There are a number of characteristics that separate top-performing sales teams from underperforming ones, but the most important differentiator is the sales manager. Research shows that companies that outperform their sales targets have excellent sales managers. This means that overall success of your sales force is more dependent on hiring top talent for your sales manager than top talent for your sales reps.

Winning teams aren’t about the performance of individual sales representatives, it’s about the overall culture and success of the team. Great sales people are driven by goals, competition, company commitment and rewards – all of which are products of the company’s sales strategy. It’s the job of a sales manager to bring this strategy to life through influencing and empowering their sales representatives by using a number of different tactics.

The best advice I have for a new sales manager is to help them understand that they will only be as successful as their team. As such they will need to coach their team on a daily basis to help them plan their selling activities to provide the maximum value and impact to their prospects.

-Andy Paul, Sales Process Expert, Speaker, & Author

A great sales manager has to be able to:

Clearly communicate KPIs: Defining success is the first step to achieving it. Your sales manager has to establish clear Key Performance Indicators to ensure that the entire team understands and works towards achieving all sales targets. Sharing daily or weekly sales stats with the team is a great way to identify team benchmarks and incite a little bit of competition.

Be a training superstar: From roleplaying to ride alongs, call shadowing to post-mortems, your sales manager needs to provide constant training and learning opportunities for the team. Not only do they need to keep everyone updated and educated on the latest product, but they also need to make sure that there is consistency in delivering the customer experience.

Counsel, coach and build confidence: Today, top managers lead the way and then get out of the way. To go the extra mile and outperform targets, sales people need to be engaged, aligned and motivated when they are out on the front line. A great sales manager knows how and when to support their team, which includes creating an environment that is open, creative and trusting.

Personally handle VIP customers: Your sales manager not only needs to be able to talk the talk, but walk the walk. A top performing sales manager will be out on the front line with their team and will provide back up when a sale is on the line. This means that they need to be highly skilled in sales themselves, and know how to do damage control when it’s required.

Reward top performers and the team: In addition to monitoring sales performance, a sales manager needs to know when and how to reward their top performers. This might mean holding one-on-one sessions to thank employees for doing a good job or recommending a promotion for the top sales rep. But, it’s also just as important to celebrate successes with the entire team to reinforce morale and create team-building opportunities.

While your sales team might be off to a good start, long-term success is dependent on the strength of your sales manager. It’s up to the sales manager to develop the overall strength of your sales team and keep them motivated through the highs and lows. The indicators may be hidden, but your sales talent acquisition process could be riddled with red flags. Master the art of hiring elite sales talent.

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