I am not sure how this hit my email inbox, but it did and I set it aside. There are some interesting nuggets:
If you are currently a sales manager (Director of Sales, VP of Sales, etc.) or an aspiring sales manager, where do you get your training? If you are like me, you learned on the job by being promoted into management based on your success and communication skills with your fellow account managers. More times than not, you were selected by senior management because you were the best person at the time of the position vacancy.
(Comment: Not the most profound of insights. One would hope you got promoted because you were the best candidate?)
Back in the 70’s, Dr. Laurence Peter wrote a book called The Peter Principle. It focused on how, quite often, individuals are promoted beyond their level of competency (i.e., a good salesperson may not make a good sales manager). So, many of us were never trained on how to manage and strategize sales and salespeople when we started out. If anything, we have been educated through publications, mentors, and common sense based on our own personal experiences with other managers.
(Comment: I am note sure what the point of the ‘Peter Principle’ is. Of course people get promoted past their current competency, that is how people grow. One could argue that people are promoted based on a core competency: the ability to grow and succeed in a role. After all, would I promote someone who did not have the skills and could not grow to meet the goals? Of course the answer is no.)
To be a successful sales manager today, you need advanced human, business, and sales management skills that will help you and your team reach the corporate sales quota profitably.
Based on my experiences, I’ve collected the top ten variables to be a successful sales manager in today’s economy (not in any particular order):
1. To succeed in sales management, you need a large ego that is manageable. Daily, you will be tested about your business model theorems and programs, so you need to be strong enough to deal with being critiqued by your boss and your team members simultaneously and be confident enough to stand your position when you know you are right.
2. You must understand sales forecasting and have business vision. It is the key to successful sales program efficiency and evaluations.
3. To be a successful sales manager (and to get paid correctly), you need to understand the variables that are involved in your sales representatives’ quota calculation and its accuracy potential.
4. You must understand paperwork, because all sales managers have it in some volume. Off-line or online, your life will include management and review of sales quotas, expense reports, proposals, employee performance reviews, and sales forecasts.
5. You must have a sense of humor. Sales management by its very nature is a dog and hero syndrome. Some days you’re loved and some days you’re not on everyone’s holiday list. Being able to laugh will get you through the tough days.
6. You must understand technology and marketing strategy. No, not the programming and technical code intricacies of development, but general IT capabilities of your product or service (and yes, I have met sales managers in IT who were technology phobic).
7. Respect for the customer. Senior management teams of Fortune 1000 firms are suspect at best when dealing with salespeople. They have dealt with car salespeople, real estate salespeople and telemarketing firms. Just because your product is more sophisticated does not mean that senior management prospects will trust you. By showing respect to the prospect, you will develop their long-term trust and greater sales opportunities.
8. You must have the flexibility of a poker player to succeed as an IT sales manager. The IT business arena is continually changing. Being rigid in your operational policies and your sales model will only cause failure. Sometimes you just need to roll with your sales team to get the big deals.
9. You must be able to sell IT professional services and applications. You do not have to be the firm’s number one salesperson, but you have to prove to the management team and your account managers that you’ve been there and done that. Credibility always makes allies.
10. You must care about your sales team. Yes, at times they may increase your blood pressure, but they are just like you. They have wives, husbands, significant others, mortgages, car loans, and children. Treat them the way you were treated (or the way you wanted to be treated when you worked for a sales manager). They don’t work for you – they work with you. Hey – it’s only a job.
(Comment: I don’t agree with all of this, but it is food for thought, and that is good enough. I would absolutely make Number 10 – Number 1. One of the mistakes I see all the time. It is all about the team)