Five Critical Traits For A Sales Manager


(By Alec Drake) My understanding of what it takes to be a great manager started from asking my boss early in my career. Standing in the doorway of my General Sales Manager’s office after two years of sales success, his reply was simple: “Act like one.”

From that response, I understood that titles were not a key — management is an earned position. My peers would gravitate to me for help, encouragement, and direction as I supported them first. Act like one before you are one was my new mantra.

Decades later, market managers are recalibrating what they need in a sales manager in this critical and unique environment for radio sales. After my 35 years of management experience, here are five attributes to consider in choosing your next sales manager.

1. A Work Ethic

A great sales manager should be a compass who can direct a team by setting an example and defining qualities that drive success. Nothing in sales comes without hard work and dedicated effort, and a manager as a role model will earn respect from their team.

A great manager is not afraid to jump in and do anything they ask their team to do. Leading by example is still vital, no matter the state of the industry or competitive landscape.

2. Firm But Fair

As a manager, you are not running for political office. It is not a popularity contest; you must be ready to make tough decisions. Not everyone will agree when there are multiple agendas, you can take a stand on any issue if the team feels you are fair in your judgment.

Not every decision is your best; the information may not always be complete when the timing is not on your side. You should evaluate to the best of your ability and move forward. If a decision is wrong or flawed, admit any mistakes; this shows that you consider the importance of any decision and its outcome.

3. Empathy vs. Sympathy 

It would help if you listened to all sides as a manager to be effective. When you hear feedback or input from your team, you must filter that information to avoid enabling negative behavior that is not beneficial vs. what deserves your support and action.

Good managers relate and communicate understanding without endorsing a direction that subtracts from the team’s performance.

4. Left vs. Right

All areas of responsibility need attention for any manager: corporate reports, daily administration duties, interdepartmental communication, and the unexpected events that make any day hectic.

A balance between doing what you love and what is necessary is essential in management for positive results. Managers can lean left brain and some more right brain, so ensure an appreciation for both creative and logical attributes. Understanding the data and leveraging creativity go hand in hand to develop an optimal result for any team.

5. A Servant of the Team and Supporter of the Company

The team members should see you as serving them and knowing you have their interests and personal goals in mind, along with giving them a voice when company decisions get made. A great manager looks in both directions, serves the team’s needs, and supports the company agenda, even if they are not always aligned. A good manager can be the glue that keeps the shared vision and value in place. You should be confident and knowledgeable to lead the team and not bend to every request from above or below.

Beyond these five traits, the ultimate success as a manager comes through experience, understanding that those around you are responsible for any results, staying calm to provide stability when there is turmoil, and being a mentor when you see the potential for greatness.

Alec Drake advises and writes on revenue management. He founded T.R.I.P. “The Radio Invigoration Project” group and publishes a monthly newsletter, The Sales T.R.I.P. both on LinkedIn. Alec can be reached at [email protected]. Read his Radio Ink archives here.


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