Having a good sales leader is a goal of all companies. Companies can either develop them internally or find them on the market. There are pro and cons for both choices, but if leadership of the company has clear strategy what they want from a company, choosing a sales manager, that has an ability to implement market approach, that will best serve that strategy, is crucial. In this case if company does not have internal resource with that ability, it should look outside.
There are four main areas of responsibility of any sales leader (two on human management side and two on business management side).
- Human management side
- Business management side
- Strategic activities
- Operational activities
Management side in connection with human management is operational part of being a manager. Good manager should at least:
- Set up cohesive teams.
- Create proper environment for your employees.
- Have a clear picture of capabilities for each person in the team.
- Be able to match sales demands to those capabilities.
- Set up proper development plans for sales organization.
- Create proper motivation/incentive plans for sales organization.
- Create proper delegation model.
- Create proper communication framework (regular meetings, feedback reviews, escalation paths,…).
Leadership is on the other hand critical part of human management role. It is hard to learn. If done correctly has enormous benefit for the whole sales organization and its reputation inside company and on the market. That part is actually the hardest part of transition from good sales person to great sales manager (since sales person roles are sometimes very individually oriented and their success is not always in direct correlation with person’s ability to lead).
Leaders capabilities should include at least:
- Ability to create trust by exhibiting proper behavior.
- Ability to help sales person in complex situation.
- Ability to translate company strategy and tactical initiatives to every person responsibility and by doing that inflicting sense into everyday work of sales organization.
- Courage and knowledge to handle sales uncertainty without spilling unnecessary pressure down to sales organization.
- Transparency and objectiveness to handle different expectations and conflicts when they arise.
- Ability to create common vision around company goals and tied individual development plans with that vision.
- Staying humble in executing management authority.
- Taking and executing hard decisions in a professional and respectful way.
When it comes to business side good sales managers should make sure they are included into creation of company strategy and they should take responsibility to implement proper tactics for implementation of that strategy (especially the ones connected to go-to-market approach). Since sales is one of the integration activities inside company, connecting development, finance, marketing, production or purchasing departments, it is also crucial that a sales manager is able to create strong business relationships with other peers in order for them to act as a strong team with focus on the best overall performance of the company.
Strategy management demands from managers to:
- Understand company portfolio and its reason d’etre.
- Understand or is able to create company unique value proposition.
- Understand the market: its needs, players, potential, development trends, limitations and obstacles.
- Understand company position on the market and potential threats and opportunities and ability to manage risk of threats and create approaches to use new opportunities.
- Understand company current capabilities (sources, processes, structure, culture), potential gaps and ability to create initiatives to close them.
- Create department strategy that will support execution of company strategy.
- Have ability to translate strategies into initiatives and convey them in the simplest way to its employees.
- Have ability to reengineer business processes to create the most efficient structure for strategy implementation.
- Have ability to reengineer the strategy itself, together with management team, if needed.
If you can do strategy that is great, but in the most cases it is operational excellence that will define your success in the short run and since sales is still measured a lot on the short run results, it is crucial for survival of any sales manager, to get his operations in order. To do that, it is important that you at least:
- Set up proper sales structure to support go-to-market approach (inbound, outbound, partners, F2F, online,..).
- Create proper lead generation machine together with marketing.
- Create proper sales support organization and define sales support elements needed for every part of sales organization.
- Create proper customer categorization – defining TAM and ICP.
- Create structured approach for delivering feedback information from the market to other part of organization.
- Define sales processes with the best mix of need for information input and time needed to collect and record them.
- Choose proper sales support tools.
- Create repeatable sales activities and automate them.
- Create good knowledge sharing mechanism.
- Create simple analytical and management system to control the business.
If you can do all that and still have fun doing it, you are on a good way to be a great sales manager.