Instead of focusing on your best salesperson, you should look for "a student of selling," Fox says. For example, keep an eye out for a good, solid salesperson who comes to meetings prepared, is interested in sales strategies and asks questions. "You want someone who isn't afraid to ask how to overcome a specific objection or what to do in a certain situation," Fox says. "You want someone who likes learning about sales."
In addition, find someone who has an interest in long-term sales plans and strategies; look for an individual who wants to see how sales fits into the company's marketing program and its overall growth strategy. He or she should be concerned with more than just his or her territory or how an ad campaign might affect his or her sales.
Other key qualities to look for in a sales manager include:
- A deep, sincere interest in the company. "[The best] individuals look beyond their immediate responsibilities [to the needs of the business]," says Fox.
- The ability to work well with people on and off the sales force. He or she should be among the first to volunteer to help new salespeople and should show an interest in mentoring and leading, says Fox. "A strong sales manager will remind you of a really good teacher you had," he says. Keep in mind, top salespeople are often uncomfortable with tasks other than selling; a sales manager must be able to be at ease with all departments.
- Good organizational skills. As a manager, he or she will have more meetings, appointments and paperwork than ever.
- The ability to work without a lot of praise. Instead of being stroked, he or she will do the stroking. The job requires him or her to make sure others perform to the best of their ability--and to be certain others get the credit.
- Accountability. Conversely, a sales manager should be able to take the hit when something goes wrong. "If you have a sales manager who takes responsibility for the staff's mistakes," says Fox, "the sales force will crawl through glass for him or her."
- The ability to perform well under pressure. No other department head will be under the gun so constantly to produce results.