7 Traits of a Great Sales Manager

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Sales Management : 4 min read

7 Traits of a Great Sales Manager

Sixty-nine percent of reps who exceeded their annual quota rate their sales manager as being “above average” or “excellent.”

This stat should hardly come as a surprise. Great sales managers help reps exceed their targets—not just meet them.

Some are like head coaches: the ultimate master tacticians set on transforming each salesperson into an elite team’s MVP.

Other sales managers lead by example, nurturing leads right along with the sales team and getting everyone together to celebrate after big victories.

While management styles vary, there are certain sales manager traits that separate these top performers from the rest.

So before you agree to a sales management job, ask yourself whether you possess these characteristics:

1. Adaptability

Being a sales manager in 2019 is very different than being a sales manager in 1990.

Tactics have changed, and you have to change with them.

For example, selling is more relationship-based than ever before, so reps can’t just make a sales pitch in the beginning.

They have to be patient and make 100% sure they understand the prospect’s mindset before giving any sort of recommendation. And it’s ultimately up to you, the manager, to instill that mindset into your team.

Successful sales managers know they need to navigate the storms of change to reach their destinations. And the ability to change directions when things don’t go as they had hoped is key to getting consistent sales results.

Whether the challenge is a difficult business situation or a shift in priority, your ability to adapt and lead your sales team will be a major determinant of your overall performance.

2. Emotion management

When a rep is struggling, they can become unproductively emotional, and when that happens, counterproductive behaviors like product dumping and discounting frequently occur.

That’s why it’s critical that you keep your own emotions in check.

The best sales managers let reps vent without taking what they say personally. Once they’ve talked out some of their frustration, managers guide them towards a solution.

But if you easily get upset and frustrated yourself, you’ll make it tougher for your reps to recover (64% of whom are already battling the psychological beast).

You’ll also probably experience other provocative and risky situations, from terminating an underperforming salesperson to managing a hostile client. In each of these scenarios, managing your emotions will help you to arrive at the most viable resolution possible.

3. Coaching ability

Monotonous sales training is barely effective, and it does little to motivate reps.

Coaching, on the other hand, can improve a rep’s performance by up to 19%.

The best sales managers know how and when to coach reps to develop their talent and abilities.

They carve out time for consistent sales coaching to teach new skills, and if needed, schedule one-on-one sessions for reps who may require more advanced mentoring.

Additionally, they have an intimate knowledge of each rep’s abilities, and they’ll use that information in coaching to boost their confidence.

According to SalesSense, coaching is best when it's done consistently, and in consideration of the circumstances. For example, it doesn't help when managers point out certain mistakes they see their team making, but inexplicably let those same mistakes slide with one or two reps.

how to coach effectively

Interested in the psychology behind how to give a motivational sales speech? Check this out.

Coaching is a key way for sales managers to not only keep reps focused on what’s important, but also help them remain aligned and consistent in all sales engagements.

It's not a challenge to be undertaken lightly though—coaching is one of those sales manager intangibles that require you to be ready and available to support reps’ personal development on a regular basis.

4. Accountability

High performing sales managers don’t only hold their sales team accountable, they hold themselves accountable as well.

Why?

Because if you’re not willing to claim ownership over sales performance, your reps can feel like they’re carrying all the weight.

Great sales managers are accountable when things go wrong, and credit their team when everything’s working well.

On the other hand, sales managers who spend more time micromanaging than shouldering responsibility can end up distancing themselves from their team, which often causes overall performance to decline.

5. Healthy competitiveness

Even though you want your reps to work well together, healthy competition is a vital aspect of improving a sales team’s performance.

Great sales managers build a positive sales dynamic by encouraging friendly and transparent competition among reps, instead of allowing it to remain hidden. There’s a huge amount of untapped potential here.

One way you can promote competition amongst your team is by displaying a sales leaderboard:

nurture competition in sales teams with a sales leaderboard

If they can see how everyone’s doing throughout the month on a big screen in the office, salespeople will vie to get their names up on the leaderboard, resulting in productive and healthy competition.

Gamification like sales leaderboards has been found to improve the work experience of 91% of personnel by increasing awareness, productivity, and engagement.

6. Strategic thinking

The most successful sales managers continuously find ways to take their organization to new heights and achieve greatness.

In practice, this involves devising a compelling go-to-market sales strategy that’s fully aligned with where the marketplace and the company are headed.


For example, your reps might be bringing in a lot of prospects, but they aren’t moving those prospects through the rest of the sales funnel. Maybe they’re sitting on your email campaign, engaging but not taking action. What’s a sales manager to do?

Great sales managers will instruct their teams to make it easier for prospects to take action. They’ll recommend technological options like chatbots that can capture people's queries and connect them to the sales team fast.

They’ll then create a focused plan for striking better conversations, stretch reps outside of their comfort zones, and share new approaches and methods to close more prospects.

7. Problem-solving skills

To become a successful sales manager, you should be able to logically reason and know how to turn any complexity into a strategic advantage.

Reps often run into unexpected challenges, and they need guidance on how to re-frame and adapt in order to quickly work through issues.

A good sales manager has the mindset to create a bridge between problems and solutions, understanding a rational path their team must take to maintain a level of competitiveness.

This ability to expertly balance disapproval and positive reinforcement is one of the top sales manager traits that you should try cultivating in yourself.

Do you have any of these sales manager traits?

Great sales managers exhibit most, if not all, of these qualities.

They’re clear about precisely what results they want and show up ready to lead their team to success every day.

If you can measure up, you have the opportunity to exceed your sales goals, inspire your team, and gain the respect of the entire sales department.