7 habits of superstar sales managers

Use this list to benchmark the performance of your own sales manager

 This article first appeared on ProfitGuide.com.

Ask a bunch of experienced sellers what makes for a great sales manager, and you’ll get a pretty pedestrian checklist: he has to be able to communicate; she needs to be enthusiastic; he has to really like people. But ask those same sellers about the best practices of sales managers—the day-to-day habits that separate the sheep from the goats—and you’ll get a far more useful earful of specific behaviours.

Read: 5 quick fixes for a lacklustre sales team

Proven sellers who’ve gone on to teach sales management have identified these seven good habits of the best. You can use this list to benchmark the performance of your own sales manager. That’s well worth doing, because the difference between a good company and a great one often boils down to the quality of the sales management.


The best sales managers spend a lot of their time on their A performers, some on their Bs and none at all on their Cs. Successful sales managers don’t bother trying to manage unproductive salespeople, which pulls them away from their stars and never pays, says Andrew Wall, owner of the Milton, Ont. franchise of Sandler Training, a sales and sales-management training firm. B performers, he says, “are either coached up or coached out.” As for the Cs? “Good sales managers shoot the stragglers,” advises one no-nonsense sales authority.Using the stick to manage sales reps never works, and using the carrot only does sometimes, says Wall, because As and Bs are intrinsically motivated. “That’s why great sales managers don’t ‘motivate,’” he says. “They engage and challenge.”


The best sales managers regularly observe their sales team in action. Many managers spend less than 20% of their time listening in on sales calls or observing them in person, says Tim Magwood, founding partner of Fusion Learning Inc., a Toronto-based sales-training firm. He says managers should spend 40% of their time on this, and strive for 50%, because it’s the best form of coaching. But a manager will have enough time for this only if her boss eases up on other expectations, and if she streamlines her own administrative tasks.Top sales managers make this practice a priority rather than a last-ditch resort for struggling reps, says Herb Mac­Kenzie, chair of Brock University’s marketing, international business and strategy department and author of Sales Management in Canada: “It gives them one-on-one face time with sales reps before and after sales calls, which ultimately builds better relationships.”

Read: Why your sales team isn’t closing deals


The best sales managers build engagement by sharing company sales information with their team. The top managers realize their reps will be more effective if they grasp how what they do contributes to the firm’s success. They therefore share information such as revenue figures and departmental sales performance. “Sharing as much company sales information as possible with staff builds trust, and empowers staff to use the information to make more sales,” says MacKenzie.Good salespeople will use the information to devise their own tactics to execute the firm’s sales strategy, says Steven Rosen, founder of Star Results, a Richmond Hill, Ont.-based sales-management coaching service: “Their personal success, à la a sense of ownership, is all the more sweet.”


The best sales managers have a simple and clear sales plan. Yes, this should be a basic part of the job. Even so, it ranks among the best practices of only the elite, says Magwood. Fusion’s research shows that just 60% of sales teams have a strategy of any kind to guide their daily actions.Although there’s no hard data on how many sales plans are simple and clear, no doubt few meet the standard that Magwood recommends: “The best plans are no longer than one page, and they contain maybe 15 points, including the goals, visions and tactics per quarter.”

For three more signs of successful sales bosses, head over to ProfitGuide.

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