This month, we asked the following: What makes a great sales manager or VP of sales?
Here are some highlights we received:
There are tons of things required to be a good VP of sales: drive, empathy for the prospect and the salespeople, sense of humor, ability to coach and inspire, quantitative skills, curiosity, negotiating skills, and public speaking skills. What makes a sales chief exceptional is honesty. The temptations are great to exaggerate and take business that isn’t a perfect fit. In the long run, contrary to public opinion, the best sales managers are intellectually honest, find prospects that they can really help, don’t waste time, and set expectations that can be beaten for prospects, customers, sales staff, and company executives.
The great sales manager is the antithesis of the great salesman. That’s my experience. One of the mistakes I have made as an owner over the years is to try to make great salespeople into sales executives. Not a good idea. What is needed in a great manager are skills of organization, administration, budget management, detail, and pedagogy. These are not the gifts of most successful salesmen, who are often intuitive, aggressive, somewhat chaotic cowboys. I find they often cannot even tell you what they do that makes them so good. I should know because, while I am a successful rainmaker, I truly suck as an administrator and manager. I’ve had to learn to turn this function over to my betters.
A great sales manager has the responsibility not to just increase the numbers, but to actively manage the activities that drive those numbers. Someone who focuses on what the sales team is doing and measures the effectiveness of each activity will see better results. A great manager will know the right questions that help other employees understand where they need to look to improve.
A sales manager goes beyond believing that morale will improve when sales go up, but also know the converse, that sales improve when morale is up. When reality sets in and sales are slow due to greater issues, like the economy, a good manager will generate a belief in his or her team by presenting a clear vision of the future and translate that vision into real and achievable results.
No one wants a “salesperson” walking in their door. What makes a great VP of Biz Dev (as we call him) or head of sales is a person who is not solely focused on the sale itself. A good salesperson should always approach the client honestly, directly, and with an eye to be of service. They should never try to fit a square peg in a round hole—selling someone something they don’t need is never going to germinate a long term relationship. They need to have a keen ability to read people. Every client and every set of goals is its own snowflake, and to actively determine these complexities in an introductory setting is integral to not just building a book of business, but a set of meaningful relationships.
Daria Meoli is the Executive Editor at The New York Enterprise Report. She can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org