What makes a great sales manager?
1. A great sales manager sets goals and priorities.
Each day brings unlimited opportunities that must be addressed with limited resources. How, then, do you perform at your best today while you address the needs of tomorrow? Without clear goals, it is easy to get bogged down and lose sight of the larger picture. Without priorities, you can find yourself ignoring big opportunities while chasing small ones.

Just because goals are long-term does not mean they should be exempt from change. AOL met its goal of becoming the Internet access industry leader, and it had a great business when people used dial-up to get online. AOL also succeeded in turning instant messaging from a convenience for wonks into a mass-market tool. But it missed the moves to broadband, search engines and social networking, and it failed to adjust its revenue model before dial-up faded away. Yesterday’s goals were important yesterday, but they should not ossify and obstruct the goals for tomorrow.

Every sales team of every size, requires strong sales management. If you are a one-person shop, you have to manage yourself. You only have 24 hours a day, and you can’t spend all of them working. Having goals and priorities lets you decide what work is most important and the best order in which to tackle it, whether you’re managing your own tasks or coordinating an entire sales team.

2. A great sales manager establishes a path to reach goals.
Sales management is fundamentally about planning. How do you make the most of your opportunities and resources while minimizing distractions and threats? A sales manager must create a clear and achievable plan to reach the enterprise’s goals once they have been established. A great sales manager asks, “What does this team need to succeed, and how do we get it?”
Plans and goals must be flexible to adapt to circumstances, but not so transitory as to be meaningless. Goals should be changed only after much thought and deliberation, often in response to changed circumstances or new information, whereas plans to reach those goals typically require more frequent adjustment.

3. A great sales manager wins commitment by earning trust.
We all say we want “team players,” but many sales managers forget that they are part of the team. It is not only important that your sales reps trust each other: It is vital that they trust you as their manager.
A few basic steps can help build trust.
  • Be considerate. Sales people have lives and families that take priority.  Respect that fact and accommodate it as much as you can.
  • Be transparent and consistent. Nobody can be expected to commit to an employer who  is arbitrary, or whose agenda is opaque. In the absence of information,  people protect themselves by keeping their work conservative and trying to avoid being held responsible for errors.
  • Be fair. Avoid having favorites and scapegoats. Critique the  work, not the salesperson.
  • Be constructive. Everyone makes mistakes. Use them as learning  opportunities. The sales manager’s job is to create systems and structures  that keep the inevitable mistakes at a tolerable magnitude and frequency.
  • Be realistic. If you ask a salesperson to do something he or she  cannot do, the salesperson will fail. Set salespeople up to succeed, not
    to fail.
  • Be decisive. Not everyone is cut out for every job. If someone  just can’t succeed, diagnose the situation early and move that person out.
    It is better for everyone in the long run.
Avoid turning work into a zero-sum game, where one person’s success must come at another’s expense. Salespeople do their best work when they know they are valued and when everyone benefits from helping others succeed.

4. A great sales manager helps salespeople achieve their potential.
Find ways to help your sales team succeed. Such strategies include training, coaching and arranging responsibilities to play to individual strengths as you make adjustments for weaknesses. The idea is to make salespeople better at their jobs over time, and to try to fit their positions to their talents.
Don’t try to make everyone sell the way you did. Recognize different communication and learning styles. There are as many styles of work as there are styles of sales management. Help your salespeople do their best in whatever style is natural to them.

5. A great sales manager shares credit.

6. A great sales manager accepts responsibility.
Praise should always flow down. Responsibility should always flow up. While it is easy for sales managers to abuse their power to cover their mistakes, it is never a good idea. Be quick to give credit to those who work for you. You don’t need to hog the limelight.
Praise in public but criticize in private. When doing either, always focus on the work, not the salesperson. Feedback should never become a matter of whether a worker is “good” or “bad.” Instead, focus on specific achievements or particular problems, and offer constructive suggestions for improvement.

7. A great sales manager often delegates but never “dumps.”
You can delegate work, but not responsibility. As a sales manager, you are not only accountable for your team’s work, but also for providing all the tools you can give them to ensure their success. This means you have to train them when they lack the skills or experience that you have, and you have to explain objectives and issues so your team is prepared to address them. Be clear about your requirements, standards, objectives and timeline. These should be stated at the beginning of the project and should change as little as is practical given the circumstances.

8. A great sales manager sees opportunities in problems and lessons in mistakes.
When did anything in life ever go perfectly? It is just a matter of time until something goes wrong. Be prepared.
Make certain your team feels safe — and encouraged — to bring you bad news quickly. A sales manager’s orst nightmare is the problem she cannot address because she does not know it xists. The sooner you are aware of trouble, the better your chances are to inimize damage and get things back on track. Sometimes problems will arise ecause you or your team made mistakes. Mistakes should be acknowledged and
should serve as learning experiences. Nobody benefits if you respond to errors ith anger and by assigning blame. Instead, consider what you and your team can ain from the experience, even as you contain and address the current problem. This does not mean you cannot hold salespeople accountable for performance, but ince everyone makes mistakes, even a large but isolated error says nothing about an salesperson’s long-term value.

9. A great sales manager learns to do better work through other people than she or he could do alone.
You may have been a great salesperson before you became part of sales management. Your talent in your former position may have been why you were promoted, but it is no longer central to your work. Your job is not to be the best salesperson anymore; it is to make everyone else as good as you were, or preferably, better. The sooner you learn this, the better a sales manager you will be.

SalesForce Training & Consulting is a professional services firm and registered Consulting Partner based in Toronto, with offices in Boston and Chicago, providing sales leaders with the direction and support to ensure positive behavior change in their sales teams.
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