What makes a Sales Manager highly effective?

Posted on Monday, March 13, 2023 by Graham Quinn

Being a good Sales Manager requires developing many different skills. It also takes a special type of person to balance the pressure of delivering results whilst creating a supportive but inspirational environment for their team. Getting this balance right is often what makes the difference between an average and an outstanding sales manager. A great sales manager not only wins respect from their ability to sell, but they also know how to develop those same skills in the individuals around them.

The importance of the right management style

Research suggests that managers who focus on building and developing a sales team provide the greatest value for employers.

By analysing 7,000 employees and managers Gartner identified the management styles which are key to creating effective sales teams and preventing waste through staff turnover.

‘Connector’ managers were found to be the most effective, ‘improving employee performance by up to 26% and make their direct reports three times more likely to become high performers.’

In contrast, the ‘Always-On’ manager was found to actually degrade employee performance. So what is the difference between the approaches of these two types of managers?

Connector managers were found to set their teams up for sales success by ‘providing them with resources, such as online sales training, that they need to work effectively and motivating them to sell more each day.’ Also, rather than trying to motivate their reports with metrics and deadlines, connector managers lead by example, inspiring and coaching their team on a daily basis.


Why is it important for sales managers to be skilled at coaching?

‘A single ineffective sales manager can cost a company as much as several million dollars,’ says Cristina Gomez, Practice Leader at Gartner. Part of this is due to the underperformance of sales teams whose managers fail to develop their skills. However, costs due to poor sales management are also due to high staff turnover. Poor management causes people to leave, leading to spiralling recruitment costs and waste in onboarding and training. Sales is notorious for high people turnover, averaging twice the rate of the rest of the labour force, according to the Harvard Business Review .

However, Gartner found that ‘only 26% of sales managers took the Connector approach’ towards developing their team and that ‘the average frontline sales manager devotes just 9% of his or her time to developing their sales team. Sales organisations therefore need to learn how to identify these skills when hiring sales managers.


What to look for when hiring sales managers


The following skills are what set highly effective managers above the rest, enabling their teams to achieve above-average results and their organizations to succeed.


  1. The ability to define a sales process that works for the team.


    A sales manager should ensure that each member of the team follows a standardised approach to each stage of the sales process. However, effective sales managers also know that making this process too complex will cause problems.


    An effective sales manager can maintain consistency throughout the team whilst also seeking ways to make that process simpler. They understand that listening to feedback and making minor adjustments enables the team to be their most productive. They may look to automate tasks which slow the team, freeing them to focus on what’s important.


  2. High level communication (including listening) skills.


    A highly effective sales manager communicates with the team regularly to set expectations, track their progress, motivate, and support them.


    Not only are sales managers clear about expectations, but they are also able to inspire through communication, rather than relying heavily on metrics and deadlines as motivation. They also will understand the value of listening. Encouraging feedback and providing an open-door policy helps team members feel valued and supported.


  3. The ability to motivate reports.


    Although sales managers need to be driven themselves in order to motivate their team, they also need to have developed a range of motivational strategies beyond pushing towards targets and deadlines. Great sales managers understand that each individual on the team is different. They will demonstrate a variety of  different approaches to motivation, such as breaking down goals into smaller steps, giving encouragement, regular feedback and celebrating the successes of each individual.


  4. Effective coaching skills


Sales management is a demanding, high-pressure role. As a result, the average manager tends to neglect coaching. Yet studies show it is the most vital aspect of the role for creating high-performing teams. Effective sales leaders therefore see coaching as high-priority and create daily opportunities for training.


As with motivating reports, the most effective coaching uses an individualised approach adapting to each salesperson’s needs. To do this, the effective manager will dedicate time to observing and monitoring individual progress. This allows them to identify which skills can be enhanced to enable each individual to perform at their best. They also make the best use of their time by utilising alternative support.  This might be through online training or making use of the strengths of individuals to set up mentoring opportunities.


At Wireless Mobile International Search we understand that sales managers are vital to your organisational growth.


We have recruited high-performing sales managers and account directors selling network solutions, device and applications to service providers, large enterprise and government across EMEA, APAC, North America and LATAM.


We understand that it is crucial to make the right selection for our clients, as the winning candidate will often play a major part in shaping strategy and delivering sales success.

Contact us today to see how we can support your business.


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