To succeed in sales you must have persistence, confidence, drive, and grit. But are those the most important qualities of a sales leader? When VPs are looking to promote their next sales manager, individual contributors need to show more than just closing skills.
We created a list of the top traits that VPs want to see in aspiring sales managers. More than just sales skills, these qualities will differentiate you from other top closers and help you build your sales career.
Occasionally you’ll meet a sales manager who doesn’t always follow the rules. They excelled as a seller by doing things their way. Unfortunately, this isn’t desirable in a sales leader. Managers must have a commitment to the sales process and methodology. If not, you’re holding back your reps’ education on effective and scalable strategies, a big disservice to their growth.
Coaching sales reps towards hitting their targets is a cornerstone of being a good sales leader. As a future manager, you’re probably the one that everyone goes to when they need to help because you’re happy to help colleagues understand a use case better and how to handle a difficult customer situation. People trust you because you share your knowledge with the rest of the organization.
Most sellers have gone through tough quarters before. That’s a good thing to have in a manager. Superstar sales reps who are always at the top of the leaderboard may not have the experience and wisdom needed to help their reps through tough quarters. There’s a risk that they may think the problem lies with the rep since they can’t relate.
Sales can be unpredictable and many things are outside of your sellers’’ control. You should support your reps through this by sharing your own experiences in similar situations and, most importantly, how you resolved the problem.
Sales is a competitive and stressful job and disagreements are going to happen. Sales leaders should be able to manage conflict with other teams who have different mandates. Ultimately, as a manager, you’re responsible for the success of the entire company, not just your own team. When finding a balance with sales engineering, marketing, or customer success, sales leaders should seek a win-win situation that also benefits the customer.
Sales leaders are champions of training and value it as a learning opportunity for their reps. To get the most out of this education, your sellers need to be present, engaged, and clear on the sales methodology.
If you treat sales training as a waste of time, you’re taking away a chance for your reps to learn important, cutting edge sales techniques. Instead, try applying any new knowledge to your reps’ day to day life, like during customer calls and team meetings.
Patience and transparency are important when managing your team and when working with your own managers. Often, first line managers are the middleman for new information. For example, sellers are often anxious to find out the details of a product launch, new comp plan, or other changes that haven’t been announced yet.
Transparency helps managers keep their direct reports in high spirits as the leadership team finalizes plans. When news is finally available, sellers will trust that you did your due diligence to find out all the details and that you’ll share the news as soon as you can.
What one company may see as the most important personality trait, another might see as less desirable. Sales leaders have to embody the culture and values of the company when managing, hiring, and talking to customers. Make sure that you’re at the right company.
A startup that sells sales software may look for team managers who can be blunt, direct, and show clear ROI on customer calls. A company that sells customer success software may want leaders who focus on the long term goals of their customers. By connecting with your company’s values, you can drive and cement the right behavior in your reps.
Sales reps trust leaders who understand that accountability goes both ways. As you hold your reps to a high standard, you also must eat your own dog food. After all, you’re accountable for your team’s successes and failures.
Managers that try to distance themselves when a rep is having a tough time end up leaving the seller feeling unsupported, making it harder for them to improve their results. Instead, hold reps accountable to their goals while also praising their wins so they can build more determination and resilience.
Sales managers are on the front line of hiring. You’ll determine if the candidate has the skills, the history of performance, the right attitude, and whether they can add value to your team. Even if a candidate is at the very beginning of their sales journey as an SDR, you should consider this person’s long term contribution to the business.
When you hire well, you’ll bring on sales people who can carry the team to success, collectively. This gives you more bandwidth to tackle larger goals and initiatives that will help your team in the long run.
Sellers thrive on connecting with others to sell a vision. Unfortunately, managers aren’t going to connect well with all of their reps. You should be careful not to bring your personal biases into your management style. Each one of your reps deserves a fair chance at success.
If you’re more concerned about getting rid of an underperforming rep than creating a connection, you won’t have the trust of everyone on your team. Training in unconscious bias and other people management skills can help you identify where your personal biases lie and how you can improve.
People’s lives are complicated. Having empathy for your direct reports and their personal challenges is what retains talent. Whether that’s commiserating over a lost deal, allowing personal time for a family emergency, or giving out mental health days, managers should see their reps as individuals.
We’ve been through two difficult years and some people have struggled more than others. If someone’s manager doesn’t approach the situation with empathy, the rep is going to start looking for another job. You should have your employees' best interests at heart and tackle problems with empathy first.
Sales people usually stick within a certain industry or niche during their career. If you’re looking to move into management, you probably know many of the right people who can open up doors. Using your connections to help your reps is invaluable.
Enterprise AEs are good examples of individual contributors with great networking skills. They know who to talk to in order to get a seat at the table because of their long nurtured relationships.
Sales managers need to have this same skill. Whether you know someone at the target company, or deeply understand the challenges of an industry, you’re able to demonstrate the value of your products – and teach reps how to follow suit.
Leaders in any role should be avid learners. Sales is an art and a science and requires continuous practice. Start reading sales books on methodology, emotional intelligence, improving your speaking skills, and the latest trends in your industry.
There are hundreds of sales blogs and podcasts available for free. It’s easier than ever to listen to a podcast while out for a run or doing chores. If you also share what you’re learning with your colleagues, even better.
Successful sellers have a keen eye for what isn’t being said during client meetings. They can pick up on body language clues and word choice to identify issues. A sales manager who shows emotional intelligence can read between the lines when a customer expresses concerns about their product, then guide the rep to ask questions to identify the real problem.
You should be able to distinguish between a prospect who is bought in and negotiating and a customer who is afraid they won’t get value and is nitpicking at the contract. Leaders can show reps that the right thing to do isn’t always to give concessions in a negotiation, it’s to understand why the customer is worried so you can resolve that concern.
Things change fast in a competitive market. Your leadership team can decide to change how you pitch your value propositions, or replace your existing sales tech infrastructure. Your company can reorg your sales department to better compete against new competitors.
Sales leaders have to be adaptable to these changes. Over the course of a decades-long career, managers will use vastly different technology, change their sales strategy many times, and work with new types of buyers. Adaptability means you can bring genuine excitement to the team when gearing up for big changes, and help reps adjust.
No one is perfect, we all have a handful of areas that we could improve. Start by identifying the traits in this list that you need to work on and begin practicing today. When promotions are in order, you’ll be able to demonstrate the managerial traits that your VP of Sales is looking for in their next manager hire.