communicate.
The one golden rule to make a mark in sales leadership roles.
Effective communication is now even more important as teams work remotely. And remote work is not just a temporary shift.
It is here to stay. An Upwork report predicts that nearly half of the workforce will work remotely at least partially if not fully by 2026.
So remote work is going nowhere.
Therefore sales managers must level up their communication skills to mitigate the communications gaps that arise in a virtual work setting.
Virtual work is more prone to communication gaps and 67% of sales managers agree that managing a remote team is difficult.
6. Social selling
Selling is core to sales managers but again one needs to reorient and calibrate their strategies to align with the buyer behavior.
A few years ago, potential buyers used to shortlist products, take a demo or free trial and then buy it. This is what a typical buying cycle used to be.
But today, things are different. Buyers are now more informed than ever.
Thanks to the internet and things being virtual, buyers now do their research. They compare, read reviews, refer to social media and rely on peer feedback before making a purchase.
Gartner also defines the buyer journey to be more complex and non-linear now.
Henceforth it is vital to adopt new-age strategies while selling. Social selling makes the utmost sense in the given market dynamics.
Social selling is all about connecting with your prospective leads and delivering valuable experience via engagement. It is not just lead generation but a strategy to forge more strategic and meaningful relationships with your prospect via social networks.
As per this Linkedin report, 78% of social sellers outsell their peers. It also outlines how social selling helps create 45% more opportunities.
Social selling will become even more essential as virtual sales increase. According to a Gartner prediction, 80% of B2B sales will happen over digital channels by the year 2025.
Henceforth, social selling is a skill to be learned and be good at if you need to excel as a Sales Manager in today’s age.
7. Customer relationship management
If most deals are happening virtually, relationship-building becomes the essence of all. It is important to build a rapport with your prospects and clients.
Be it B2C or B2B, sales afterall happen between humans. Hence maintaining relationships is important
When you focus on relationship building, you forge trust and provide your clients with a pleasurable dealing experience. This also helps in maintaining recurring revenue and reducing churn rate.
Sales is a job for the tough. There will be times of despair and periods of low motivation. But that is what sales are about. The graph is always a sine wave.
Hence resilience counts. Sales Managers must be resilient enough to continue putting effort and motivating their teams.
9. Sales planning
Strategic sales planning takes into account short-term and long-term goals. Sales managers often do this in collaboration with other professionals in sales leadership.
Sales planning is crucial as it must be aligned with the company’s vision and roadmap.
What can constitute sales planning?
The following components often make up strategic sales plans but these may differ from company to company.
- Target Market
- Target Jurisdictions
- Collective quota goals
- Competitive overview and analysis
- Product or service analysis and key feature understanding
- Existing sales stack and upgrades needed
- Sales performance review mechanisms
- Identification of north star and other key metrics
10. Delegation and Team Work
Sales managers often have a lot on their plate. In such a scenario it often becomes essential to delegate tasks that can be done by others and focus more on strategic things.
Hence, one must learn the art of delegating and promoting teamwork.
It might sound easy to delegate but it requires a mindset and trust between teams.
Promote collaboration sessions and gauge who all among the team are willing to work in tandem.
For example, a high-performing sales rep can take on the role of a mentor for a junior sale rep and update the sales manager weekly on the progress. Such small steps of delegation and teamwork promote efficiency and avert burnout.
11. Coach and motivate team to do more
You performed extremely well, achieved above your quotas, and voila! You are a sales manager now. A great start but with added and altered responsibilities.
Now not only are you responsible for your own performance but are accounted for your sales rep performance as well. Therefore you will need to don the hat of a mentor, motivator, and critic.
Review performance, listen to sales reps, motivate them to do their best, and provide transparent timely feedback.
Definitely sounds a lot. Therefore one must acquire coaching and motivating skills to drive their sales teams.
12. Time management
It is a no-brainer that sales managers juggle between tasks. If not prioritized well, things can often go for a toss and lead to inefficiency.
Therefore, it is important to prioritize to maintain effectiveness and efficiency both.
Investing in time-saving tools, and automating repetitive tasks can work in favor.
13. Collaboration with multiple stakeholders
Sales managers often need to work in cross-functional settings. They might be working in close collaboration with marketing and customer success teams to ensure recurring revenue.
Further, as sales as a function interacts the most with prospects, knowledge transfer becomes essential.
Therefore, it is key to collaborate effectively among teams. It is recommended to have dedicated time slots for working in tandem with other teams. A weekly cadence with each team can help both parties be up to date and avert sudden work pressure.
As a Sales Manager, you will find yourself in plenty of problematic situations. This can be your team’s, your prospect’s, or a client moving to a competitor service or product.
Therefore, problem-solving skills need to be handy.
They will help you troubleshoot and navigate through tough waters.
15. Rational and rigorous thinking
Imagine this, your sales reps are having a tough time with the existing CRM.
Going for a new tool will bring its learning curve and it is the peak sales season.
What would you do?
Situations like these are more than common for a Sales Manager. You will need to weigh the pros and cons and come up with a solution real quick.
So rational and rigorous thinking is a must-have skill. It is not always mandatory that one will have these skills intrinsically, but these can be acquired and honed. Take up training sessions and micro courses to brush up on skills like these.
16. Coach teams and Sales Reps
It is a no-brainer that coaching your team will take a considerable part of your day-to-day time.
Rather it has become 50% of a Sales Mangers’ job.
One way to be good at it is to introspect. What kind of coaching or training did you wish for during your initial years in sales?
What kind of skills do your salespeople need to be good at?
Which tools can make this easier for you and your team?
Answering these questions can help you be a better sales coach.
17. Can close sales
The number of deals you close will define your success as a sales manager. There will be times when you will find yourself closing the most level of clients.
Therefore the ability to close deals is crucial. Interestingly, only 8% of sales managers can close. So it makes sense to work on your closing skills.
Handy tips to transition from sales rep to sales manager
All said and done, transitioning from the role of an individually contributing sales professional to that of a Sales Manager can be daunting yet rewarding. It all boils down to the ability to adapt, upskill and adjust to a new environment.
In sales, learning never stops and you can never be just perfect in what you do. It is an ever-learning field and improving the game is the key to success.
We have discussed the various skills that one needs to ace sales. Here are a few tips that can help you get a kick start as a Sales Manager.
- Prioritize your tasks and give equal weightage to all your responsibilities. You are now responsible for your team’s success as well.
- Never undermine performance management. It makes or breaks your career as a sales manager. Do not be afraid to invest in tools that help you do effective sales management.
- Reviewing sales management is important but demands time. Do it intelligently via new-age tools like Goodmeetings. Goodmeetings provides you with a meeting summary after every call. Experience it firsthand with a demo and a subsequent free trial.
- Automate repetitive tasks. Invest in good CRMs and chart out a workflow for each segment.
- Set realistic goals, both for yourself and your team. Consistency matters more.
In the end, focus on teamwork because that is how sales functions. Teamwork and collaboration are the most powerful weapons to ace sales.
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Frequently Asked Questions
What is a sales manager?
A sales manager is responsible for overlooking a team of sales reps. He or she sets sales goals, reviews performance, and motivates sales reps to achieve their best. Sales managers often have a mix of soft skills and other domain-specific skills like negotiation, strategic planning, and so on.
How to Write a Sales Manager Job Description
Sales Managers oversee the team’s performance, coach sales reps, and forecast monthly revenue. The job description for a Sales Manager opportunity should include a summary of day-to-day responsibilities and general skills. Along with this, one must mention any domain-specific skills that might be required.
What does a sales manager do?
Sales Managers are responsible for overseeing sales teams’ performance. Charting out sales plans and keeping the revenue pipeline going. They have a crucial role to play culturally also and must train their team to do the best of its capabilities.
What skills do employers look for in sales managers?
A combination of soft skills and tech skills is in demand for Sales Managers.
A few are listed below
- Effective communication
- Time Management
- Excel skills
- Knowledge of new-age sales tech stack
- Ability to coach and train
How much does a sales manager make?
As per the job search site Indeed, the average base compensation for a Sales Manager is about 67,813 US dollars. This can vary from industry to industry and incentives might vary.
What does it take to become a sales manager?
Resilience, the ability to dig out solutions to problems, and enough agility are what it takes to be a Sales Manager. Coupled with it the will to constantly upskill is what sets apart an excellent Sales Manager
What Is a Sales Manager’s Working Environment Like?
The work environment of Sales Managers is very dynamic and that of a hustle one.
Things move very fast and one must be agile enough to adopt new strategies. It also involves a lot of analysis and deep work to understand competitors’ moves.