5 Traits That Separate the Best Sales Managers

February 19, 2018

Sales Leader Giving Analytical Presentation

As the selling profession continues to evolve, so too must its leaders. It has never been more important for companies to hire the right sales managers, because these are the individuals who will guide your sales strategy and personnel into a future ruled by digital interactions, increased collaboration, and game-changing technology.

Most of us are familiar with the traditionally valued sales management skills – things like communication, teamwork, leadership, fairness, and so forth. These attributes haven’t lost their relevance necessarily, but forward-looking executives should be prioritizing a new set of traits for the next generation of sales leaders.

Meanwhile, if you’re a sales manager, or seeking to become one, these are the qualities you’ll want to focus on developing to become as marketable as possible going forward.

5 Must-Have Sales Management Skills for 2018 and Beyond

Based on a deep analysis of the Future of Sales, it seems clear that these five key attributes will define tomorrow’s best sales leaders.

1. Uniter

The genuine ability to bring people together isn’t all that common, but it’s becoming more valuable than ever. I’m not just talking about uniting the sales team, but more so being able to knock down silos and build bridges throughout an organization – specifically with marketing.

Sales and marketing alignment is a primary imperative for businesses everywhere, so enlisting leaders who can foster a collaborative culture is crucial. It’s not always easy, given the built-in antipathy that often exists between these departments, but it helps to have expectations clearly established from the top.

I think of it in these terms: rare is the politician who can consistently reach across the aisle and cooperate with those holding drastically different views. But they do so in service of a commonly recognized greater good, and these politicians tend to be the ones who get things done.

When reviewing professional experience, some level of background in marketing can be a helpful perk in this regard.

2. Socially and Technically Savvy

As social selling and technological enablement increasingly become mainstays of the B2B sales discipline, adeptness with social media and digital tools grows all the more essential. The best sales managers will be able to train and ingrain. Not only should they be proficient with the latest software, but ideally they will have an active curiosity about what’s coming down the pipeline. Staying informed and getting ahead of trends is often characteristic of sales leaders whose teams outpace the field.

3. Leads by Example

A wide-ranging study from McKinsey & Company found that sales training is a prevalent shortcoming for today’s organizations. Exceptional sales managers teach not by telling, but by showing and doing. If you want a team of active social sellers, then it’s important to have a leader who sets the example with a strong and consistent social presence.

4. Expert Researcher

B2B sales in 2018 is all about knowing your customer. Fortunately, the internet provides a wealth of resources for learning about prospects and accounts, so long as you know where and how to gather pertinent insights.

Sales managers who have a fundamental understanding of how to navigate this environment can disseminate best practices throughout the team, and develop a standard of thoroughly researched, customized, consultative engagements. Feedback from today’s buyers makes it clear this is the kind of approach that resonates.

5. Strategic Thinker

All the above items basically fold into this overarching trait. Bringing together siloed departments, adopting social tools and tech, leading by example, and establishing an insight-driven sales methodology are all components of a strategic mindset structured around a big-picture view.

As strategic skills begin to increasingly outweigh transactional ones in terms of hiring demand for reps, the same should be true for managers.

The Future-Proof Sales Manager

Sales leaders who embody all five of these qualities will be well equipped for the B2B selling landscape of both today and tomorrow. Business executives should be seeking out these types of leaders for their teams, while aspiring sales pros ought to be fixated on enhancing these strengths in their repertoire.

For more detailed analysis of key B2B sales trends and what they tell us about the profession’s outlook, download The Future of Sales: Rise of the Strategic Seller