Retail area sales managers - six essential skills

Being a good retail area manager is challenging, requiring a broad range of skills. In this video, Mark McDermott outlines some of the key skills that an area managers needs to be successful.

So what makes a great area manager?
Sandwiched between the executive management team and branch managers, area managers can be faced with the constant challenge of communicating and delivering the corporate strategy at a tactical level across multiple sites.

Six essential skills for success
So here are the six areas in which I feel retail area managers need to excel.

Skill # 1: Great communication skills
Firstly, your retail area managers need to be great communicators and be able to adapt their approach and communication style for different audiences. For example, when talking to branch managers and frontline staff, corporate strategy needs to be translated into actionable activities that seem reasonable. Then, when providing feedback from the retail outlets to senior management, your area manager need to frame issues in the context of the strategy and long-term goals of the business. Story telling is a great skill for this.

Skill # 2: Financial acumen

It goes without saying that your area managers need to hit budget. They are responsible for their revenues and costs and will be judged primarily on whether they achieve their targets. They need to be clear on how their annual budget is made up and how this translates into the monthly plan for each individual branch and in some cases, the individuals within these branches. Do they have the financial confidence to discuss with each branch manager their financial objectives, costs and exactly how these goals will be achieved?

Skill # 3: Customer service expertise

In retail, area mangers must have customer service excellence embedded in their DNA. Do the branches deliver an amazing customer experience and the brand promise? As always, the devil is in the detail. Your  managers must have a good grasp of the brand values AND be meticulous in how they demonstrate them.

Skill # 4: Ability to motivate and develop branch managers

Naturally, a successful area depends on high performing branches. Do your area managers posses the skills to motivate and develop their branch managers – who in turn need the competence to manage, develop and coach their own staff within the branch?  It is clear that an Individual branch not hitting target can drag down the overall performance of the area. So, your area managers will need the training and, of course, the will to enter into frank and open conversations with any under-performing branch managers.

Skill # 5:  Coaching and mentoring expertise

Just how good are your area managers at workplace coaching? Coaching and mentoring will play an important part in their role when providing support and development to each individual branch manager. They to walk the talk and demonstrate what good look like. Whilst many area managers are trained in coaching, they might not yet be experts and will themselves need regular practise, to fine-tune their skills.

Skill # 6: Adopting a flexible approach
And finally, branch managers should be allowed to get on with the job, so empower them and give them some flexibility in how they achieve their objectives. Improve your systems and cut out unnecessary admin to free up their time. Let them use their initiative to adapt to local conditions.

Your area managers need to lead from the front, promoting a positive culture where everybody supports and learns from each other, generating success and great results. They will need great self awareness and personal resilience – as at times it can be lonely and difficult out there.

If you would like to discuss how you might improve the performance of your area managers, please do get in touch.

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