What Makes A Good Sales Manager Or Director?
A couple of years ago I worked in a marketing department for a successful warehousing company. Although my role was not to sell directly to customers, the other people in my department did exactly that. I knew from conversations I’d had with the sales manager that they wanted to take on another telesales executive to join their three-strong team – but they’d had trouble filling the position (the previous candidates they’d hired had failed to meet their minimum targets).

A few weeks later the sales manager announced he was hiring someone – an experienced telemarketing executive who’d previously worked for one of the biggest names in online publishing.

Two telemarketers

Within a month though, poor Lesley (I never did find out her second name) was gone. There are a number of reasons she failed – and a lot of them weren’t her fault. Here’s what I think the sales manager could have done better to support Sarah and help her achieve her targets.

Leadership

Regardless of how experienced we are, we still need guidance. Lesley knew very little about the specialist industry she was entering. Despite this, in the four short weeks she worked for the company, she received less than an hour’s training – which involved the sales director reading a series of bullet points from an A4 sheet of paper.

Strategies

The other members of the sales team had grown with the company. As such, they’d had to create their own unique strategies from nothing. This meant there was no officially documented approach that could be used as part of an inductee’s training. This left Lesley in a difficult predicament. She didn’t understand her industry – nor did she have access to any useful sales strategies to offset her lack of knowledge.

More than anything, the sales director (and to a lesser extent the sales manager) should be focusing on what is the best strategy to get their product to their intended market. The sales team should then be structured in such a way as to best fulfil that strategy.

Team Cohesion

Effective Teamwork

Whilst in-house training gives sales staff the foundational knowledge needed to be successful in their role, they also learn through a natural process of exposure to good practice.

This can only occur if the sales director/manager fosters an environment of inclusion, meaning they encourage the sharing of information to give staff the best possible chance of succeeding This did not happen in Lesley’s case. Instead she was expected to develop her own approach from scratch.

Other Considerations

Managing and developing people is only part of what sales managers or directors do. I would argue that they also need to be:

  1. A Good All Rounder. A sales director can be a fantastic strategist but achieve only average results when pitching their product or service to clients.  If they’re managing a team they need to be able to lead by example.
  2. Innovative. In order to expand their sales territories, businesses need to find new ways of marketing what they’re selling. This means sales directors must remain up to date with the latest techniques being used within their industry. If they’re sticking with what’s safe they’re limiting their results.
  3. Knowledgeable. Understanding their industry is important – but sales managers and directors also need to identify with the needs of their clients. Winning a sale is only the first part of the relationship building process – and that relationship will only continue to develop if the sales director/manager continually reassesses it to ensure provision is sufficient.
  4. EQ Versus IQ. Adopting an intellectual approach to your sales strategies and relationship building will get you far as a sales director – but you are also in charge of a team who rely on you to keep them motivated, up to date and organised. If you alienate these people, or cause division among them, your chances of success will dramatically reduce so as to become almost negligible.

What Other Attributes Are Important?

Do you work as a sales manager or director? If you do, then you may feel there are other skills that are important. Please let us know what you think. If you’re not working in a senior role, then we’d love to hear some examples of good and bad management that you have seen.