People skills in sales management | Sunday Observer

People skills in sales management

29 August, 2021

Former American President Theodore Roosevelt Jr. once said, “The most important single ingredient in the formula for success is the knack of getting along with people”. This is an extremely pragmatic and realistic statement in business and life. 

The Cambridge English Dictionary defines people skill as the ability to communicate with people in a friendly way and therefore deal with them effectively, especially in business. Meanwhile, Wikipedia describes it as an umbrella term for skills under three specific sets of abilities: personal effectiveness, interaction skills, and intercession (the action of intervening on behalf of others). 

Although people skills are useful and important in other business activities, it is compulsory and perhaps the most important trait a sales manager should possess. If the sales manager does not communicate, empathise, and represent his or her staff genuinely and honestly, the repercussion or reciprocation can be detrimental to the job as a leader. 

If you wish to be a sales manager, make sure that you have experience in personal selling, skills, drive, and a good track record. The management skills of the superiors picked up by observing them are one sure way to gather knowledge in the management of a sales team. 

Therefore, mere success in only selling skills or sales close rate as a practitioner is inadequate to be a successful sales manager. The ability to lead, motivate and elevate others to achieve more under you is the key factor in your success. Whilst sales managers essentially need hands-on experience in sales, there are other equally important skills and mission-critical functions in order to excel. The first and foremost among them is people skills. 


Simply appointing you as the sales manager by an organisation gives you ‘legitimate power’ to lead the team. With the designation, most often a sales manager automatically is entitled to apply ‘reward power’ that allows him to reward the subordinates and ‘coercive power’ where he can punish them if or when necessary.  

However, the more important two aspects are the ‘expert power’ where you can offer credible advice based on your own experience and knowledge, and the ‘referent power’ where the sales manager acts as a mentor to the team to attract positive attitude of the subordinates towards him as a leader. 

Nevertheless, the most salient factor in sales leadership is to strike a balance between all these leadership powers by practicing effective people skills. As stated by Roosevelt Jr., the ultimatum and the most important ingredient in sales success is the people skill the sales manager applies to his or her team. 

In people management, the first and foremost is the mutual trust built between the leader and his followers. As I have said numerous times previously, in reality, successful salesmen are always an independent, smart, and vigorous fraternity who act on their own whether they are right or wrong. 

Correct path

Therefore, the sales manager has to monitor them subtly with whatever controls available to him to keep them on the correct path. When the team members start trusting the leadership, they feel secure and free to exchange information openly. Hence, building mutual trust with your subordinates genuinely is one of the most important tasks in people management.   

When you convince the sales team that you can be trusted and you will protect them in a difficult situation, they will individually take over the ownership of their actions. The sales staff members will only approach you only when they have a genuine requirement. This can make you more efficient in management where you will save more time for other functions within your purview. 

Effective personal communication is also an exceptionally vital element in people skills related to sales team management. The sales manager’s ability to understand and empathize with his team makes him interact with them effectively and build up a rapport. Effective communication of a leader not only builds up trust and sincerity but also helps to avoid conflicts and reach consensus easily with the team members. 

The ability to communicate is essential in any field of endeavour. However, when managing a sales team, the sales manager must learn to communicate in a special language to understand the staff individually and as a team well enough to empathize with them. Dialogues with the staff must be effective and efficient in business situations and cordial and empathetic in personal conversations.


Money talks in many situations. However, money talk will not buy you a motivated sales team. It is deeper than numbers. Selling is hectic. Salesmen work under pressure, from both the customer and the company, and often work under difficult conditions. Therefore, a good sales manager keeps his team constantly happy by igniting inner desires, letting them have fun, lavishly praising them in victory, and encouraging them in failures.  

Sales managers frequently use various tactics to motivate the team under them to be in the race. Particularly, in today’s fiercely competitive market conditions, it is exceedingly important to keep them on alert in the market. 

Hence, a deeper meaning to the job function must be given by guiding them to understand the salesman’s role in the organization and how important it is to the organization as a whole.

The true motivation for a salesman comes from the notion that they are the most valuable asset in the company. The sales manager must constantly drive this idea to them.  

Recognition of initiatives is a good motivator for salespeople. Giving the salespeople their freedom to make decisions, put forward new ideas, or introduce new systems can make them more encouraged. A good sales manager always persuades his team members to think like entrepreneurs who are looking forward to growth. The sales manager should not only give them ample space to try their new ideas but also reward them for such ideas.   


A party is not essential to celebrate a win, whether big or small. Nevertheless, celebrating small wins boosts the morale of a sales team. In my career as a sales manager, I have conducted a brief meeting every morning with my sales staff at every organisation I was attached to. 

Through experience, I can guarantee that applause from the team to celebrate a closed sale is tremendously encouraging to the winner and gives him or her the extra mile to do better. There are many other strategies available to a sales manager to motivate his team. Therefore, building up a positive atmosphere through motivation is an important people-skill. 

The positivity of the leader is a compulsory people skill required to direct a sales team to success. Attitudes are contagious and the manager has to spread positive thinking throughout his team. The attitude of the sales manager is one of the most effective tools to boost up the team morale. The manager’s attitudes and actions can make a huge impact on the team. Therefore sales managers should always be enthusiastic, inspiring, and encouraging towards his or her team.  

Finally, the leaders must be completely honest and genuine in their approach to the team. The sales manager’s feedback to the team members must be real and sincere.

That builds a huge trust and bonding between the leader and the follower.

As long as they look up to the leader for guidance, the team can be kept together for more results. An important people-skill is to show the team that the sales manager is with them in every difficulty and obstacle.