I am often asked by management teams to participate in their sales meeting. They look for me to provide feedback, as well as perspective, based on my customer experiences around revenue development. Many of these meetings incorporate team-building events – perhaps at a tropical location or golf resort – while others are more dialed down and focus on a theme such as setting the company’s vision. Whatever the atmosphere, I enjoy the opportunity to provide insight into customer needs, preferences and pain points while observing the company’s top performers.

Not long ago I reflected on what makes a good sales manager outstanding, after all, a terrific sales manager is central to the success of a sales team and the overall performance of a business. We know a manager’s primary role is to develop the sales rep and the sales rep’s main responsibility is to develop opportunities and win business.

But not everyone gets from A to B. Here are four skills that a sales manager must master to become great and keep the pipeline moving.

  1. Determine Objectives: I have seen managers who set objectives based on their personal experiences with no buy-in from their sales reps. Does this sound familiar? “All sales reps must call on five opportunities a week and make 20 cold calls a day.” While this method may work, a better approach is to establish objectives with your sales reps. For instance, “Here are the revenue objectives we are trying to meet this year. What do you think we need to do to achieve this objective?” Managers who can secure buy-in from their sales reps and set clear, well-defined objectives will foster amazing performance.
  2. Schedule Reviews to Share Agreed Upon Information:Once objectives are set and expectations are clear, what happens next? Letting your sales rep “wing it” is not the answer. It’s crucial to provide guidance and structure. If the objective is to win $500,000 of new business, you and your reps should discuss the types of customers they need to talk to. How many of each of those customers should they talk to to reach their goal? Are corporate systems in place where reps execute follow-up correspondences? Emphasize the importance of being proactive, addressing client needs and maintaining professionalism in all communications. Have reps share their customer touchpoints with you for accountability. Walking them through follow-up expectations and processes will create a framework for repeatable success.
  3. Evaluate and Coach: In my experience, you can learn a lot about a sales rep’s performance from a prospect’s reply to a follow-up correspondence. Are enough letters being sent to show an ample pipeline? Is the rep talking to the right people? Are customer goals clearly stated and can your service or product move the customer closer to those goals? Letters should tell all these things and more. After your evaluation, choose one or two skills to coach your reps on. Do more than that and your limited time together will feel jam-packed and your coaching will be overwhelming. Tackle one skill at a time to foster improvement. For example, try role-playing with a rep and listen to how he or she positions your company’s capabilities. Tackle another skill the next time you talk or meet and solicit feedback on how the skill is developing.


  1. Offer Feedback and Reinforce:Look for what your sales reps do well. You’ll need to continually reinforce the positive to maintain the foundation you are building on with your reps. If objectives have not yet been achieved, focus on what’s going right and how a particular skill helped to get them halfway there. Then, work together on skills that will get them the rest of the way.

American business magnate and philanthropist John D. Rockefeller said, “Good management consists in showing average people how to do the work of superior people.” By mastering these four skills managers will get superior people producing superior results.

If interested in developing these skills, reach out to learn more about our workshops and services.

sales manager

Transitioning a sales person to a sales manager

Transitioning A Salesperson To A Manager’s Role

One of the most costly mistakes in business is to promote your most successful sales person only to find that they fail as a manager.  What makes this even more disheartening is that you may also lose some of the revenue from that producer’s territory. Sales people are promoted because they have performed well and management mistakenly believes that the super star sales person is also a great manager and trainer.  Too often, the great sales person doesn’t even realize what they are doing different.  They may be intuitive or just particularly committed to cold calling or business development.  It is not uncommon that the sales person doesn’t really understand what behaviors have lead to above average results.

Being a super sales person and being a great manager often have traits that are diametrically different.  The successful sales person is usually easy to engage and empathetic with customers.  The really great ones are excellent listeners.  The exceptional sales manager is more analytical in that they can evaluate how effectively a sales person is executing their sales process and then provide concrete, specific feedback and exercises that will lead to improvement.  The listening skill that might have made them a great sales person is often a trait that enhances success as a sales manager. Larry King is credited with saying “I never learned anything while I was talking” and his words are well worth considering.

The sales manager that says, “Watch how I do it” is often using his personal skills to role model behaviors and that field experience is valuable but of only limited value.  Sales managers need to be coaches to be successful.  Few football coaches are world class quarterbacks, kickers or tight ends.  The way that a coach is able to field a winning team is to be able to assess the strengths and weakness of each player, to be able to diagnose the appropriate development and course of action and to be able to communicate the recommended changes in a manner that is clear and compelling.  If the sales manager is not able to change the attitudes and the behaviors of the sales team, it is questionable if the performance of the team will improve.  Think about the skill set required to change attitudes and behaviors.  That skill set may not be the same one that was able to close enough deals to get the salesperson promoted to sales manager.

Transitioning managers to a coaching role is the key to upgrading the collective results of the team.  Is the manager providing the appropriate development for the team and addressing individual needs?  Is the manager asking the right questions?  Is the manager effectively listening?  Is the manager good at making accurate assessments?  Does the manager use a sales process as his playbook and work with the team to practice the process?

The manager as coach analogy is a good one although there are many playback videos of sales people performances to assess.  Start by asking sales people specific questions:

  1. What does a qualified prospect look like?
  2. Who needs to be involved in the final decision that will lead to an order?
  3. What’s the cost to the buyer of not making a change?
  4. What value does the buyer/prospect see in your offering?
  5. How are we positioned against our competition?

The answers to these types of questions will enable the manager to make an assessment of how best to coach the sales person to success.  Increasing the overall effectiveness of the sales organization is the primary goal of the sales manager.  A sales manager that is a good coach is most likely to lead his team to greater success.