Matching The Right Skills To The Job

“I need a killer sales manager,” says the voice on the phone. “Someone with a great client list, a born closer and a great presenter. Oh, and someone who will drive the revenue and manage for results.”

Yes, yes, we think, every company wants to hire that person. But have you thought about the other skills needed in your sales management?

Half the job title is sales. The other half is manager. Managing a sales operation is not one skill set, it’s a lot of different functions.

It’s managing the sales people, and managing the sales operations. All sales managers are NOT equally well suited to all aspects of these roles. Ignoring the specific needs in your organization can lead to a poor match of skills and job requirements, and that always leads to trouble.

The Brand New Start-Up

When the sales management job is to set up the first sales operation in a new business, there is an enormous job just getting a team going.

Has anyone analyzed what the sales process for your product or service is likely to look like? How different sets of customers prefer to be approached and serviced? What level of pre-sale work will be necessary before a sales transaction can take place? What the contracts need to look like, whether there needs to be a credit checking process or any client approval steps?

Have you identified the optimal staffing profile, the best-case organizational structure, a clear and fair way of assigning accounts or territories? What about leads management, pipeline management, sales servicing?

The sales manager setting up a new operation (or one which needs to undergo substantial changes) needs to be at least as skilled in designing and building an operation as s/he is in generating revenue. That “killer sales manager with the client list and closing instincts” may not be the right person at all to set up a new team — the guy who wants to spend every waking minute in front of clients will likely fail if asked to build the foundation for a lasting sales organization.

In this case, the better suited candidate may be the more thoughtful individual, still a great salesperson; but more detail oriented, more analytical, a touch less aggressive. A builder not a hunter.

The Online Brand Extension

How about the web division of a more established advertising sales operation? In this model, the demands on the sales management team are quite a bit different. This individual will be looking to leverage client relationships the core business sales team has developed, to shorten the time to market acceptance of the online brand.

In addition, most brand extension managers have the added requirement of protecting, or at least steering clear of, the products sold by the parent company.

This selling scenario calls for a relationship-oriented sales manager, a networker, a team-builder rather than a rain-maker. Again, s/he is still a strong revenue oriented sales performer. But the ideal candidate has an additional set of skills requirements, and the most successful companies will be cognizant of those needs in staffing the role.

Different Solutions For Changing Requirements

Sales organizations have different needs at various times in the company or product life cycle. Requirements change as corporate cultures change, as businesses grow and shrink, through mergers and acquisitions and going public, as products are launched and folded, as market conditions shift.

It’s not necessary or even advisable to replace your management team with each market transition. But it is important to be aware of the organizational demands placed upon the sales management team, and to be sure the resources are in place to allow that individual to succeed as the demands evolve.

Understanding the detailed requirements of the specific job is step one, followed by hiring to that clearly stated set of requirements, or supporting managers already in place with the incremental resources to meet the changing needs.

Assuming that a good sales manager will be equally adept at any sales management situation that arises is a common, and costly, mistake.

Next week: How To Analyze Your Company’s Sales Process

Related reading