One of the hardest jobs in the sales profession is that of the first line sales manager. Many people who hold this position are often promoted because they were among the best sales performers. It should come as no surprise however that being proficient at one thing doesn't always translate into something else. What complicates things even more is that while there is no shortage of books and blogs on sales and sales management, a lot is too narrow to be useful. This post is an attempt to begin building out a list of skills first, and in subsequent posts, we will begin filling in resources to help develop the skills.
The ability to recognize talent
Many horror stories have been documented by sales leaders of the horrible hire they made. One of the most important decisions that a front line manager makes is who will be a part of the team. There was a time when leaders took pride in turning over a portion of their teams. The bottom 10% purge that happened yearly. It was designed to show strength and incite fear, this believe it or not was thought to have some motivating effects. As we have grown to realize, the costs of turnover are far greater and more damaging to the company than are developing and motivating. That makes it now important to hire well as a way of helping the bottom line of the company and the success of the sales manager. I will delve deeper into both common myths to avoid and best practices to embrace in future posts. But for now, just realize that smart leaders attract and nurture smarter people.
The ability to develop talent
The ability to nurture natural talent is an incredibly valuable gift. It begins with genuine care and concern that can only come when the mentor is fully invested in the success of the mentee. Simply telling someone what to do, isn't training. To truly be effective, a good trainer provides the tools, guidance, encouragement and accountability that helps stars shine brighter.
No-brainer here, if you are in the profession of sales, communication is a must have. But the way we communicate has changed. There are in some sales organizations 3 to as many as 4 generations of sales people. Not all of them respond to the same communication styles or methods. To communicate with someone is not just to exchange words, it is to create meaning specific to the person you are speaking with. Today's best managers also realize that not everyone understands the same things in the same ways. Painting pictures for the visual learner, using words that resonate with auditory learners and using emotion to touch the kinesthetic learner. That is communication in the 21st century.
Perhaps the most important aspect of working with people is the ability to be flexible. That doesn't mean that you don't have a plan, or process or expectations - that are unwavering. It does mean that you learn to trust the people you hire and grant them the freedom to get things done. What I am really saying is that the best managers don't micro-manage. They hire smart people, provide clear direction and get out of the way.