How many sales teams suffer because their sales manager is not doing their job at the right “level”? Sales figures suffer, sales people suffer and the sales managers feel pressured and possibly even stressed. I want to look at some of the reasons why this occurs and offer some initial ideas for how sales managers can carry out their roles more confidently and effectively – for everyone’s benefit!

Why does this seem to happen so often? It does seem that the transition to sales management is one which can often prove a struggle! There is a long list of reasons, few of which are the fault of the person doing the sales manager’s role. The organisation is probably a significant contributor to the problems facing the sales manager! A lack of clear succession planning is part of the equation. Maybe there is a limited understanding of what the role really involves, or should involve! The chances are that the senior management may share many of the misconceptions of the sales function and how it operates in a successful environment. Where sales is concerned, there is usually too much short-term thinking and a focus on results. I agree that the sales manager is there to achieve the targets and to work within a budget. However, to paraphrase the great Peter Drucker, “sales results are not an objective in their own right, they are an outcome of achieving the other objectives.” Another tripping point can be an expectation that the new sales manager should be acting like a predecessor – provided they were successful and, typically, outgoing and told a convincing tale about how things would turn out!

In common with many other managers, the sales managers have probably been promoted into their role with little real preparation, guidance or training. This will be compounded if they were given the opportunity because they were one of the best in the sales team. (Rather than choosing the person with the right qualities to do the job.) Sales does have an additional time pressure, in that results need to keep being obtained from the outset. There is little time for a learning curve! Without the development support the newly appointed manager has a limited range of choices. A typical response is to think about role models we have known and adopt and adapt what we liked or respected about them. This is often done unconsciously as well as consciously. Entering a new role with more responsibility carries different pressures. These will cause most people to feel some degree of under-confidence. To overcome this, it is natural to do some things which will help to reinforce confidence. For many, this will mean finding opportunities to prove they are worthy of the new role. Where are these? Dealing with customers, chasing the large order and proving to the sales team why the manager should have been given the job!

This latter approach may help the manager feel more confident, or give then the buzz they had when they were a seller. It will probably also start to diminish any respect they may have from the team, especially if some of these orders are taken from their customers. It hardly does their confidence any good as they will feel undermined!

The root of the problem is frequently something as fundamental as the actual job description. How well does it set out the range of responsibilities and tasks? Does it define the competencies required to do the job well? The key outcome for a sales manager is to achieve the required sales targets and margins. This should be done by using the resources effectively, especially the sales team! Taking a few orders might help in the short-term and reinforce the ego of the sales manager, it will not provide an ongoing solution for under-performance with team members.

What can be done to improve this and make sales managers operate more effectively? Begin at the beginning with a clearly defined job description as mentioned above! This can be a great help with recruitment or promotion and might reduce the classic tendency of promoting the top seller. (A frequent recipe for disaster as they may not succeed in the role and end up leaving, or being asked to leave. On the way to this, they may have upset a number of the sales team who do worse and might leave!) This job description needs to emphasise that the role involves a variety of activities which are not connected with their own face to face selling. When it is clear what the competencies are and the sales manager can assess themselves against these, some form of development plan can be identified to close any gaps.

The sales manager needs to understand the overall strategy and know how to plan – especially in developing a sales plan. They have to be able to analyse the current situation, market and competition as a starting point. As part of their plan they need to evaluate the capabilities of the sales team and decide whether they have the appropriate structure to deliver against the strategy and plan.

If there is no clearly defined sales process, it will help if they can identify one and break it down to the main steps. From this, they can identify the critical areas to monitor and control. Knowing these points can give the early warning signals if their might be problems in achieving the results later and can also help with more accurate forecasting. There are plenty of software systems to help with this aspect, from the top end such as Oracle and Seibel through SalesTrak to ACT or Golmine.

From this, you can see that a key part of the role is desk-bound, making time to think, assess and make decisions. This is only part of the whole! While the desk time can help in identifying areas to set targets and goals, it is not the best place to evaluate the skills and potential of the sales team. The job description should establish some key performance indicators about time spent with the sales team on field visits.

Days spent with the sales team will usually have multiple aims. The primary one is to support and develop the sales person. Observing them with the prospects or customers, reviewing how the call went and then coaching them to improve. A key part of this is to provide useful feedback and support. (Not just blaming or criticising or saying how you, the manager, would have done it!) There is also an element of communication and relationship building to keep the seller informed of things within the organisation and also getting to know more about them. None of these is really achievable working from a desk and trying to manage by telephone and email! A minor part of the day is to also meet with customers and find out what they are thinking about the organisation and its service.

If the organisation has a key (or major) account strategy, there might be valid reasons for the sales manager to have direct contact with some of the personnel in the accounts. This should be at the direction of the account manager or sales person as they are in charge of the account. The sales manager is there to support them not to take over!

There will be some other time with the sales team, whether one to one or at sales meetings. The sales manager can use these to review performance, communicate, deal with problems and agree the way forward. The balance of the sales manager’s time might be spent between doing their own administration activities and also interacting with other functions in the organisation.

Across all of these there is no emphasis on being the super seller!! The role is to be the sale manager. This means getting the results through the resources available – and the main resource is the sales people, whether in the field or on the phone. The sales manager needs to develop their management skills in analysis, planning, monitoring and then grow their leadership skills alongside these to develop and support their people. Learn to get motivation through seeing the team achieve rather than getting that deal! The job can become more enjoyable, the sales people are more successful and positive, and results improve. Do this and everyone is happier from the top down and through the sales team!

Finding the right person to fill the sales management role is a common quandary in wholesale distribution. It can be especially challenging when a decision is based strictly on sales territory performance without regard for the specific skill sets required to lead a sales force.. 2005 has been a good year in wholesale distribution with some industries recording double digit growth rates. With market cooperation like that, most sales people are smiling as they hit or exceed their quotas. Deciding on the right sales person to promote to sales manager can become a difficult and risky decision..

“We need a new sales manager. Let’s promote Tommy, he’s our leading producer in field sales.”

“No! We can’t afford to lose Tommy’s production in the field.”

“That’s not a problem. He can be a working sales manager and still call on his key accounts.”

Most of us should recognize that conversation but not many of us recognize the fallacies that lie within it. In wholesale distribution, it seems that the primary prerequisite for becoming a sales manager is being the top performing sales person. Promoting our top performing sales person to sales manager simply due to results is a big mistake. Personal experience tells me it has less than a forty percent chance for success. Our chance of success is decreased even further if we really believe that our sales manager can manage the sales force and still be solely responsible for a number of high volume accounts.

Different Skill Sets

It is an undisputable fact that different skill sets are required to become a successful sales manager as compared to being a successful sales person. Selling is a profession that requires professionals. Managing a group of professionals with the type of personalities required to succeed in sales is no easy task. Yet, in my humble opinion, it is probably the most important management position you can hold in a company. Sales management holds the key to meeting company objectives. Effective sales management builds the platform for success. Sales people are not the easiest group in the company to manage. If they were they would not be sales people. Selling is not easy. It takes a special talent, self motivation, self discipline, a passion to succeed and the ability to accept rejection. The reality of the situation is simple. The majority of sales people are not managed well. Let’s look at some common sales management mistakes to help us develop the list of hints I promised that will increase your ability to determine which sales person at your company is likely to succeed as sales manager.

Mistake —– Low tolerance for process.

Let’s face it, there probably isn’t a sales person alive that likes paperwork and administrative tasks. However, a Super Star Sales Manager will be process oriented. They understand that success in sales is driven by best practice and best practice is built around process. Sales effectiveness depends on predictable and repeatable best practice. The Super Star Sales Manager will create the kind of culture that negates the inherent aberration by sales people for process, structure, detailed and documented action planning.

HINT #1

If your star sales person embraces structure, pays attention to detail, is always current with required communications, documents his action planning process and doesn’t whine about administrative requirements passed down by corporate, chances are he/she will have a high tolerance for process. This means he/she possesses a basic understanding of structure and accountability. Everything isn’t locked up in their head just because they have been doing it a long time and have had great success.

Mistake —– Weak coaching and mentoring skills

Relationship equity is still a primary ingredient for sales success. However, relationship equity with the customer is quite different than relationship equity with peers, subordinates and executive management. A Super Star Sales Manager will build enough relationship equity with their sales force to be able to provide effective coaching and mentoring in reviewing the sales person’s activities. They understand that you must manage activities and measure results. This coaching and mentoring process includes buddy calls, monthly territory reviews that provide support and resources to leverage individual sales talent. This process includes opportunity recognition and pipeline management. What does the sales person have in the pipeline? Can the sales manager provide proactive support and resources to increase the chance of success?

Hint #2

If your star sales person is reluctant to accept or seek out help, this may be an indication of the Lone Wolf methodology. Maximizing territory performance requires a team effort. Utilization of all resources and support is mandatory to grow market share and maximize profitability. Look for the sales person that is successful but recognizes that they are not alone. Look for the sales person that shares the credit for success, coaches the inside sales staff, recognizes the contributions of customer service personnel and others in the organization. This sales person has also gained the respect of his peers and is often seen giving advice and sharing ideas.

Mistake —- Lack of development programs and leadership skills training

Leadership skills are extremely important to effective sales management. This is especially true when managing a sales force that leans more to the route mentality, is in a comfort zone, becomes complacent or is focusing on demand fulfillment as opposed to demand creation. The ability to recognize the need to adapt your management style not only to the situation but also to the individual is a key to gaining respect and trust from the sales force. This is a learned skill. Failure to seek out leadership skills training can be detrimental to success. A prerequisite to success in sales management is the ability to recognize talent and develop that talent. A Super Star Sales Manager will recognize talent and is willing to help develop that talent to reach its highest potential. They also prune the garden effectively. This means they hire well but fire even better. Failure to formalize a development program for sales management is a big mistake.

Hint #3

If your star sales person is not interested in attending seminars, doesn’t listen to self development tapes and hasn’t read a sales book in the past year, chances are they believe they are as good as they are going to get. Look for the sales person that is willing to be away from his territory, sacrificing commissions to increase his individual knowledge. This is the type of sales person that is a sponge when it comes to continuing education in the fields of sales. This person not only seeks company sponsored training but is willing to invest his own money and time in self improvement activities. They have a philosophy of continuous self improvement striving to be the very best that they can be.

Mistake —- A Member of “The Lucky Territory Club”

Numbers alone don’t always tell the story. We need to analyze each individual success story. Just because a sales territory has performed well doesn’t automatically mean the sales person is a star. A ten percent sales growth sounds great but how good is it if the potential growth for that territory should be in the twenty or thirty per cent range. A ten percent sales growth in that territory sounds great but how good is it if the market in that territory actually grew by thirty percent and the sales person was in a comfort zone walking by opportunities daily.

Hint #4

When evaluating your star sales person for potential promotion, analyze the numbers thoroughly. Is the sales person the real reason for that territory success? Are the numbers as good as they appear when you consider all the factors? Determine how this territory was established. Is this sales person responsible for the long term growth of this territory or did they inherit it. Analyze new account development in this territory. Evaluate this sales persons prospecting skills. How many new accounts have been developed in the territory? What kind of penetration success has been demonstrated with existing accounts?

Hint #5

Look for the sales person that has the ability to think strategically. They are willing to sacrifice personal gain for the benefit of long term company success. (A rare quality). A sales person that may be a maverick and shoot from the hip occasionally but every risk they take is a calculated risk. Their personal objectives for territory performance are in alignment with the company’s strategic objectives in relationship to product development,, segmentation, vendor development and margin initiatives. Look for the sales person that has good communication skills internally, one that has learned to listen exceptionally well, a skill that often eludes some of the best sales personnel.

If you are ready to promote your star sales person to sales manager, pay attention to the hints listed in this article. If your star sales person measures up according to the factors discussed in this article, your chance of success increases dramatically. That means your Super Star Sales Person can become your Super Star Sales Manager. If they don’t measure up according to the hints discussed, look deeper into your sales organization for that sales manager or go outside the organization. There is no such thing as entitlement. Remember, different skill sets are required to be an effective sales manager.

I was in the depths of a major depression. As a third year salesperson with a good company, I was doing well, and was on my way to becoming the top salesperson in the nation for that company. But business had slowed down a little, and I didn’t have my usual number of proposals out for consideration. So, I wasn’t as busy as usual. As my activity slowed, I began to worry. My doubts increased to the point where I had thought myself into a real depression, stuck on the question of “What’s the use of trying?” The more negative my thoughts became, the less energy I had. My lack of energy led to fewer and fewer sales calls, which of course, led to less activity. And that led to more depressing thoughts. I was caught in a powerful downward spiral.

It was then that I caught a glimpse of what a professional sales manager is like.

Ned was my boss — a sales manager of the highest caliber. He could see the symptoms of my sour state spilling over into everything I was doing. So Ned intervened. He arranged to have lunch with me, and listened patiently as I rambled on and on about my problems, my doubts, and my lack of activity. Finally, after I had dumped all my depression and negative thoughts on him, he looked me straight in the eye and said, with all the authority and resolve of someone who is absolutely sure of what they are saying, “Kahle, that’s enough.”

I was stunned. I was expecting empathy, an understanding shoulder to cry on. Instead, I got a simple, straightforward mandate. Ned knew me well enough to cut through all the fluff and come right to the heart of the matter. He said, “That’s enough. That’s enough feeling sorry for yourself. That’s enough thinking all these negative thoughts. That’s enough sitting back and not working as hard as you’re used to. Stop it. You’re better than all this. Stop it right now, today, and get your ….. back to work.”

He saw my situation clearly. And he provided me the direction I needed. That conversation turned me around. I left my depression and negativity at that lunch table, and started back into my job with a renewed sense of the possible. A year later I was the number one salesperson in the nation for that company.

What made the difference in my performance was the skillful intervention of an astute and professional sales manager. He made the difference in my job performance, and that made a difference in my standing with that company. And that made a difference in my career. And that lead me to my current practice. It’s entirely possible that I would not be doing what I do now, speaking and consulting with sales forces around the world, if it weren’t for his timely intervention.

All of us have become what we are, at least in part, due to the impact other people have had on us. A professional sales manager is gifted with a rare and precious opportunity — the opportunity to play a pivotal role in the lives of his/her charges. I so value the role that Ned played in my career, that the last paragraph on the “Acknowledgment” page of my first book reads, “Finally, I must make special, post-humus acknowledgement of the contribution made by Ned Shaheen, the best manager I ever worked for. It was Ned who, years ago, urged me to ‘write the book…'”

So what does this have to do with being a “Professional Sales Manager?” During my 30 + years of sales experience and 16 years of experience as a sales consultant and sales trainer, I’ve encountered many sales managers. Some of have been good, many mediocre. But Ned was the best sales manager I ever met. He serves as a model for me. We can learn a number of lessons from him.

First, Ned knew the difference between the job of a salesperson and that of a sales manager. He had been a great salesperson — like many sales managers around the world — and had been promoted to sales manager. Yet he knew the jobs of sales manager and salesperson are completely different. A salesperson is responsible for building accounts and making sales. A sales manager, while ultimately responsible for the same results, understands that his/her job is to achieve those means through other people. A sales manager builds people, who in turn build the business. Salespeople focus on selling; sales managers focus on building salespeople.

As a sales person, I could comfortably take Ned into any account, secure in the knowledge that he wouldn’t try to take over the presentation or usurp my relationship with the customer. I knew Ned was more concerned with me than he was about any one sale.

Ned knew that a salesperson was essentially a loaner, an individual who did most of his/her most important work by themselves, while a sales manager was a coach, whose only success derived from the success of his team. A sales manager’s best work is always done, not with the customers, but with the people he/she supervises.

Ultimately, a sales manager is measured by the results achieved by his people. Sales, gross profits, market share, key product selling, — all these typical measurements of sales performance are also one of the rulers by which a sales manager is measured.

So, an excellent sales manager, like a great soccer coach, is ultimately measured by his numbers. It doesn’t matter how empathetic he is, nor how his players respect or like him, if year after year he produces a losing team. So it is with a sales manager. Ultimately, an excellent sales manager produces excellent numbers for his company.

In the five years that I worked for Ned, my own territory grew by $1 million a year, and the branch for which he was responsible grew from about $6 million to about $30 million.

Ned was excellent at one of the key competencies of the professional sales manager — he had an eye for talent. He knew how to hire good people. After all, he hired me! Over the years, I watched him take his time, allowing a sales territory to go vacant for months, if necessary, while he waited for the right person to bubble up through his pipeline. Only one of his hires didn’t work out — which gave him an incredible winning percentage.

A professional sales manager understands the importance of making the right hire, is always recruiting in order to keep the pipeline of prospective salespeople full, and spares no expense to make sure the person he hires meets all the necessary criteria. When I was hired, I went through four interviews, and a full 10-hour day of tests with an industrial psychologist.

With all the time he took to make sure he was hiring the right person, Ned confided in me one day that, “It is more important to fire well then it is to hire well.” He went on to explain that hiring sales people is an extremely difficult task, and that even the best sales managers fail at it frequently. Therefore, it was important to recognize your mistake quickly, and act decisively to fix it.

A professional sales manager, then, understands that when it is clear that a salesperson is not right for the job, he acts quickly, kindly, and decisively to terminate the individual, allowing both the individual and the company an opportunity to find a better match. Acting quickly to terminate a salesperson who isn’t working out is both good business as well as good ethics. To allow a mediocre situation to fester to the detriment of the company, the salesperson, and the customers is to persist in a dishonesty.

Understanding that he works only through his sales people, and that he has the opportunity to make a great impact on his people, a professional sales manager makes it his business to know his people. Ned spent days with me in the field, talking not only about business, but also working at understanding the person I was as well. He’d arrange to meet me for breakfast or lunch regularly, even if he weren’t spending the day with me. He wanted to get to know my wife as well, and paid close attention to her opinions. Several times over the five years we went to dinner as a foursome.

I could never stop in the office without being expected to sit in his office and talk about things. And, of course, there was the annual pig roast at his house, where all his salespeople and their families were invited to spend a fun day while the pig roasted over the spit. I was always a person to Ned, never just a “salesperson.”

Because he took the time to get to know me, he was equipped with the knowledge of exactly how to best manage me. And he always saw the potential in me, and was ready to correct me when necessary. In the first year of my employment, I was earning the reputation among the inside customer support and purchasing people of being difficult and demanding. I was a hot-shot superstar who didn’t take their feelings into consideration, and came into the office and dumped work on them. Ned let me know that my ways needed to change. At first, I didn’t pay much attention. My numbers were too good for anybody to be concerned. So Ned let me know a second time that I was going to have to change. The situation was so acute, that the operations manager was lobbying to get me fired! Guided by his firm hand, I swallowed my pride, adopted a more humble attitude, and bought all the customer service reps a six pack of premium beer as a gift. My stock inside the company spring up dramatically, my ways corrected, and my future assured.

A professional sales manager guides and corrects his charges in order to help them achieve their potential.

Ned never stopped learning. He would often tell me about seminars he’d attended, books he’d read, or ideas he’d picked up by talking with other people. He knew that he never “knew it all.” So it is with every professional sales manager. A real professional never stops learning. He understands that the world is changing rapidly, continually demanding new skills, new ideas, and new competencies from him. At the same time, his salespeople and their customers are changing also. So, he understands that he has a challenge to continuously grow and improve, to learn more and become btter at his job. Sales management isn’t just a job, it’s a challenge of a lifetime of improvement.

One more observation. Understanding that a professional sales manager is only successful when his charges are successful, an excellent sales manager supports, encourages and gives his sales people the credit.

It was the fourth year of my tenure, and Ned was lobbying for me to be awarded the “Salesperson of the year” award. It was given not only for sales performance, but for more subjective things – supporting the company’s objectives and ethics, getting along with other people in the company, etc. The award was a great honor, and extremely difficult to win. Each sales manager nominated their favorite salesperson, and lobbied for one of their charges with the company’s executives, who made the final choice.

The annual awards banquet was held at an exclusive country club, where the men wore tuxedos and the women formal evening gowns. When dinner was done, the speeches were finished and the lesser awards announced, it came time for the big one, the one I wanted.

The climate was tense and expectant. The entire room silent as the time approached for the announcement. Then, as the company president announced my name, it was Ned who thrust his fist in the air and shouted “YES!”

The photograph that hangs on my bedroom wall shows me shaking hands with the president and accepting the award. Look carefully and you’ll see Ned standing proudly in the background.

There is a song that I find particularly moving. Perhaps you know the words made popular by Bette Midler. It goes like this,
“It must have been lonely there in my shadow…
Without the sun upon your face
I was the one with all the glory
You were the one with all the strength.

I can fly higher than an eagle
Because you are the wind beneath my wings.”
Want to excel as a sales manger? Want to be a true professional? Look at your job as a unique opportunity to impact others, to select, correct, support and encourage your salespeople, to achieve your company’s objectives by become a positive force in their lives. It’s not a job, it’s a mission. Be the wind beneath their wings.

And perhaps, one day, fifteen years from now, someone will write about you.

About Dave Kahle, The Growth Coach®:
Dave Kahle is a consultant and trainer who helps his clients increase their sales and improve their sales productivity. He speaks from real world experience, having been the number one salesperson in the country for two companies in two distinct industries. Dave has trained thousands of salespeople to be more successful in the Information Age economy. He’s the author of over 500 articles, a monthly ezine, and four books. His latest is 10 Secrets of Time Management for Salespeople. He has a gift for creating powerful training events that get audiences thinking differently about sales.

The following job promotion ritual is repeated in numerous sales organizations every year:

Step 1: A sales management position is vacant due to growth, attrition, or the dismissal of an existing sales manager; Step 2: The top sales representative in the organization (or department) is selected to fill the vacancy; Step 3: The top salesperson doesn’t like to (or is unable to) manage the sales performance of other individuals, so he keeps focused on personal selling initiatives, but in doing so, is failing in his role as sales manager; Step 4: The cycle repeats itself.

Although sales representatives and sales managers both work within the realm of selling, many of the strengths required for success in the roles of sales manager differ than the strengths required for success in the role of sales person. Therefore, few top-performing salespeople will become top-performing sales managers. This is important to know if you’re looking to hire a new sales manager in your company, and you expect this individual to be successful filling that role.

This isn’t a phenomenon that’s unique to selling. There are many highly-skilled and successful physicians, for example who are unable to effectively manage a staff of other physicians. There are many prized athletes who are not able to successfully coach a team of other athletes. There are skilled kitchen designers, plumbers, and attorneys who are unable to manage respective groups of other kitchen designers, plumbers, and attorneys.

Before I offer support for my thesis, allow me to confess that there are two situations where I will not argue with the individual who says the top salesperson in an organization will become a successful sales manager:

(1) The first is where where the new sales manager retains the responsibility for personally generating sales revenue. This individual is, in effect, either a part-time sales manager, or a sales manager in title only; (2) The second is when the sales manager’s role is to be almost exclusively a rain-maker (a generator of new business opportunities). That is a selling role that some sales managers play, but it is not a Mrole per se.

The following is a list of strengths (skills) that are required to achieve phenomenal success as the manager of a sales team (or any team, for that matter). However, none of these skills are substantially required for phenomenal success in front-line selling. This doesn’t mean that a top sales performer will never be a top sales management performer, but it means that the strengths required to fill the two roles are substantially different.

Strength #1. Delegating.
The sales manager certainly cannot do the front-line sales activity for his entire sales group himself. Meeting a sales quota requires the contribution of all members of the sales team. The successful sales manager must possess the ability to delegate responsibility to others so the group can achieve its goals. Delegating is quite a different skill than, say, closing skill, which is required of top sales performers, but the skill of delegation is not a skill which is typically required for top sales performance.

Strength #2. Willing to give up the top spot.
Top sales performers who become sales managers must be entirely willing to give up the position of top performer in a sales organization. For those who can’t, disaster awaits. Sales managers must be willing and able to put their top salespeople on pedestals so their egos can be adequately fed, while also keeping their own egos in check for the sake of the advancement of their team. In a larger organization there is still opportunity for competition between several or many sales managers, but a top sales manager has to be able to point to his top performer and give her credit for being the top salesperson in his group. He also has to encourage other non-top-performers to become top-performers. Since many salespeople have been ego-driven in their successful sales careers, this transition from achiever to encourager is critical. The skill of allowing someone else to be the top dog is not a skill required for success in selling, and in fact, can be antithetical to it. Many sales managers who have previously been a top sales performer who have been driven throughout his entire career to achieve “pedestal” status will not work tirelessly to put another individual on this same pedestal.

Strength #3. Focusing on others.
Sales management requires an outward focus on others’ sales performance, whereas successful selling requires an inward focus on one’s own sales performance. Being in control of your own sales is one thing; but it’s impossible to be in control of an entire team’s sales. Therefore, a loss of direct control of the sale is required in favor of a focus on the sales manager’s team members.

Strength #4. Supervising.
Sale managers must possess front-line supervisory skills. They need to know how and when to step in to discipline or change behaviors in an employee. They must possess wisdom about when to support subordinates versus when to discipline them. Top sales performers do not need supervisory skills to achieve top dog status.

Strength #5. Managing.
The key skill of the manager is to utilize every subordinate’s special strengths to achieve the goals of the sales group. Weaknesses in employees exist, but assembling a group of team members who have strengths in the right areas, and knowing how to put those strengths to work, is not required of top sales performers. It is, however, required of sales managers who wish to achieve top sales performance. These management concepts are described by Marcus Buckingham in his book “The One Thing You Need to Know About Great Managing, Great Leading, and Sustained Individual Success” (Simon & Schuster, 2005).

Strength #6. Coaching, training, mentoring.
Successful sales managers should be able to coax salespeople to improved performance, both in one-on-one coaching events and in classroom training environments. Although there may be some of these elements present in all selling top performers, these elements are crucial for top sales management performance.

Strength #7. Leading.
According to Marcus Buckingham, again in “The One Thing You Need to Know,” successful leaders have two key attributes: (1) They have the ability to create a vision for the future; and (2) They have the ability to get subordinates lined up within this vision, so that individuals’ efforts will support, and not hamper, the group’s progress. Successful sales managers have these leadership attributes. Leadership skill is not required of top sales performers.

Strength #8. Filtering directives.
The sales manager will receive many directives from her superiors. To be effective, she must know when to filter out or adjust these directives, and when to take them on with reckless abandon. This is a delicate balance, and not knowing when to do which one can wreak havoc in a sales organization. The wisdom to know when to embrace upper-management directives, and when to subtly give them secondary attention, will help determine the success of the sales manager’s team, and therefore, the success of the sales manager.

Strength #9. Hiring and Firing.
Top-performing sales managers must make be able to accurately predict sales performance during the interviewing process, and must leverage that ability in their hiring of subordinates. Without this ability, sales performance will suffer. Top sales performers do not need this predictive skill. Successful sales manager must also know how and when to remove an employee from their team so that negative repercussions are minimized.

Strength #10. Deciding.
There’s no question that making good decisions is important in successful selling. But in a sales management role, all decisions are magnified because each decision affects more than one individual. The sales manager’s decisions affect an entire staff of sales professionals and their customers. This means decision-making skills are vital for the sales manager.

There are many skills required for sales success. Among them are the ability to prospect and create business opportunities, the ability to identify prospects’ needs, and ability to close the sale. But the sales management qualities listed above are not substantially required for individual selling success.

While there’s some overlap between the required skill of the peak-performing sales manager and the peak-performing sales person, here’s my advice: if you’re looking for a sales manager who will succeed, hire one that possesses the strengths of a sales manager (those listed strengths above). Many peak-performing salespeople don’t possess those strengths.