3 Characteristics of the MOST Effective Sales Managers

Managing people, especially Salespeople is challenging.  That statement is probably as big a news flash to you as me telling you that the sky is blue and that water is wet.  Bear with me, I promise that I have more value to offer you than that!

Working, as I do, with dozens of Sales Managers across the country I have found a few things, a few characteristics, that the consistently successful managers share.

How Do I Measure Sales Manager Success?

  1. Consistent revenue goal attainment (duh!)
  2. Stable team (no excessive turnover)
  3. The MAJORITY of the team hits their individual revenue goals (in other words the manager doesn’t have 1 or 2 superstars that are carrying the rest of the team.  Said another way, the manager isn’t hiding behind a few top-producers)
  4. The manager is able to hire A-level, top talent on demand.  They accomplish this by understanding that one of their primary functions is to maintain a network of salespeople that they can tap for candidates whenever necessary.  This prevents them from having to hire “whoever is available” when they have a need.
  5. They don’t suffer from revenue concentration risk, meaning that their revenue is diversified across a portfolio of clients.
  6. Their team operates smoothly in their absence.
  7. They can accurately forecast revenue.
Your sales are growing THIS fast...

                                                    Your sales are growing THIS fast…

How Do TOP Managers Attain That Level?

In working with as many managers and owners as I do it has become clear that all of them have different strategies, techniques, and methods of accomplishing the seven items listed above.  Some better than others and some differently than others, but ALL of them understand at a FUNDAMENTAL level that their role encompasses three distinct characteristics that, while similar, are not the SAME.  

  1. Manager
  2. Trainer
  3. Coach

I’m going to elaborate on that list momentarily, but first, and equally as important as comprising all three of those characteristics is knowing when to use each.  That is KEY.  Their are times to manage, times, to coach, and times to train.  Those characteristics are ALL important but the right characteristic has to be used when it is needed.

Let’s dig into each and I’ll explain!


When they are wearing their “manager” hat they are giving direction.  They are enforcing policy, process, and methodology.  They are the boss and they are clear, concise, and strong.  When they are managing they aren’t trying to teach someone.  They aren’t trying to coach someone.  They are informing their team of the way that things are.


When in “training mode” the effective manager is using the situation to grow and develop their team.  They are using scenarios as “teachable moments” to drive home a point or reenforce a lesson.  They will let their person lose a (small!) deal to learn how to better handle that situation the next time.  They are focused on improving the performance of their team through lesson, repetition, and exercise.  They role-play, run classes, lead exercises, and grow their team organically to ensure that they are the best that they can be.


When they are in “coach mode” they are all about tomorrow.  History is the teacher and they are using last week’s performance to push next week’s growth.  They assist their team with next week’s plan, check in on their progress, and ensure that the team is prepared and ready for all of the major events in their upcoming week.

PROTIP:  While all three of these characteristics are important to the effective sales manager, EVERY well run team that I have observed, been a part of, or consulted for viewed their manager as a COACH.  That doesn’t mean that that individual didn’t mange her team or that she didn’t train them, but their overall view of her was as a coach.

So why is that?

Coaches are focused on tomorrow.  They are constantly asking their teams about what is coming up and they are assisting the team to prepare.  Individual Salespeople will recognize that and respond to it.  Once they become accustomed to the change in culture, it becomes very clear to them that their manager is their to ensure their INDIVIDUAL success.  They feel supported and valued.  That brings out the best in a team.  Consistently.

So If Coaching Is So Important Why The Other Two Characteristics?

Because you don't want to be thought of like this...

           Because you don’t want your team to think of this when they think of you…

That’s a great question, and the answer is pretty direct.  Salespeople, like any other employee, sometimes need to be given clear direction.  Not “teaching moments” and not questions about preparation and growth.  In those instances thy need to be managed.  And at other times they need to be taught.  But, once a new team member is fully trained and competent, the vast majority of the time they will need to be coached.

Weekly Challenge:


The reason so many sales managers struggle is because they were plucked from successful individual contributor roles and promoted.  That’s it, successful salesperson one day and sales manager the next.  No training.  No guidance, jut a new title and a team to grow.

Sales managers are consistently setup to fail and, by extension, consistently setup to fail their teams.  Selling, managing, coaching, and training are four separate skills that not everyone has.  Take the time to evaluate your potential sales manager BEFORE putting them in the role and ensure that they have the characteristics necessary to succeed.  Once you decide on someone TRAIN them or have them trained BEFORE putting then at the head of a team.  Contact me (HERE!) and I’ll give you some great programs to consider.

Sales Managers:

Understand that all three of these characteristics are skills that you need to be effective.  The great news is that all of them are learnable skills. Take the time to develop them.  Read books.  Read blogs.  Listen to Podcasts (Shameless Plug!).  Develop yourself as you expect your team to develop themselves and, above all, understand that regardless of how successful you were as an individual contributor this is a new role with new requirements.  Your success will develop a whole group of people that need you.

Sales People:

If you are considering management (or Entrepreneurship!) start learning now.  All of the things I mention in the preceding paragraph apply to you and the sooner that you start that journey the more attractive a candidate you will become for promotion by the owner of your firm.

As always, thank you for stopping by!

If this article resonates with you please share it with a colleague and don’t forget to do the social media dance with me (Like/Share/Follow!).

Quick Question:  What manager made the biggest impact in your career, and why?  ~Please answer in the comments below!




Strategy ~ Growth ~ Success


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