It might seem that there are no significant difficulties in the area of sales – it's enough to be attentive, to have basic business communication skills and to know the goods or services you are selling well.
But in reality, it's not so simple. It’s not easy to find a good sales manager who can achieve good sales results, even considering the fact that they often get additional bonuses from each deal and the rotation of staff in this position is frequent.
80% of sales (and therefore profits) are earned by 20% of sales managers. This statistic is due to a number of reasons. More than half of the people working in sales are working in the wrong position and just don’t like their work, and we cannot expect high productivity from such people. In addition, many people do not even have the basic skills necessary to be a successful sales manager, or some of them don’t know the goods or services they’re selling very well.
As for the last two reasons, special training will help to solve the problem. Solving the issue of a person who is not in the right position in the company is certainly more difficult.
What is necessary for successful work as a sales manager?
Regardless of what a sales manager is selling, the logic of his/her actions can be understood almost immediately. His/her approach and attitude to work can be evaluated instantly. Depending on a person’s personal qualities, one can conclude that this particular person can or cannot succeed in this type of work.
In order to achieve success in sales, a person needs five key qualities: empathy, attentiveness, responsibility, optimism, and purposefulness. Let us consider them one by one.
One of the most important qualities of a sales manager is empathy. The ability to put yourself in the client's shoes and understand what the client is thinking and what his or her motives are enables you to create a sales algorithm so as to meet the requirements of customers and, consequently, to achieve the desired results.
A salesperson who is capable of empathy will be able to gain the trust of clients, which is very important for successful sales and also contributes to turning a one-time customer into a regular customer, which is very important for any business.
Interest, sympathy, and mutual understanding are the most important components of empathy.
Now let's look into the specific requirements of this trait:
- Ability to identify the emotions and feelings of clients, and their behavior;
- Ability to respond adequately to certain customer actions (caused by emotions);
- Ability to establish a dialogue;
- Ability to prevent a potential conflict situation, or solve an existing one;
- Ability to not only hear, but really listen;
- Sincere interest – a sales manager should be able to ask the right questions (those that relate to sales, of course) and learn important and useful information.
A poorly-performing sales manager is not able to establish a dialogue and cannot identify clients’ feelings, and as a result, clients will not trust this manager, which is likely to bring unsatisfactory results.
It is probably unnecessary to explain why attentiveness is on the list of the most important qualities for a sales manager.
The ability to clearly concentrate on tasks and, more importantly, fulfil responsibilities without making mistakes will allow the sales manager to achieve his or her goals while avoiding potential problems and unpleasant situations.
By being attentive, the sales specialist gets additional opportunities to win the client's trust.
Here are the requirements for this trait:
- Ability to clearly set goals and set a timeframe for their implementation;
- Ability to clearly perform job duties in accordance with the instructions;
- Attention to detail and the wishes/requests of the client;
- Clear and direct answers to the questions posed. Even if the manager does not know the answer to some question, he or she can answer something like this: "Unfortunately I cannot answer your question right now, but I will certainly find out and contact you shortly…"
Accordingly, a person who does not have sufficient attentiveness will not always strictly follow the job instructions, may not adhere to the standard procedure, and will forget or ignore the requests and wishes of customers, which will reduce his/her sales results.
Responsibility means that someone is willing to take personal responsibility for his/her actions without trying to transfer it to others. His/her main goal is the success of the company, and he/she will not avoid personal punishment for failures. A truly responsible sales manager will not say something like this: "It's not my fault that the demand for this product has fallen because of foreign policy factors...", and instead will look for possible ways out of the crisis and take responsibility for both success and failure.
Thus, a good sales manager with this trait will:
- Take responsibility for results, good or bad;
- In difficult situations, offer possible solutions to the problem rather than just waiting for directions from higher management;
- Foresee the possible consequences of decisions, even before they are adopted;
- Not be inclined to criticize the actions of others;
- Take constructive criticism well and constantly try to improve.
If a potential employee has a diminished sense of responsibility, he/she will tend to criticize others, transfer responsibility to them in case of failure, not offer solutions in crisis situations and try to avoid responsibility in every possible way.
In general, optimism can help a person in any job, but for a sales manager, it is. Optimism means persistence – exactly the quality needed for a successful sale. In our highly competitive world with an abundance of advertising, it is not so easy to convince a customer to buy goods or services, so optimism and perseverance are simply necessary (within reason, of course). If a manager surrenders without trying to convince a potential client, this is a definite failure, and such situations should be minimized in order for the company to stay the course.
When met with a refusal from the client, the sales manager should never give up. Failure can potentially give you lots of valuable information. You may even be able to turn this failure into a greater success. As a sales manager, you must make every effort to find out the reason for rejection and how you can change the situation to your advantage.
To find a good salesperson possessing this trait, you have to look for someone who:
- Is able to show initiative and assertiveness in search of possible solutions to problems;
- Does not focus on failure, and continues to fight for a positive result;
- Is able to turn a negative situation of rejection into a useful experience (for example, identifying a systemic problem).
Accordingly, weak performers in this respect are frightened by possible difficulties, give up when faced with said difficulties, and are not ready to fight for a positive outcome.
In many respects, this is similar to the previous item (optimism), in the sense that they both require a certain persistence. But dedication is perseverance in striving for victory.
Purposefulness can help a person to overcome obstacles and reach the goal. A clear understanding of your goal is also very important, as it helps you to avoid getting lost along the way and wasting your energy for nothing.
When looking for potential performers with this trait, it is important to evaluate the following:
- Ability and willingness to compete with others, to test themselves and, most importantly, to win;
- Leadership skills and qualities that will allow them to manage and influence others effectively;
- Deriving satisfaction from the sales process (from work) and successes which increases confidence and the desire to move on;
- Decisiveness of action.
Weak sales managers are not inclined to struggle for the desired result (including competition with other applicants for work) and are often very passive and unmotivated.
In addition to the above qualities, there are a number of other vital characteristics that will help the sales manager:
We live in a very dynamic world. In fact, there has never been such an abundance of information as there is now. Moreover, new technologies appear almost every day and immediately find their way to the market. In recent years, there has been an increase in the volume of international trade. This dynamism imposes certain requirements on the sales manager. A good specialist should be flexible and adaptive, open to all innovations, so as not to lag behind new trends and trade trends.
Knowledge of Product
This, of course, is not a personal quality, but is nevertheless obviously important. The sales manager cannot sell the product or service without knowing at least its basic characteristics, typical application, and so on. In fact, without knowing the goods or services properly, all the above qualities will be rendered useless because buyers are looking primarily for goods or services to solve their problems, and not a sympathetic friend.
A good sales manager is organized and tries to get the most complete information about the client, his/her experience of interactions with the company, possible problems, and other aspects. This is necessary to create the most comfortable conditions for the buyer and make them into a new regular customer who is satisfied with the service. The more attention is paid to this element, the more trust is built between the buyer and the sales manager.
Oftentimes the sales process does not stop even at night and continues 24/7. A good salesperson is able to maintain balance and stay calm without burning out at work. It is very important for a sales manager to learn to prioritize and find time for recreation and relaxation. All this is necessary to maintain high working productivity and peace of mind.
As you can see, there are quite a few different aspects that affect the quality of the sales manager, but the main thing that a person should have is the desire for professional growth and a willingness to do this work. Everything else can be learned and improved with training and experience.