So What Does a Sales Manager Really Do?
The U.S. Department of Labor’s Bureau of Labor Statistics says that a sales manager directs an organization’s sales team. Information on the bureau’s website indicates that in 2014 there were 376,300 sales manager positions in the U.S., and that number is anticipated to grow 5 percent through 2024.
But what is the sales manager’s job? Is it recruiting, hiring, and maximizing the team’s potential? Ed Staub, owner of Staub & Associates Sales Institute, York, says it’s all that and more.
“To sell a product, you need to know why customers want that product, why they should buy it from you, and be able to communicate that,” he says.
He advises sales managers read Simon Sinek’s book, Start with the Why: How Great Leaders Inspire Everyone to Take Action, or to listen to Sinek’s TED talk based on the book. He points out that it helps people become more inspired at work and, in turn, inspire their customers.
First, create a job description—a functional description of the position to be filled. Be sure to consider how the position will fit in with the rest of the sales team.
Interviewing and Hiring
It’s important to formulate good questions to ask candidates. Prepare questions in advance, and be sure to ask the same questions of every candidate. Also be aware of EEOC (Equal Employment Opportunity Commission) requirements for hiring and interviewing. Best practices in these areas may be found at www.eeoc.gov.
Staub stresses that some skills can be taught, but fitting in with your corporate culture cannot. The candidate should believe in themselves and in the company’s services and products.
“The biggest, hardest job initially is to find the right people to fit your culture and product,” he says. “A person may be able to sell a lot of things, but can he or she sell your product? Past sales experience may not be an indicator because not all sales positions are the same. For example, the candidate may have been in a position where customers came to them looking for the product they sold, and perhaps the sales team you’re heading does a lot of cold calling.”
Training & Development
Staub points out that mentoring and coaching are important parts of a sales manager’s job.
“Coaching is not done in a staff meeting; it’s done one-on-one. Being a coach is different from being a supervisor. As a coach, you help each person develop his or her “cookbook”—a business behavioral plan that focuses on goals containing specific ingredients (activities/behaviors) each salesperson creates, versus quotas provided by someone else.
“These daily behaviors, and the amounts agreed upon between respective salespeople and their managers, are individual plans that salespeople are committed to performing, which allows for regular and brief accountability sessions,” he says.
As a coach, the sales manager works individually with a team member to develop his or her core competencies and behavior. Part of the role is to not only instill knowledge, but to also teach staff how to apply that knowledge. He points out that feedback should be given often, not just during an annual performance evaluation.
Coaching should be supportive and nonjudgmental. There are two levels of coaching: tactical and strategic coaching.
On the tactical level, a sales manager helps the salesperson apply knowledge and skill to selling situations. With strategic coaching, the sales manager helps the salesperson assess situations and conditions, plan a strategy, and act appropriately.
Staub encourages sales managers to help their sales team develop goals for themselves. He notes that only 5 percent of people worldwide have and execute a comprehensive goal-setting program for their personal and professional lives, based on what he calls the SMART model: Specific, Measurable, Attainable, Realistic, and Timebound.
A comprehensive goals program involves these objectives:
• Specific goals written down
• Each goal has plan of action and associated timelines to be accomplished by a set date
• Goals plan is shared with an accountability partner
“It’s easy to say that your goal is to purchase a home in five years, but it’s important to determine how you will achieve that goal,” he says as an example.
Added to this mix of a sales manager’s role is conducting team meetings. For meetings, an agenda should be developed. This tool not only communicates the topics that will be addressed, but also provides the manager with an outline.
An effective meeting should be focused on the intended outcomes as well as promote interaction between team members. If tasks are assigned to team members, be sure to follow up with those members after the meeting.
While these are some key elements of a sales manager’s position, there are additional areas of responsibility, such as performance evaluations, assigning sales territories to team members, and client visits with team members.
With all this on her (or his) plate, time management is critical, as is learning to delegate some duties. Remember that time is a nonrenewable resource; use it effectively. Try to minimize time-wasting activities. Organizing and de-cluttering can help with that. BW