Good sales managers effectively motivate and advise their sales teams to achieve goals and improve performance. Great sales managers, however, combine the power of their past experiences, expert knowledge, and awareness of their surroundings to make important company decisions for today and the future.
Put simply, the best sales managers have business acumen.
Business acumen is the ability to use experience, knowledge, perspective, and awareness to make sound business decisions. Sales managers with this skill practice good judgment and are capable of taking comprehensive, long-term views of what their companies need. Sales managers without strong business acumen, on the other hand, can make short-sighted business decisions that negatively affect the future of the organization.
It should go without saying that hiring pros in need of sales managers should prioritize candidates with business acumen. But how do you find those candidates? Recruiters and HR pros should look for the following things when on the hunt for sales managers with business acumen:
1. Find the Collaborators
There is no doubt that sales teams with powerful teamwork capabilities are the most successful. This success is nurtured by managers who work collaboratively with others throughout the company and relay important messages back to sales reps.
Sales managers with business acumen have a collaborative edge. In fact, 84 percent of respondents in a Lighthouse case study found business acumen helped improve teamwork.
Seek out sales managers who have proven histories of successful collaboration. Keep an eye out for resumes that say a manager has worked closely with the customer success, marketing, or even executive team.
Then, during interviews, ask how the candidate works within the context of the organization as a whole on a daily basis. Encourage them to share an example of a time when one of their decisions impacted the entire company. Listen for cues that suggest the candidate discussed the decision with other departments or company leaders before coming to a conclusion, rather than acting entirely on their own.
2. Uncover Long-Term Thinking Skills
Today, successful companies must constantly respond to new disruptions. Rapid innovation and emerging technologies mean competitors are moving faster than ever. Panicked company leaders may focus heavily on short-term goals as a result, but this game of catch-up usually leads to poor long-term outcomes.
On the flip side, managers that focus on the long term see 47 percent higher revenue, according to a report from FCLT Global and the McKinsey Global Institute.
To find sales managers who can think long-term, give candidates the opportunity to showcase their abilities during the application stage. Share the company’s needs and long-term goals with candidates, and then ask them to lay out their prospective action plans based on that information.
3. Reach Out to Those Who Understand Your Customer Base
Knowledge, perspective, and awareness are all critical for managing a team, and this combination is just as important when connecting with customers.
Sales managers with business acumen are better able to create meaningful relationships with your customers. Prospective sales managers who already understand your customer base are the most likely to be able to build strong relationships with your clients, so look for candidates who have experience with the people you serve. They may have managed a sales team in the exact same industry before, or perhaps they’ve connected with customers in similar roles in the past.
Reach out to candidates who already understand your customers’ needs, personalities, and common objections. Give them time during interviews to discuss how their experiences have given them the necessary perspective and awareness to increase engagement with your current customers.