How to be a professional sales manager

Wednesday, 22 August 2012 00:05 -     - {{hitsCtrl.values.hits}}

What is sales management?

Sales management is a business discipline which is focused on the practical application of sales techniques and the management of a firm’s sales operations. It is an important business function as net sales through the sale of products and services and resulting profit drive most commercial business. These are also typically the goals and performance indicators of sales management.

Sales manager is the typical title of someone whose role is sales management. The role typically involves sales planning, human resources, talent development, leadership and control of resources such as organisational assets

The three recruitment tasks used in sales management are job analysis; job description and job qualifications.

Job analysis is performed to specify the certain tasks that a salesperson would be responsible for on a daily basis. It should identify what activities are deemed as being vital to the success of the company.The two main paths to sales management are to move from a sales position to sales manager, or to shift from another type of management job over to sales management. Where you’re coming from will partly determine your biggest challenges as a sales manager

Any person associated with the sales organisation or the human resources department could carry out the analysis as well as an outside specialist. The person that is responsible for completing a job analysis should have an in-depth comprehension of the daily activities of the salespeople.

This job analysis is then written in an explicit manner as a job description. The general information consists of:

1. Title of job

2. Organisational relationship

3. Types of products and services sold

4. Types of customers called on

5. Duties and responsibilities related

     to the job

6. Job demands

7. Hiring specifications

An effective job description will identify compensation plans, size of workload, and the salespeople’s duties. It is also primarily responsible for hiring tools such as application forms and psychological tests. The most difficult part of this process would be the determination of job qualifications.

A reason for this difficulty is because hiring affects a company’s competitive advantage in the market as well as the amount of revenue. Additionally, there should be a set of hiring attributes that is associated with each sales job that is within a company. If an individual does not excel in their assigned territory, it could be due to external factors relating to that person’s environment.

Let it be noted that a company should be careful not to submit to discrimination in regards to employment. A number of qualifications (ethnic background, age, etc.) cannot be used in the selection process of hiring.

Who is a sales manager?

The sales manager is the person responsible for leading and guiding a team of salespeople. A sales manager’s tasks often include assigning sales territories, setting quotas, mentoring the members of her sales team, assigning sales training, building a sales plan, and hiring and firing salespeople. In large companies, sales quotas and plans are typically established at the executive level and a manager’s main responsibility is to see to it that her salespeople meet those quotas.

Some sales managers were managers from other departments who transferred to sales, but the majority are top-tier salespeople who were promoted to a management position. Because these former salespeople have little or no management training or experience, their main challenge is allowing their sales team to do the selling and offering whatever guidance the team members need.

Because a sales manager’s compensation is tied to how many sales her team makes, she’s highly motivated to get her salespeople producing. This often leads to a scenario where she micromanages her sales team, hanging over their shoulders and constantly asking for updates. It’s especially common with former star salespeople, who tend to want to feel in control of every situation – particularly where their own salary is involved.

Unfortunately, salespeople don’t work well in this kind of environment, and their performance will suffer, leading to a vicious cycle where the sales manager becomes more and more frantic as her team fails to meet their quota. So sales management is a balancing act between providing guidance and direction without taking this to extremes.

Sales managers who are responsible for hiring and firing members of their sales team must learn some human resources skills. If a sales manager doesn’t know how to critically review a resume, ask probing questions in the interview, or catch any red flags during the process, she will probably end up hiring salespeople who look good on paper but fail to produce.

Firing an employee is never easy, but a sales manager must know when one of her salespeople simply isn’t working out – either because he isn’t a good fit for the company, or because he isn’t a good fit for a sales position at all.

Knowing how to get her team motivated is a critical part of sales management. A smart sales manager has several tools in her arsenal, ranging from silly prizes like paper crowns to major monetary rewards for big producers. She must also know how to motivate a poor producer into getting back on track. And she must recognise when the problem is not a lack of motivation but something more basic, such as the lack of a specific sales skill.

Sales managers must also understand the ‘big picture.’ In all but the smallest companies, sales managers are usually at the middle management level of responsibility. They supervise a sales team, but are supervised themselves by a higher-level manager, often at the executive level. When a sales manager’s team performs well, her supervisor will often give her the credit. But if a sales manager’s team fails to meet their quota, that executive will expect her to provide a solution.

A sales manager must have excellent communication skills to succeed. She must be able to understand the sales plan and explain it clearly to her sales teams. She must also be able to understand her salespeople’s needs and communicate those needs to the executive level. If a problem such as an unrealistic quota arises, she must be able to go to bat for her salespeople with upper management and get the situation resolved. When her salespeople do well she must show them that their hard work is appreciated, and when they falter she must uncover the reason and fix it.

Before you become a sales manager

The two main paths to sales management are to move from a sales position to sales manager, or to shift from another type of management job over to sales management. Where you’re coming from will partly determine your biggest challenges as a sales manager.

From salesperson to sales manager

This transition can be rough, especially if you are taking charge of your old teammates. In that case you’ll need to set some boundaries to make it clear you’re no longer “one of the gang.” Start by meeting with each member of your team, one-on-one, and go over what you think their responsibilities are. That includes giving everyone very specific goals. But make it clear that you’re ready to listen to any comments or concerns they have – you want to defuse any resentments as quickly as possible, before they become major issues.

If you move into a sales manager role in a different organisation, you won’t have the same awkwardness with your sales team but you may still find the transition jarring. Again, you need to remember that you’re now a leader and not one of the pack, and act accordingly. On the other hand, don’t overcompensate by treating your salespeople like lesser creatures.

From general thinking to sales thinking

As a newcomer to sales, you might be disconcerted by how quickly your salespeople see through your management tactics. As professional persuaders, most salespeople are well aware of when they’re being manipulated.

Often the best approach is the straightforward one: give your salespeople their goals, let them know you’re there to help, and keep a close eye on them so that you can reward top performers and step in when others are struggling. Hint: salespeople are highly rewards-motivated.

Salespeople tend to be very competitive and fostering that feeling can encourage them to produce. But if you overuse this approach you’ll end up with salespeople that hate each other. You need to keep the competition at a friendly level – or you’ll turn your sales team into Glengarry Glen Ross.

Roles and responsibilities of a sales manager

A sales manager must be very clear about his role in the organisation. He should know what he is supposed to do at the workplace.

A sales manager is responsible for meeting the sales targets of the organisation through effective planning and budgeting.

A sales manager can’t work alone. He needs the support of his sales team where each one contributes in his best possible way and works towards the goals and objectives of the organisation. He is the one who sets the targets for the sales executives and other sales representatives. A sales manager must ensure the targets are realistic and achievable.

The duties must not be imposed on anyone, instead should be delegated as per interests and specialisations of the individuals. A sales manager must understand who can perform a particular task in the most effective way. It is his role to extract the best out of each employee.

A sales manager devises strategies and techniques necessary for achieving the sales targets. He is the one who decides the future course of action for his team members.

It is the sales manager’s duty to map potential customers and generate leads for the organisation. He should look forward to generating new opportunities for the organisation.

A sales manager is also responsible for brand promotion. He must make the product popular amongst the consumers. A banner at a wrong place is of no use. Canopies must be placed at strategic locations; hoardings should be installed at important places for the best results.

Motivating team members is one of the most important duties of a sales manager. He needs to make his team work as a single unit working towards a common objective. He must ensure team members don’t fight amongst themselves and share cordial relationship with each other. Develop lucrative incentive schemes and introduce monetary benefits to encourage them to deliver their level best. Appreciate whenever they do good work.

It is the sales manager’s duty to ensure his team is delivering desired results. Supervision is essential. Track their performances. Make sure each one is living up to the expectations of the organisation. Ask them to submit a report of what all they have done throughout the week or month. The performers must be encouraged while the non performers must be dealt with utmost patience and care.

He is the one who takes major decisions for his team. He should act as a pillar of support for them and stand by their side at the hours of crisis.

A sales manager should set an example for his team members. He should be a source of inspiration for his team members.

A sales manager is responsible for not only selling but also maintaining and improving relationships with the client. Client relationship management is also his KRA.

As a sales manager, one should maintain necessary data and records for future reference.

(Nalin Jayasuriya is the Managing Director & CEO, McQuire Rens & Jones (Pvt) Ltd. He has held regional responsibilities of two multinational companies, of which one, Smithkline Beecham International, was a Fortune 500 company before merging to become GSK. He carries out consultancy assignments and management training in Dubai, India, Maldives, Singapore, Malaysia, Indonesia and Bangladesh. Nalin has been Consultant to assignments in the CEB, Airport and Aviation Services and setting up the PUCSL. He is a much sought-after Business Consultant and Corporate Management Trainer in Sri Lanka. He has won special commendation from the UN Headquarters in New York for his record speed in re-profiling and re-structuring the UNDP. He has lead consultancy assignments for the World Bank and the ADB. Nalin is an executive coach to top teams of several multinational and blue chip companies. He is non-Executive Director on the Boards of Entrust Securities Plc and Eswaran Brothers Exports Ltd.)

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