Although every organization is different, hiring a sales manager is not as simple as it looks. In fact, the wrong sales manager can quickly damage morale, if not scare away the sales reps and potentially injure the firm.
A common mistake is to promote a high achieving sales rep who wants to move up in management. Unfortunately, a highly successful sales rep may be exactly the wrong candidate for sales management. Often aggressive sales reps are impatient, lack team-player characteristics, and tend to have huge egos; these can be exactly the wrong characteristics for a sales manager.
In my opinion, the following general characteristics or traits are needed for a good sales manager:
1. Teaching skills- This includes the ability and interest to help others learn.
2. Empathy- A good sales manager needs to understand how reps feel and how to react accordingly. Sales teams can be highly emotional and fragile. Insensitive sales managers fail.
3. Ego in check- A strong ego is required, but the needs of the team are greater than the managers.
4. Communication skills- This skill is an obvious requirement that includes the ability to lead the sales team and to work with the other departments.
5. Relationship skills- This is the ability to create long term relationships with internal and external customers. Sales managers must be likeable.
6. Analytical skills- The best sales managers must be able to decide the strategic options in complex sales situations. They have to make the tough calls.
7. Wins through the victories of the team- Gets satisfaction by helping sales reps win; this is knocks out a lot of reps who want to be managers.
8. Ability to handle pressure- On a day to day basis, the sales manager is under the gun more than any employee in a typical firm.
9. Continuous learner- I find that the best sales managers are always looking for new ways to get things done. They are naturally curious.
10. Sales manager experience- I always favor gray hair when it comes to hiring a sales manager. Conversely, rookies will likely make mistakes and those mistakes could be costly.
Remember to do an extensive background check on external candidates. Look for a history of strong performances with good references. Life is short, so hire winners.