Transitioning from a salesperson to a sales leader or manager can be rather difficult. This is mainly because the skills required to be a good sales representative are often not enough to be a good sales manager.
Of course, to earn the respect of your team, you need to have ‘ been there and done that ’ as a sales representative, but to actually be effective as a manager, there are additional skills you need to master.
Consider that a sales manager is required to create and maintain a lead qualification process and a sales process, along with being able to train new people, deliver reviews, track metrics, create forecasts, implement performance plans, embody company culture and lead their sales team to understand the difficulty of the transition from the frontline to management.
What’s more, mastering these new skills is particularly important because sales leaders often have a rather important role to play in the success or failure of both the sales representatives under them and the overall organization.
Let’s now take a look at some of these skills that need to be mastered to become an effective sales leader:
- Mastering Change:
Change is really a constant in sales, what with all the emerging new technology, techniques and trends. To stay relevant in the changing marketplace it is important to adopt the new best practices and methodologies and give up on old strategies and techniques.
What’s more, staying on top of these continuous changes becomes really important as a manager since you will be expected to train your sales team in these new practices as well. Thus, a great sales manager eases their team into changes without allowing them to stagnate.
- Earning Trust:
As a sales manager, earning the trust of your team members is of paramount importance. It helps to build a solid working relationship. Unless they trust you, your team won’t really follow your instructions and/or count on you.
Your competence, your character and your consistency are often the defining factors based on which your team decides whether to trust you or not. It is important to be honest and respectful with your words and actions to become a manager that your team trusts.
- Giving Feedback:
Learning to give constructive feedback is an important part of being a good sales manager. Providing detailed feedback, both positive and negative, helps your team members grow professionally. You can base your feedback on performance data to help you be clear and specific in the message you are trying to convey.
Additionally, while providing feedback, you must acknowledge the impact of their behavior on performance, use verbatim quotes and consider the emotional impact of your feedback on your team members.
Moreover, you should ensure that your feedback is timely and once you are done, you must learn to listen actively to what your team member has to say about your feedback and their performance.
- Motivating Self And Others:
When times are tough it can be difficult to stay motivated. This is why being able to motivate yourself and your team is an essential skill to be an effective sales leader. You have to be able to maintain your own positive attitude and help your team get out of any slump they may be in.
According to a study conducted by the University of Illinois, the leader’s vision and decision-making skills are the two of the most important factors in boosting team morale. Encouragement, clear goals, creative competitions, proper training, and good compensation also go a long way to keep your sales team happy and engaged enough to keep trying, thereby improving productivity.
- Being Responsible:
Being a leader is about being responsible for both your actions and your team’s actions. You have to be able to make quick decisions, delegate tasks well, promote communication and collaboration and accept blame when things go wrong.
Additionally, you have to be there for your team. You have to actively listen when they come to you with something. This means apart from listening to the words they say you must also pay attention to their non-verbal communication, that is their body language and expressions. That allows you to really understand what they are trying to say and provide aid, comfort or feedback accordingly. Doing so also builds their trust in you as a leader.
- Coaching Ability:
Your ability to coach your team is another essential skill of being a sales leader. As a sales manager, you must identify your team members strengths and weaknesses and build and improve on them respectively. This also means being an advisor or mentor as necessary.
Additionally, investing in sales training is also a great way to coach your team. Once you’ve identified your team members’ strengths and weaknesses, you can use the sales training modules to help them improve. So, it won’t be a one-size-fits-all system. Moreover, doing so has the additional advantage of boosting team morale and allowing for employee retention.
- Communicating Well:
Communication skills are critical to be a good sales leader, for obvious reasons. Without it, things fall apart. Whether you are communicating your vision, goals and expectations or providing feedback, you need to be clear and honest for the message to get through.
Actively listening to your team members and understanding their motivations is another necessary part of good communication. Additionally, fixing clear targets, and having a set goal helps make your communication more effective.
Lastly, there are many leadership styles you can follow. You can imitate a leader you admire or have worked under in the past, but it is your authenticity that is going to earn you your team’s respect. It pays to make your leadership style your own when you are trying to be a better sales manager for your team. Literally.
Your uniqueness earns you points along with your values as long as you practice them with the entire team. As Bill George states in his HBR study Discovering Your Authentic Leadership, you must be somebody who understands who they are to be a good leader.