What qualities make a good sales manager

The person who finds themselves in the position of sales manager more often than not gets shocked by the transition

A sales manager’s job is not everyone’s cup of tea. Selling isn’t a desk job and management as we know it, and is taught, is skewed to a desk job. Consider the following with me.

A Case Study

A friend of mine recently joined a firm as a sales manager. In his first meeting with his team, he told me that he found a group that can work together but was orphaned. That was a very powerful yet accurate description of a headless sales team: orphaned. Just as a child with no parents feels when left to grow and fend for himself in a cruel world, with no cushion to fall back on to nor compass to use, so too does a salesperson, left to his own devices. This particular team was even more “orphaned” in the fact that for a year now, they were under the ‘foster care’ of the finance manager. Anyone in sales or finance will tell you this is much akin to expecting a dog and cat to co-habit.


Insights from the case study

Salespeople see finance as penny pinchers and they see themselves as “penny generators”; finance sees sales as incurring unnecessary costs and themselves as managing these costs. From a business perspective, sales are meant to be an income generator and finance a cost absorber. You begin to appreciate why the orphaned salespeople felt like the finance manager was the evil stepmother.

The person who finds themselves in the position of sales manager more often than not gets shocked by the transition. The thing that really throws them off balance isn’t so much the budgets, recruitment and identification of training needs, so much as the seemingly incessant meetings. For the desk job, the sales manager may find a way to work round this in the pyramidal structure. Not so the field job. In fact, unbeknown to many institutions, these continual meetings in which the sales manager is expected to attend alienate him from his team.

He becomes an absentee parent. The paradox is that come end of a reporting period, he will not be judged by the meetings attended, but by his team’s performance (numbers). The human resource personnel jury is still out as to whether the sales manager’s appraisal should carry more weight on the management part, or the sales part. Meantime, the progressive sales manager knows on which side his bread is buttered and long ago developed a thick skin for the staccato reprimands he gets for deliberately skipping meetings, if he must be in the field with his team.

sales manager

The Take Away

In many ways, a salesperson is a lone ranger. The desk job allows colleagues to bond between the hours of 8 to 5. Not so a salesperson. He is out there meeting different people every day, always on the move, overcoming challenges foreign to his desk mate. As such he will easily forget about his personal growth; I’m not talking about money here. I’m talking about furthering one’s education, choosing a life partner if one so desires, setting money aside for a rainy day (because the pyramidal structure that allows this does not accommodate the salesperson) and such other milestones in one’s life. The progressive sales manager keeps a pulse of such matters and guides (sometimes dictates) these terms on the salesperson because he understands their importance and that the salesperson will most probably not do them himself. It requires a special person to do this. One who cares enough.

Institutions must chose wisely whom they take up as a sales manager. Unwise choices could easily kill the goose that lays the golden egg.

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