What makes good sales managers

sales team
To thrive in managing sales people it cannot be about you, but your team. FILE PHOTO | NMG 

So you want that sales manager’s job because he doesn’t have to sell, or because he earns a much bigger salary; well, read this. Sales management calls for different qualities from selling. Take resilience and selflessness.

As an A salesperson, you have overcome aborted meetings, dry spells and abject rejection. You take them in your stride. Does that qualify you to manage a sales team? Not necessarily. You are dealing with one person here - you. As a sales manager few of your salespeople will be A performers.

That you will have more C and D performers and much less B’s is something you will have to learn to take in your stride. Your eternal challenge will be to keep the A’s at A, and continually coax, cajole, threaten, inspire, motivate and generally encourage the lower grades to move one grade higher.

And for those that proudly wallow in the D grade you may have to cull. In addition, depending on your industry, many will leave you owing to a naturally high attrition rate in sales. I said you and not the organisation because it will feel personal. But that’s only the ‘front end’ of things. The ‘back end’ will stretch your resilience to breaking point.

There are endless internal management meetings to attend, almost none of which will accelerate the sales process, nor feature in your appraisal. But because of the title of manager you will be required to attend. This will stretch your loyalty between your team and the organisation.


Yes, embrace this truth- in most organisations sales is seen as a separate entity; a step child. The more time you spend away from your team the more they will disrespect you.

The successful sales manager has developed a thick skin; he knows on which side his bread is buttered and will spend most of his time with his salespeople and sales accelerating matters, ignoring the many admonitions that, “You do not attend management meetings.”

Show me a selfish sales manager, and I’ll show you a ticking time bomb. To thrive in managing sales people it cannot be about you, but your team. Successful sales managers will happily make a sale and give it to a team member. This could be to encourage or reward him. Irrespective, it is likely done bereft of any fanfare.

On the other hand, competition is woven into the fabric of successful selling. It is the rare salesperson that will be generous with the accounts they have closed. This is not an admonishment; it’s just fact. With targets to be met and efforts to be rewarded, it is natural behaviour.

The point is, to succeed as sales manager you must grow into selflessness. And not just on giving accounts but also prioritising the team members’ needs over yours.

Don’t be too quick to want that management job based solely on the fiscal reward. Consider more the emotional toll too. All the best.