The Evolving Roll of the Sales Manager

October 6, 2014 Doug O'Grady

the evolving role of the sales managerBeing a sales manager has always been an endeavor prone to sudden changes. It might be fair to say that only two constants really exist for the role: constant change, and confusion about what a sales manager's role truly includes. All too often, you see the sales manager whose skills are decades behind their field, or whose duties more closely resemble 'sales team secretary' than 'sales manager'. In this article, we'll discuss the role of the modern sales manager, how it's evolved, how it's evolving, and what you should do to stay on top.

Tactics and Strategy.

A sales manager needs to know, better than anyone else on the team, the ins and outs of the rapidly changing landscape of sales tactics and strategy. If a new strategy develops in your industry and you don't learn about it and implement it into how your sales team does business, then your competition will surge ahead and leave you in the dust-no matter how good the individuals on your team may be. It simply does not matter how good the members of your team are at selling, if they're selling with both hands tied behind their back.

A willingness and ability to learn, learn, and keep learning is vital to the modern sales manager, even more so than in past eras, thanks to an acceleration in change. If you don't understand Twitter's place in sales, how can you expect your team to?

Technology.

Like tactics and strategy, the change in the technology behind sales has accelerated in the past few decades. The role of sales manager is becoming as much about tool research and acquisition as it is training and guiding personnel. If you don't have the right ERP solution in place, if you're not leveraging mobile technology, if you're not gathering metrics on every aspect of your sales pipeline, then you're not doing your job as a sales manager. There are very few roles in the modern workforce that have not become increasingly technical. Sales manager is most definitely not one of them.

Coaching.

This isn't so much a change in the role of sales manager as a recognition of what's important, backed by studies in recent years. Over and over, business research shows one-on-one coaching as one of the single greatest factors in team performance under a given sales manager. It's good for passing along information you've picked up on strategies, technology, and the industry, it's a good way to identify and correct flaws at the individual and team levels, and it's a superb way to encourage trust in your leadership and general good morale. This isn't a 'change' in the role of sales manager, so much as a true evolution-a refinement of what good managers already knew worked well.

Morale.

The days of the Gordon Gecko hardline sales manager are gone, if they ever truly existed. Modern sales management research shows, repeatedly, that when you push your team beyond their limits, they don't surpass themselves-they fall apart and quit, or find better employers. Keeping morale up and cutting turnover down should be considered a premier duty of anyone in a sales manager role today. Losing your best trained employees to the competition doesn't lead your business to greatness-in the end, all the tools and strategies and coaching in the world doesn't help if no one sticks around long enough to benefit.

That means proper rewards, challenging but attainable goals, and avoiding blaming and shaming individuals as object lessons. It may feel a bit weird, but the modern sales manager's role has become as much about playing Team Mom and keeping everyone happy as it is about selling. Happy sales teams give 110%, stay on board when competitors offer them better pay, and come up with ideas for improving the bottom line that they'd never think of if they were under extreme pressure. Win/Win for everyone.

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