There are two ways to describe what a sales manager does. One is to look at the outcomes they are responsible for creating. Another is to look at the individual tasks that deliver those outcomes. There are several things that make it difficult for sales managers to reach their goals, and much of their work aims to overcome these challenges.
The Sales Manager’s Challenges and Outcomes
The sales manager is charged with creating a number of outcomes that each bring their own challenges, including:
- Creating enough new opportunities to reach their goals
- Winning enough opportunities to hit their targets
- Helping the sales force grow, develop, and become more effective
- Working with the variability of individual results
- Addressing the administrative burden that takes time away from their sales force
- Working against the clock
- Adjusting to the increase in the difficulty of buying
When cultivating these outcomes, the sales manager is responsible for completing many tasks. The top three are:
- Reaching goals: Sales managers are responsible for reaching their goals. Their quota is the total of their team's quota. A sales manager with 10 salespeople on their team, each with a $1 million target, is responsible for $10 million in revenue.
- Leading growth: The sales manager is required to lead their team. One can be a manager without being a leader. Great sales managers lead their teams in growing their revenue. The decision to lead improves results.
- Developing the sales force: The sales manager is responsible for helping each salesperson on their team to grow and become more effective. Great sales managers train, coach, and develop the individuals on their teams.
These three outcomes are presented in the order a company might prioritize, however, to be a great sales manager you need to emphasize them in the reverse order. You start by developing your team, leading them in growing net new revenue, and, in doing so, reaching your goals.
What the Sales Manager Does Day-to-Day
What follows are some of the most common things a sales manager does on a daily basis. Depending on what the sales organization and sales team need, the sales manager may focus on some of these more than others:
- Providing strong direction: The sales manager needs to provide their team with strong direction. A leader will set their team’s priorities and hold them accountable for pursuing them. This may start with a territory and account plan that focuses on certain types of clients. It may also include guidance on what work to do, how it should be done, and when to do it. The sales manager provides discipline to temper the autonomy that comes with sales roles.
- Leading by example: A sales manager needs to lead by example and be a role model for their team. This means exhibiting the behaviors that they want their team to emulate, such as being positive, staying calm under pressure, and orienting themselves toward their strategic goals.
- Taking reports: It's important to know your team is creating new opportunities. The sales manager does a lot of report-taking and as much or more reporting to sales leadership. These opportunities allow individual team members to reach their goals by helping the sales manager determine if there are enough opportunities to support their objectives.
- Forecasting: The sales manager has the unenviable task of predicting the future by forecasting which deals the sales force will win in a period. In some companies, the forecast is critical to ensuring they have the resources they need to take care of their clients. This is about as easy as choosing the winning numbers of the Powerball.
- Coaching opportunities: One of the more enjoyable and interesting things that sales managers do is review and coach salespeople on their opportunities to ensure each member of the team has a strategy that will allow them to win. It also lets the sales manager coach and develop the salesperson, helping with both goal attainment and development. This is a high-leverage activity.
- One-to-one coaching: Meeting one on one with the individuals on their team is one of the highest-value activities a sales manager can undertake. To help salespeople improve their performance, a sales manager needs to coach them each in a way that reduces the variability of results between individuals. This involves providing feedback, setting goals, and offering guidance on how to overcome challenges. Because each salesperson has their own strengths and areas they need to improve, one-to-one coaching allows the sales manager to address obstacles in a way that improves their overall results.
- Sales meetings: Sales meetings are opportunities for the sales manager to provide information and instruction that can help the sales force improve their results and learn from one another. During sales meetings, the sales manager must also pass along communication and direction from leadership. This communication is important, but these meetings are most valuable when the topics of discussion benefit the sales force and help them improve their effectiveness.
- Analyzing data: The end goal of data analysis is for the sales manager to work on a strategic level. A large part of the job is analyzing data to identify trends and areas of opportunity. This data can come from a variety of sources, such as customer surveys, sales reports, and financial information, and the sales manager can use it to develop strategies to improve results.
- Developing strategies: A big part of a sales manager's job is developing strategies to improve performance. This may involve developing new ways to target customers, new sales tactics, or training and development that ensures the sales team has a competitive advantage over their competition.
This list covers a lot of the terrain, and what one sales manager needs to do may be nothing like what works best for another. Sales managers at different companies and in different industries will have different needs. Consider the tasks and outcomes listed here as you build your approach and plan how to reach your goal.