The Role of a Sales Manager

How does an effective leader affect the sales performance

During a recent auditing work and throughout a conversation held with a successful salesperson, he said “I’ve been working really hard for this day. But As much as I’m happy, as much as I feel overwhelmed with stress from ambiguity.” This man has made himself up from being a sales representative in an international FMCG firm before moving to be an account manager within another organization. He was consecutively the best sales person. Today he’s been promoted as an Area Manager for the Levant area.

The management congratulated him saying, “We rely on you now in pulling things back after our recent experience with the previous manager. You have showed discipline in your achievements and we believe you have the right leadership skills to take it from here.
To him it was still unclear what the management is expecting, what are the guidelines, borders, duration, and authorities he can go through. He started seeking answers to questions that is being always asked by the concerned parties:

  1. Shall we promote him on a strategic level? A job that entitles to redesign the sales organization to fit with all the new economic situations. Should he develop an action plan and structure that will be held responsible for its results? The previous manager was head hunted for this purpose!
  2. Shall we keep him responsible for his big accounts in order to maintain the numbers and minimize the risk of failure?
  3. Shall we micromanage  him, fearing from a repetitive experience? So we bump up often, following directly with salespeople? Or being our best salesperson should be the right fit for the job?
  4. Shall we give him full authority this time to build, hire, fire and reward salespeople?

We know for fact, Sales Managers don’t have to grow sales, they should grow salespeople. It’s the latter that leads to the required outcome. But this is easy said than done. It takes wisdom to examine and apply this crucial difference. A wisdom that is required from top management in the first place.

Definition in its simple form

“It’s the art of getting things done through people”. As defined in Wikipedia: Sales manager is the typical title of someone whose role is sales management, where the latter is a business discipline which is focused on sales planning, human resources, talent development, leadership and control of resources. He is typically the person in charge of the sales performance.

The Role and Its Impact

According to a US international study conducted by Gallup Organization’s research, 80% of a sales representative’s perception and engagement in this job was influenced by the relationship built with his or her direct supervisor. Collaboratively in the same study, salesperson’s performance is much related to his/her engagement.
The Role of the manager could vary between different organizations, management style, stage of growth, industry, and sector. He might hold responsible for one or more of the below, joined together.

1. Strategic Objective: A very crucial subject that I will address in details in a later publication stressing on the risk that comes among headhunting a new Sales manager directly on a strategic level. Mainly this role entitles to:

  1. Set the right strategy to execute
  2. Design  the best sales structure
  3. Develop the best process and system in place
  4. Set stretched achievable targets for every individual

2. Operational Objective: Where a successful sales managers should strive to:

  1. Retain his top talent and new hires.
  2. Get the salespeople to follow the system so to ensure a consistent sales growth
  3. Keep the sales people engaged.
  4. Develop the true potential of average performers.
  5. Get them to self-generate solutions to their problems.
  6. Put and follow a proper hiring system in place.

3. Tactical Objective: Where he is required to allocate some of his time to do sales in order to meet the required numbers. A model which we don’t generally recommend as he will lose focus in developing his people on the long-run. It would best fit if he/she works on selling strategic solution projects, manage a very small sales team, or in other critical circumstances.

Promoting your best salesperson

We truly believe in such an act. It’s your people that are the most who understand your culture, and are passionate about your company. We come from a background where we focused throughout our sales career for these promotions along our achievements. It’s ideal to look within these people who have good intentions and can produce outstanding results, but it’s important to be careful as it might have some critical consequences.

  1. Best salespeople have raised themselves to work independently overcoming all barriers that might block their sales deals. This mindset set them in a position to believe that all salespeople should independently do such job. The later would make their managerial job difficult especially in coaching.
  2. Salespeople love to remember and talk about their achievements. This would tend sales managers to fall into the trap of telling their people their achievements and how they solved similar issues, rather than developing their salespeople to self-generate solutions to their problems.
  3. Being the #1 rainmaker within the sales organization prior to their promotion makes it much difficult for the management to eliminate their selling duties from their new role, Sales Manager. They will also have the tendency to run into doing the sales by themselves especially in tough times losing focus on developing well their staff for the long-run.

How we can Help

HEED takes pride in assisting organizations by looking at things from a third party perspective to identify their sales issues, aid in solving their sales challenges, and develop their potential.
As process consultants, we move shoulder to shoulder with our clients in putting science, processes and structure into the Art of Selling with a sole purpose of building and developing a scalable predictable disciplined sales organization.

Our engagement focus on addressing the above areas, the macro, process and people level, that facilitate and aid in achieving the strategic and the operational objectives of a sales manager. Our efforts normally range between five to seven months for a medium-sized firm, including executing the set plan that link together people, strategy, plans and processes. It’s the discipline of execution which measures the success of any consultancy, and in execution we believe.


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