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80% of the roles and responsibilities of sales managers consist of ensuring that sales representatives are executing your strategy correctly.

There are 20 skills that sales managers need to have. But 4 competencies are particularly important for good sales managers need to master:

  1. Coaching
  2. Holding their team accountable
  3. Motivating
  4. Recruiting

Then there are secondary competencies to master. For example:

  • Participating in the organizational structure,
  • Contributing to the strategy,
  • Putting together a forecast,
  • Legal and financial literacy, and the most important,
  • Pipeline management.

In the end, there are three things that distinguishes elite sales managers from others. Before getting into that, let’s dive a little deeper in the 4 core competencies…


Coaching is probably the sales competency that distinguishes good sales managers from others.


Coaching is about making your salespeople better. In fact, just the act of coaching often, regardless of the quality of the session, improves sales performance.

When a sales manager coaches, they can provide support and help to their sales reps effectively. That means, adding value to the conversation with their salespeople to get them to think differently and tackle calls and opportunities the right way. For example, do the rep have a definite next step or are they able to identify the right next step?

50% of a sales manager’s time needs to be committed to coaching his or her sales team. Sales coaching is a daily activity. Sales Managers must meet every one of their reps each day for pre-meeting coaching sessions and post-meeting debriefings. These coaching sessions are short: between 5 and 7 minutes tops.

What should they coach on?

They can help with pricing, putting together quotes, and technical sales questions (tactics and strategies for a sales call, a meeting, a specific opportunity).

Beyond tactical support, sales coaching needs to focus on a person’s weaknesses. For example, which sales DNA deficiencies can be addressed during coaching sessions?

How to tell if a sales manager’s coaching is working?

At its core, there are two elements of successful coaching: is the coaching helpful and does it add value?

Remember, the goal of coaching is to grow and improve the reps’ sales competencies. To help them get opportunities that they wouldn’t be able to get on their own.

Questions you can ask:

  • Is the coaching improving the win-rate of the salespeople?
  • Is the coaching helping reps win against the competition?
  • Is the coaching assisting reps to have higher quality conversations with prospects and clients?
  • Is the coaching encouraging reps to focus on the right activities and the right opportunities?

How can a sales manager be a good coach?

For one, they need the core technical sales competencies – strong consultative selling competencies, a strong value seller competency, and a strong qualifier competency for example. They also need a healthy posture.

Those strong technical competencies allow them to support their team on tactical issues.

They also need strong sales management competencies.

Unfortunately, most sales managers aren’t aware of all that’s required to coach effectively and how to connect with underlying weaknesses that affect sales performance. For one they tend to advise more than coach, and two they’re don’t role play and lead co-development sessions.

Holding their team accountable

Accountability in sales is about setting clear expectations and setting consequences if goals aren’t met. And to that, a sales manager needs two things.

  1. First, an excuse-free sales culture, which a lot of sales organizations don’t have. An excuse-free sales culture means making sure everyone on the team is taking responsibility for their actions and results as well as focusing on the right activities and not spreading themselves thin.
  2. Second, the activities that fill the funnel. Are salespeople doing the actions they need to fill their respective pipelines and are their managers holding them accountable for removing opportunities from their pipelines that aren’t qualified or aren’t going to close? 

Why accountability in sales matters

Accountability matters for three main reasons:

  1. Accountability impacts other facets of sales managers responsibilities. For example, it’s difficult to have good coaching sessions if everyone is making excuses.
  2. Ultimately, accountability is what allows a manager to look at the gap between where a rep is and where they should be and not accept excuses for that gap and develop an action plan to bridge that gap.
  3. Finally, accountability allows the sales manager to raise the bar, raise expectations, and demand more from each rep.

Those three items impact pipeline management. Earlier I mentioned that pipeline management is a competency sales managers need to master. Accountability allows a sales leader to manage the pipeline by holding reps responsible for:

  • Removing opportunities from the pipeline that don’t belong there,
  • Placing opportunities at the right stages,
  • Doing the right activities to fill their pipeline,
  • Following the steps of the sales process,
  • Filling out the CRM,
  • Making sure the pipeline is balanced and that there’s movement.


Even the best salespeople have good days and bad days, and that’s where sales managers need to act when looking to help motivate reps.

Often, managers think “I need to motivate them” and is almost synonymous with cheerleading.

But cheerleading isn’t motivating. Motivation needs to have a basis and a foundation to rest on. That’s because motivation is sales isn’t about compensating for lack of desire or commitment or willingness to succeed. Those three elements lie within each salesperson and are unrelated with having a bad day or a bad stretch.

What is motivation in sales?

Sales motivation is about being able to act on the right thing at the right moment by connecting personal goals to professional ones.

Your sales force and each of its members are complex and aren’t always motivated by merely following their commission structure. Your sales managers must take the time to understand what drives each repTo be able to do this, it is imperative that sales managers understand each one’s motivations.

Sales managers should be able to answer the following questions for each team member:

  • What is the representative’s BHAG (Big Hairy Audacious Goal)?
  • What makes this person get up in the morning?
  • What does this person do in his or her free time?
  • Where does this person see themselves in 10 years?
  • How can I (the sales manager) help this salesperson reach his or her goals?

How to motivate salespeople better

There are a variety of tactics to encourage people, but they should rest on two critical factors:

  • Connecting personal and professional goals is the only way to motivate a salesperson sustainably.
  • A salesperson’s type of motivation – extrinsically motivated or intrinsically – will impact what they respond to.


There’s a significant difference between how sales recruitment should be and how it is in most organizations. Sales recruitment should be ongoing.

An organization can’t wait to have a role to fill before launching a recruitment initiative. That’s the type of behavior that can lead to complacency and tolerating mediocrity for fear of losing someone.

A sales manager needs to spend 5% of his or her time (about 3 to 4 hours per week) maintaining a pipeline of potential candidates to fill possible job openings within the team.

Even if there are no openings at the moment, your sales managers must act like the recruiter of a sports team and spend time searching, observing, and finding players that have the potential to be better than the current players on the team.

When recruiting, sales managers shouldn’t necessarily search for representatives with experience in their field. Instead, they need to try to find the person with the talent to be the best salesperson on their team.

In other words, continuous recruiting isn’t about filling chairs, but about increasing the team’s level. When a sales manager has a pipeline of strong candidates, they can upgrade their team as they see fit.

99 essential sales manager tasks

Concretely, these are the 99 essential activities sales managers need to do:

Daily sales management tasks

  1. Manage the activities of sales representatives
  2. Give recognition, when deserved
  3. Avoid procrastination
  4. Understand the strengths/weaknesses of each salesperson
  5. Enroll every representative in a goal management program
  6. Lead by example
  7. Maintain contacts
  8. Coach efficiently
  9. Conduct meeting debriefings with competence
  10. Solve client problems
  11. Maintain peace and order within the sales team
  12. Act as a link between different departments
  13. Motivate
  14. Mediate conflicts between sales and operations
  15. Take responsibility for the actions of salespeople
  16. Remain flexible
  17. Become a problem-solving master
  18. Become the good faith ambassador for all departments
  19. Review and approve invoices
  20. Close deals
  21. Learn to ask “what’s the real problem?”
  22. Ensure continuity
  23. Be available
  24. Provide external training
  25. Maintain concentration
  26. Stay “out of the box” when necessary
  27. Let your salespeople fail If necessary
  28. Turn the page when necessary
  29. Manage inside sales
  30. Act as a reference for feedback
  31. Know your limits
  32. Delegate when possible
  33. Admit your mistakes
  34. Maintain your integrity
  35. Carry the torch
  36. Control your emotions
  37. Hold your promises
  38. Charge forward
  39. Manage by design
  40. Manage your time
  41. Tell many stories
  42. Raise expectations
  43. Often give signs of recognition
  44. Leave your ego aside
  45. Be demanding
  46. Listen to positive audio recordings
  47. Never take anything personally
  48. Fake sincerity
  49. Practice the identity/role concept
  50. Make sure your requests have an “otherwise…”
  51. Raise the values of your salespeople
  52. Reject signs of recognition
  53. Recognize the profile of success
  54. Use a unified sales process
  55. Reject mediocrity
  56. Refuse excuses
  57. Never take credit for your salespeople
  58. Pursue personal skill development
  59. Favour time-to-goal instead of time spent
  60. Know the 100 essential sales management activities
  61. Apply the 100 essential sales management activities

Weekly sales management tasks

  1. Manage the pipeline
  2. Ensure profitability
  3. Manage resources
  4. Master interviewer skills
  5. Follow salespeople’ goal management program
  6. Conduct client visits
  7. Manage major accounts
  8. Be creative
  9. Defend your team
  10. Ensure that salespeople are targeting the right markets
  11. Follow a 3-strike system
  12. Plan time to think
  13. Lead incentive programs
  14. Recruit continuously
  15. Manage the working capital
  16. Get your salespeople to earn your time

Monthly sales management tasks

  1. Dismiss when necessary
  2. Keep competitor intelligence up to date
  3. Understand the financial needs of salespeople
  4. Develop strategic partnerships
  5. Hold powerful sales meetings
  6. Mitigate losses
  7. Strengthen salespeople’s feeling of belonging
  8. Follow client accounts
  9. Defend your team’s interests
  10. Lead publicity programs (optional)
  11. Manage the compensation program
  12. Participate in masters groups
  13. Read good books
  14. Plan for personnel turnover

Quarterly sales management tasks

  1. Dictate terms
  2. Set goals
  3. Plan market strategies
  4. Develop new markets for products
  5. Develop new services for products

Yearly sales management tasks

  1. Do not overpay your salespeople
  2. Do not underpay your salespeople
  3. Evaluate your salespeople

What distinguishes exceptional sales managers from the rest?

  1. Their selling competencies,
  2. The quality of the sales recommendations they make,
  3. Their style. For example, take a sales manager with excellent skills, but every time they intervene, he/she sounds abrasive. That manager is only going to get so far because of the climate of fear and distrust they create.

    It’s not about being fun and cool. It’s about balance – can the manager be positive while not shying away from difficult conversations? Can they be supportive and hold accountable?


If a sales manager spends 40 to 50 hours a week working efficiently on the 4 major points, sales leaders can expect spectacular results. They can be sure that this will give them a significant and sustainable competitive advantage that your competition will find difficult to counter.

Because coaching is the competency that most impacts sales performance in the long run, if I had to pick, I would say that’s the competency sales managers should seek to master first. Moreover, beyond sales performance, coaching is a way to earn the trust and respect of sales reps and build influence within the team.

Naturally, it doesn’t mean accountability, recruitment and motivation are unimportant.

Unfortunately, very few managers are coaching, holding accountable, motivating adequately. 2018 Objective Management Group data shows that:

  • 10% of sales managers are good coaches
  • 41% are good at motivating
  • 49% are good at holding accountable
  • 59% are good at recruiting

Note: Published on October 31, 2018, this post has been rewritten to ensure its recency and accuracy.