Whether a person oversees one salesperson or a staff of 25, they're in sales management. Whether your job title is sales manager, branch manager, president or owner, you are in a position of supervision. This requires that you lead people. It also requires "people" skills.

In residential sales, staffs encounter females more than 85 percent of the time, yet many HVAC sales staffs are up to 95-percent male. The heating and cooling industry needs to train more women to sell comfort in the home. The industry has reached a point where the portable computer can give everyone all the technical help needed to create a quality proposal.

Sales training also needs to change. For many years, salespeople obtained their knowledge from working their way through the trades.

Many times, people who were not the best choice for a sales career were promoted to the position simply because it was the next step on the pay scale and they knew enough to check the return-air levels. Often, they did not know how to sell and lacked the people skills to gain buyers' confidence. They sold the job on price only. Today, laptop computers and software are available to make a good salesperson, male or female, into a great salesperson.

Sales managers must relate to their staffs and be able to train and work with their sales force, understanding their needs. The lifeblood of any company is its sales organization. Managers' ability to work with salespeople is the most important element of their job. If they are unable to work with them, profits will decrease, sales will be lost and the overall outlook of the company will suffer.

Common styles

Two leadership styles are among the most commonly used by managers: "authoritarian" and "leading by example." Both require managers to have an understanding of the job and how people like to be treated.

In the authoritarian style, the authority is based on obedience. Its strength is in threat and fear. People are forced to follow and obey because the consequences of not doing so may be the loss of their job. "Do it my way or the highway."

This style may be great for the military, but seldom works elsewhere. It often exists in companies where the sales manager has never been trained in management or has been promoted one step beyond the person's capabilities - the Peter Principle. It does not belong in sales management.

Personal leadership is essential in sales management. Supervisors need to know the skills necessary to make a sale as well as possess good people skills. They must also instill in others the desire to work towards a common and accepted goal.

This leadership quality is often seen when others want to follow someone, to be just like him or her. Many generals have this leadership quality and during times of war, they can ask their soldiers to commit to battle even though the men would be sick, hurt and feeling defeated.

Great sales organizations are built on a foundation that is created by sales managers who possess these leadership qualities. Remember, sales managers are not moving people around like checkers, pulling strings like a marionette or marching soldiers. They are leading salespeople. They will achieve success when their staffs want to follow them because of the example they're setting.