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January 12, 2022

Top Sales Manager Skills to Lead an Effective Sales Team

Sales. It’s the front line of your business.

Often the first impression potential clients have of your company is made by a salesperson. If your sellers are not doing their job well, nobody else in your company will have the opportunity to do their jobs well either because you’ll have no clientele. 

The success of your sales team depends on you, the sales manager. As a sales manager, you are the one responsible for ensuring the monthly or quarterly sales goals for your company are met. But you can’t do it alone. The skills needed to be an inspiring sales manager are not necessarily groundbreaking, but they certainly are important.

So how can you motivate a team to take this task as seriously as you do? There are numerous articles you can find on sales manager skills – what they are and how to hone and perfect them. It could be easy from reading some of the many articles about the skills required to be a sales manager to believe that people are simply robots and that there’s a one-size-fits-all approach to getting your leadership right. That’s not the case.

As a sales manager, you’re a leader of people, and you can’t lose sight of that if you want to get the most from your team.

With that in mind, this guide is compiled to help you begin to think about what skills you need to be a sales manager that is focused on his or her people.

People-Centered Sales Management Skill #1 – Know Who You Need to Hire

Every role on your sales team is different, and it’s rare that you need to fill every position at once. As the team leader, one of the key skills for a sales manager is to understand his or her team.

Part of your job is to know how everything fits together. When a position is created on your team, take time to determine the strengths and weaknesses of your team and work to find someone who brings those strengths with them. The goal of hiring each time you’re required to do that is to build a strong team, not simply to fill an empty chair.

Two traits that CEOs and sales managers should look for in their next job candidates are commitment and assertiveness.

Commitment: An early mentor of mine said, “Commitment is doing what you said you’d do, regardless of how you feel.”

The committed salesperson may not feel like making one more phone call or attending one more networking event. But they do, and consistently execute the daily, weekly and monthly activity plan. A committed salesperson invests the time to practice new selling skills, even when they’d rather settle for good enough.

Committed salespeople do what it takes.

Assertiveness: This soft, emotional-intelligence skill is the ability to nicely state what you need. And in the sales profession, there are many parts of the sales process where soft skills produce hard sales results:

  • Meeting with other buying influences. The assertive salesperson is comfortable stating that she needs to meet with key influencers before writing a recommendation.
  • Disqualification. Assertive salespeople are comfortable disqualifying prospects. If they aren’t hearing enough reasons for a prospect to change or invest, they are OK telling the prospect that this opportunity isn’t a good fit.

Assertive salespeople eliminate practice proposals and wasted time.

top skills required for sales manager

People-Centered Sales Management Skill #2 – Less Bossing, More Coaching

This item should be near the top of any sales manager skills list. Anyone can boss people around, but not everyone understands how to draw the best out of each team member the way a coach does.

Well-intentioned sales managers conduct weekly one-on-one coaching sessions. They don’t cancel these important meetings in order to handle the latest sales fire or for other reasons. They prepare for the coaching sessions armed with data and analytics.

So why are sales managers holding so many ineffective sales coaching sessions? The answer:

Many sales managers confuse deal review with deal coaching.

Your team members have different skill sets. Expecting them all to use the same approach to selling will frustrate all involved. Instead, work to adapt your coaching style to get the most out of each team member. Take time to know your team, understand what motivates them, and encourage or coach them according to their individuality.

Effective sales managers make it a habit to provide 100 percent of the skills needed to be successful in life and sales. They know that salespeople need to master the hard skills of selling, the consultative selling skills. They also recognize that salespeople need to master the soft skills of sales, emotional intelligence skills such as empathy, delayed gratification, and assertiveness.

Successful sales managers make sure their sales team is not trying to win and retain business with only 50 percent of the necessary skills.

Are you a Highly-Effective Sales Manager?

The best sales leaders are able to manage their emotions so they can continue to execute the right coaching and training skills. Take the following quick assessment to find out what areas you can address to sharpen your sales management skills.

People-Centered Sales Management Skill #3 – Teach “How-to” to Those Who Need It

To continue the coaching analogy from the previous point, you want to coach everyone often. But another key skill required for a sales manager is to recognize who needs specific training on some “how-to” skills and who doesn’t. Not everyone needs to take time to train. So, give your time and training energy to your consistent underperformers.

"If you do not have a sales organization that has an aptitude and hungry attitude for learning, you will soon be managing sales dinosaurs not salespeople."

It’s likely the underperformers on your team know who they are. It’s unlikely they’re happy to be on that list. They will appreciate your focused attention to help them become more skilled in the art of selling. And your top-sellers will appreciate not having to take time to learn skills they likely already know.

People-Centered Sales Management Skill #4 – Make Sure They Hear What You Think You’re Saying

The goal of communication is to get ideas across. But you’ve likely had experiences in your life where you believed you communicated brilliantly only to find that the people listening didn’t get the message you intended to send. When communicating to your sales team, keep the following ideas in mind:

  • Communicate Often – This will help your people understand you and will help them know what you’re trying to say when you may not be being clear.
  • Communicate with Clarity – You communicate different things to your team, from new company processes to sales goals. Work for clarity. This usually goes hand in hand with brevity. Concise bullet points can help get your points across.
  • Communicate Positively – People can pick up on negativity. Morale can be influenced by the way messages are delivered. Speak (or write) your ideas as if the cup is always half full, and you will help dispel negativity on your team.
The key skills for sales manager

People-Centered Sales Management Skill #5 – Keep People Accountable

By setting clear, measurable goals for your team, you build accountability into your sales team culture. Ambiguity in your goal setting and targeting leaves people wondering exactly what they're aiming for. Additionally, a lack of clarity in the goal makes it difficult to identify who on your team may need extra help. There's no accountability in ambiguity.

A key skill for a sales manager is the ability to provide accountability for yourself, too. At the end of the day, your management style and activities have a significant impact on your team. If you're coaching them correctly and creating a healthy team environment, they will most likely succeed.

People-Centered Sales Management Skill #6 – You're a Person, Too

You are not impervious to criticism, but a key sales management skill is to not need the approval of your team. You are there to lead and coach your team, not the other way around. Even if you do all the above skills flawlessly, you will encounter criticism. You'll need to figure out a way to let that go.

Being a sales manager is a stressful position. Your success rides on your team's work, and that can be daunting. But responding to challenging situations with emotion can mean you're thinking, analyzing, and strategizing skills can be dulled. A non-reactive, non-emotional response to difficult situations keeps you in control of the conversation and helps you retain objectivity.

People-Centered Sales Management Skill #7 – Don't Just Be the Sales Team Leader, Be the Lead Seller

The adage is true: If you're not modeling what you teach, you're teaching something else. At the top of the sales manager skills list is that the sales manager should know how to sell. Having the ability to get a struggling salesperson out of the office and into a situation where you can show them sales skills in real-time is invaluable.

As the sales leader, you can increase your effectiveness if your team knows that you can do their jobs if needed. This gives you credibility and authority. Working to keep your own sales skills sharp gives you an edge over your team and will cause them to be more likely to take you seriously when you coach them.

Take this Free Online Sales EQ Assessment to Improve Your Hard Sales Results!

Top sales performers know how to read and respond to the “emotional temperature” of others. Improve your emotional intelligence skills and you will improve hard sales results. (Don’t be the smartest person in the room that no one likes.)

Take this free assessment to get insight into improving key emotional intelligence skills such as impulse control, empathy and emotion management.

What Skills Do You Need to Be a Sales Manager?

There are many skills needed to be a sales manager. This article doesn't intend to oversimplify the task. By remembering you are a leader of people, you can go a long way toward leading and coaching your team to become more effective at their work. People who feel effective at their job and feel they matter to the company will generally stick around and continue to grow and produce.

By leading and developing a team of happy, effective salespeople, you can put that hiring skill to work far less often.

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The Best Soft Sales Skills Required to Build Effective Sales Teams

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