At 27, I became a manager for the first time. All Type-A bluster and bravado, I thought that simply relaying my wishes would be enough to get things done. I soon found that it takes much more than smarts and expertise to manage; it requires great empathy, compromise and a willingness to mediate discord in the ranks.
I asked entrepreneurs and experts what personality characteristics a sales manager needs to run an entrepreneurial sales force. Whether you’re managing your sales staff yourself or hiring someone to do it for you, these are the qualities you need:
1. Clarity. Clearly articulating expectations to your sales team is essential. Clarity helps the sales team to understand which clients are strategic and what types of deals the company is best positioned to deliver.
2. Consistency. All employees, including sales reps, operate best in an environment where they know what’s expected of them. Elements of consistency include a simple compensation model, regular sales meetings and performance reviews, and unwavering communication. Consistency is the primary characteristic needed to manage a sales team. Create a selling environment where good selling practices occur daily.
3. Urgency. Prioritise all that has to be accomplishedto fulfil objectives such as quarterly sales goals. A manager with the urgency trait is always five steps ahead of his or her sales reps, waiting for them to catch up.
4. Empathy. This may be the trickiest trait to master. Empathy can strengthen relationships with reps as long as it’s tempered with attention to bottom-line performance requirements. Show your reps that you do care about their lives outside of the office, but expect them to do their jobs.
5. An eye for good talent. Be urgent, be empathic, but if you haven’t hired the right reps, all your brilliant skills may be for nought. Hiring top-notch talent is the biggest challenge a manager faces.
Pinnacle Group International conducted a study to determine the management styles, motivators and temperaments of successful sales managers in small companies. According to the results, top sales managers tended to have an entrepreneurial, hands-on management style. They also relied on coaching and upgraded hiring standards to improve the sales team, and used prospecting and cold-calling to increase sales.