Can't manage your company and a salesforce at the same time? Want to grow as the economy recovers, but find yourself distracted running a salesforce on which you feel like little more than the senior seller and cheerleader-in-chief?

You're not alone. It's not an easy thing to manage both a company and a salesforce of more than three or four people. Experts, such as legendary home improvement sales teacher and trainer Phil Rea, of R2R Associates, suggest that with four or more sales representatives selling for your company, you may need to seriously consider hiring someone to manage that salesforce full-time so that you can turn your attention to the big picture of business growth.

But the role of sales managers, never easy or simple, has changed with the downturn in the economy. "There was a time when you just gave a big old Rah-Rah meeting and sat around," Rea says. "Now you should be in the car with the salespeople every day. And if a guy is blowing leads, you better get rid of him. Leads are expensive, and there are fewer of them." Company owners agree with Rea wholeheartedly about that.

"It's critical that we attempt to follow up on every single lead," says Chris Cardillo, president of Castle Windows, in Mount Laurel, N.J.

Must Haves

If you're thinking about hiring a sales manager, or a new sales manager, consider what some home improvement companies say they would look for:

  • 1) Selling skills. Or, more specifically, someone who actually knows how to sell roofing, siding, or windows in the home and can demonstrate by example. Without that, it's tough to manage a sales team. The salespeople have to know that their leader can walk the talk.
  • 2) Leadership skills. Salespeople are Type A personalities. It can take more work, more attention, and more energy to successfully manage them than it does to manage other employees. And you need to manage individually. Take charge and show the way. "A good sales manager has to have leadership skills," says Todd Schulz, vice president of Weather Tight, in Milwaukee. "A sales rep doesn't."
  • 3) Problem-solving skills. "I'm not looking for someone to call 'a manager' that people can report to," Cardillo says. "I am looking for someone who can recognize an issue and come up with a plan to solve it."
  • 4) Being detail-oriented. Sales reps, says Mike Gilkey, owner of Gilkey Window Co., in Cincinnati, like to keep things vague ? "especially things with upcharges in them." Sales managers, he says, need to be detail-minded in all things, include paperwork.
  • 5) Being driven to succeed. "A great sales manager has to care greatly about his people," says Vaughn McCourt, director of operations at Penguin Windows, one of the country's largest window replacement firms. "He has got to be more driven to have them succeed than they themselves are [driven] to succeed."
  • 6) Having a sense of urgency. "The perception with a lot of [managers] is that as long as things are going well, they can kick back," says Shane Schuckman, co-owner of Renewal by Andersen of Las Vegas/Phoenix. "The really good sales manager always has a sense of urgency, regardless of where we are at with our goal." And if the goal is not being met? Then things get really urgent.
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