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Sales Managers' Effectiveness Increases with "Soft Skills"
Sales managers are responsible for whether sales employees succeed or fail. Fair or not, the perception of an employee as successful is determined nearly 100 percent by the sales manager. Unfortunately, not all sales managers have great interpersonal and communications skills. (Just Google (News - Alert) “worst bosses” and you’ll find a laundry list of horror stories.)
While it’s certainly important for a sales manager to know what he or she is selling and have “hard skills” like a head for figures and the ability to create sales materials, it’s also critical that sales managers have a collection of “soft skills” that can help drive the sales team. In a recent blog post for Salesforce, Rosy Callejas noted that being in a position of power doesn’t automatically mean a leader has all the people skills necessary to keep employees and clients happy.
“For many workers, bosses that are hostile, rude, or insensitive are the real issue,” she wrote. “Studies show that 65 percent of employees would rather have a new boss than a pay raise. Think about that for a moment: With very few exceptions, the promise of a paycheck is what motivates the average employee to perform, yet more than half of American workers would forgo additional pay in the unlikely chance a new boss would be better than a current one.”
It’s beholden to the company leadership to ensure that sales managers have the right interpersonal skills to succeed both with managing the sales team and dealing with customers. Effective communication belongs at the top of the list of those skills. It’s not enough to hand out tasks to subordinates and expect them to get done properly.
“The ability to impart information is only one aspect of communication,” wrote Callejas. “Real communication involves speaking and listening, as well as reading body language and other nonverbal cues. In fact, when two people communicate, 55 percent of what is being interpreted is coming from facial expressions and body language, 37 percent comes from tone and voice, and only eight percent has to do with the actual words being spoken.”
Are sales team members constantly complaining that the sales managers’ directives are unclear? Are they being communicated in a hostile or impatient manner? If they are, this leads us to the next soft skill, which is empathy. Empathy is absolutely critical for sales managers and professionals to work in cooperation for the mutual benefit of all involved. Think of it as a personal sacrifice necessary to be a part of something greater.
“[Empathy is] integral to the function of the modern corporate machine,” wrote Callejas. “Leaders who understand their customers and employees are better able to anticipate and correct potential issues before they grow into something that could jeopardize the relationship.”
With empathy and good communications, trust – another necessary soft skill – will follow. When trust flows both ways, from the sales manager down and the sales team up, the working relationship becomes dynamic and effective. From here, sales managers need to demonstrate patience. The team won’t always get things right, but flying off the handle will do nothing but harm.
“The ability to take in the chaos take a deep breath, and find your center will end up being worth more than any anxiety-induced panic attack,” wrote Callejas. “And, when handling people — employees or customers — your patience will go a long way towards cultivating that trust mentioned beforehand.”
Edited by Alicia Young