The role of sales manager was one of the most rewarding positions I ever worked. To be able to bring fresh new sales talent into an organization was always exciting. To make the moves to mold an existing sales unit into a conglomeration of individuals who reached and exceed sales goals with regularity was exciting as well.
The patience and determination that job required was amazing, while at the same time, it required one to quickly see thought the mud while pressing for accountability from sales the professionals.
It is a fact that sales managers, if they are solid in all aspects of management, make good managers in total. They understand the customer better that others as well as the process of business development.
Even more important is the reality that the Black sales professional, even when moderately successful in sales, should consider a pitch for that important sales management job. We will touch on that in this post.
Being prepared, and having the tools is important. Let’s discuss some of the ways that you can be prepared for the opportunity.
The Most Important Tools for Sales Management
There are requisite skills for every job out there, and that is true for the job of sales manager as well. Most sales managers are given a first assignment in a field unit, then increasing responsibility as District Sales Managers, Regional Sales Managers, and Vice Presidents of Sales.
Someone with responsibility for an operation, such as a General Manager, will want in their employ someone who does not resort to excuses or finger pointing at other units. They need someone who understands the sales process. I listed some of the skills and attributes that individuals responsible for operations look for when they seek a leader for a sales unit:
- Coach and Trainer
- Team Builder
Now, couple these with the fact that you also want these attributes in the leader of your sales unit:
- Responsibility and Integrity
- Mental Toughness
If you can get these items, in various amounts, even with need for improvement, you can be an effective manager.
Do you have these skills? If you have them, have you been able to demonstrate them? These are important questions as this is where you can make a difference.
Let’s Take A Closer Look
Leadership - This most important attribute can be demonstrated by your accepting responsibility in meetings, projects, breakout groups, and other assignments. Don’t be in the “everyone else took a step back” situation. Step to the front and claim the role as a leader.
Coach and Trainer – This is an important role for a sales manager, so to the degree that you can demonstrate it, you will show initiative and skill. Best suggestion; mentor other sales professionals in your organization. Nothing works better than another professional saying that you helped with his or her career. You also learn in the process.
Visionary – This is an attribute more than a skill, yet totally necessary in the sales management realm. I speak of it in Black Sales Journal, March 7, 2010, Be The Consummate Professional. It is what happens when you know what you are doing well as a professional, and knowing your organization, and are able to determine ways processes or products can be done better. It is foreseeing the change before it is necessary.
Team Builder – This one you can do, and are probably doing already. Now, remember why it is important … Sales professionals are used to being mavericks. They are used to a “zero sum” game, “I win, or you win, we both don’t win.” The ranks of sales is not stocked with team builders, you can stand out from those that are faking it.
Motivator – It might be hard to prove your level of skill on this one. You can show energy, enthusiasm, as well as drive in interacting with your manager and others. They must see you as being able to provide an atmosphere of motivation that will benefit others.
Intelligence – This one is one that cannot be faked. You need to have the basic intelligence to run the business of distributing the company’s product. They will not give you an aptitude test, yet they will look at everything you have done lately, and how you handled it. Do you understand business functions, and can you think “on the fly?”
Responsibility and Integrity – I put these two together for a reason. These, as is intelligence, are reasons that professionals don’t get into sales management. If you are whiney, and complaining, even when you are correct, you will not get there. If you “fudge” on expense reports, and the only reason that actions are not taken are that they cannot prove you did, you will not get there. Show responsibility and always exude integrity, and you will be looked on favorably.
Mental Toughness and Balance – You cannot be a sales manager if you don’t exude mental toughness. You cannot be down one day and up the next. It does not work that way when you are responsible for others. Know that the “sun will come up tomorrow” in everything you do. Know the law of large numbers and be able to teach it to others.
Accountability – Be accountable, and be able to expect it from others. Avoid excuses, and always know your role, your goals, and everyone else’s. Accountability is the rule in management, and even more in sales management.
How You Can Get Prepared?
If you are Black, you recognize that Blacks are underrepresented in sales. It suffices to say that they are well underrepresented in sales management. We, frankly have woeful numbers in the sales management ranks.
The way to have more Black sales managers is to perform and strategize. Perform well as sales professional, and strategize as to the best time to make the move to management. The positions come up when managers retire, get promotions, or are terminated.
That means you need to draw up ‘your own’ succession plan for your organization. How long does your managers, or his or her peers have to work before promotion, retirement, or termination? Who is your competition, and what do they have as their attributes as compared you? Show your motivation, always increase your knowledge, and above all, do everything you do with integrity.
Later this month we will review how to ask for the sales management job. This is a chance for you to show your preparation and you qualifications. Make sure to see it.
We welcome your comments.