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Sales management isn’t easy and most sales managers don’t have the necessary skills.

Managing a team of salespeople with a unique sales DNA and competencies makes it difficult to handle. Yet, sales managers are critical for the success of a sales department.

Sales leaders need to identify sales managers who can increase sales by executing their responsibilities as sales managers.

Whether a sales manager determines that through an individual analysis or through a complete sales force evaluation, psychological assessments won’t help. They need sales-specific evaluations to determine what are the current skills of their managers and what they need to work on.

Objective Management Group has evaluated over 43,000 sales managers. I’ll give you here an overview of the skills of successful sales managers.

The essential traits every sales manager needs

Sales manager skills

  1. Ability to coach salespeople
  2. Ability to motivate salespeople
  3. Ability to hold salespeople accountable
  4. Ability to recruit new salespeople
  5. Pipeline management skills
  6. Ability to build relationships
  7. Closing skills
  8. Sales process skills
  9. CRM skills
  10. Social selling skills
  11. Ability to not need approval
  12. Ability to control emotions
  13. Having supportive beliefs
  14. Having a supportive buy cycle
  15. Ability to talk about money
  16. Having the desire to be a successful sales manager
  17. Ability to commit to success in sales management
  18. Having a positive outlook
  19. Ability to take responsibility
  20. Having a strong motivation

Great sales managers have the majority — if not all — of these. I should note that the first 10 skills are generally easier to learn with the help of coaching from sales leaders as well as formal training, while the last 10 skills make up the Sales Manager DNA and the Will to Manage Salespeople. These last 10 are harder to detect and harder to learn or unlearn.

20 skills of sales managers

These are the 20 core technical skills of sales managers.

Ability to coach salespeople

Coaching salespeople has become 50% of a sales manager’s role. Coaching is the key to helping your salespeople improve and generate more revenue.

Unfortunately, sales managers aren’t spending nearly enough time coaching their salespeople and when they do, the coaching isn’t good.

Unfortunately, only 10% of sales managers are good coaches.

Ability to motivate salespeople

The days of sales management cheerleading may be a thing of the past but the ability to motivate one or many salespeople to change an action, put forth more effort, push through their comfort zone or rally around a goal is more important than ever.

Only 41% of sales managers are good at motivating salespeople.

Ability to hold salespeople accountable

The ability to hold salespeople accountable to something measurable, usually some predetermined metrics, on a daily or weekly basis, allows managers to review forward-looking indicators rather than lagging indicators.

49% of sales managers can hold their team members accountable.

Ability to recruit new salespeople

It is becoming more important to have the right salespeople in the right roles, have A and B players instead of B and C players, and to get it right when hiring sales reps. This places sales managers and their ability to recruit effectively under a microscope.

49% of sales managers are able to recruit A and B players.

Pipeline management skills

A sales manager who can manage their pipeline can predict the amount of business that their sales force will produce in the future. Their job is to make sure that enough business enters the pipeline in the proper month.

For example, if a sales manager has a June goal of $200,000, a 30% closing percentage and a four-month sell cycle, $666,667 in potential new business must enter the pipeline in February to guarantee that $200,000 will be closed in June.

Only 20% of sales managers are able to manage their pipeline.

Ability to build relationships

Many sales managers establish rapport but fail to create relationships. When relationships are developed, salespeople feel more comfortable about sharing important or even confidential information and are more receptive to coaching.

47% of sales managers are able to build relationships.

Closing skills

Sales manager with a strong closing ability should allow them to close and help their salespeople to close most prospects on their first attempt, providing that their first attempt doesn’t happen until the appropriate time in the sales process.

WARNING: Sales managers with strong closing abilities need to keep it under control and invisible to their prospects at all times so that they don’t feel threatened.

Only 8% of sales managers have the ability to close.

Sales process skills

A more consistent, milestone-centric sales process yields more consistent results. Attempting to sell without following an effective sales process leads to inconsistent results at best.

Sales managers should determine which milestones must occur on each and every call, in what order those milestones should occur and then make sure that they do.

In its simplest form, a sales process includes stages where you move an opportunity from suspect to prospect to qualified to closable to closed, in that order. Then the milestones should be included in the appropriate stages.

38% of sales managers are able to build and follow a sales process.

CRM skills

Without a CRM completed with the necessary information, sales leaders and managers are effectively running blindly with no insight as to what the pipeline and the performance of individual salespeople look like.

A CRM-savvy sales manager lives in and embraces CRM, updates account information at least daily, tracks milestones met in the sales process, notates all conversations, is a competent CRM user and has experience with multiple CRM applications.

56% of sales manager have CRM skills.

Social selling skills

Social selling is a must. A sales manager with the ability to use social selling is connected to potential customers or clients, generates leads through social selling, is well connected, posts and shares updates for visibility, uses LinkedIn and Twitter for business and has a high LinkedIn Social Selling Index score.

Only 23% of sales managers master social selling.

Ability to not need approval

A sales manager shouldn’t need their salespeople to like them so they can be firm, demanding and hold them accountable. When a sales manager doesn’t need approval, it allows him or her to ask tough questions.

When they do need approval, it prevents them from doing anything they believe will upset their prospects, customers, clients and salespeople.

Ultimately, A sales manager that doesn’t need to be liked accepts fewer put-offs because they aren’t concerned about asking another question, pushing back, or challenging the salesperson or prospect.

62% of sales managers don’t need approval from their salespeople

Ability to control emotions

When a sales manager is able to control their emotions, it supports listening and asking questions. If they can’t control their emotions, a prospect or salesperson catches them by surprise or raises the objections, they become emotional.

Becoming emotional can mean thinking, analyzing, strategizing, worrying, becoming creative or getting excited instead of listening to your prospect or salesperson.

When a sales manager can’t control emotions, they actually hear their own voice scripting a response, causing them to lose objectivity and then control of the conversation.

55% of sales managers can control their emotions.

Having supportive beliefs

When a sales manager has supportive beliefs, it supports positive outcomes. As a weakness, beliefs sabotage most outcomes. When sales managers have beliefs that support ideal sales outcomes (like make timely buying decisions), they are more successful.

Only 27% of sales managers have supportive beliefs.

Having a supportive buy cycle

When a sales manager has a supportive buy cycle, it supports strategies and tactics for dealing with comparison shoppers, price shoppers and indecisive prospects.

36% of sales managers have a supportive buy cycle.

Ability to talk about money

Being able to talk about money supports a sales manager’s ability to have in-depth financial conversations with their salespeople and prospects.

Discussions like this help them determine exactly how much money prospects will spend on their solution. This also supports their attempts to help prospects “find money” when they “don’t have enough” in their budget.

84% of sales managers are able to talk about money

Having the desire to be a successful sales manager

If sales management success hasn’t already come their way, does the sales manager have a strong desire that assures that it soon will?

Strong desire, a very important element in sales and sales management, will provide the incentive to execute the strategies and tactics that are uncomfortable for them.

91% of sales managers have a strong desire.

Ability to commit to success in sales management

A strong commitment to achieving greater success in sales management is a very desirable strength. When commitment is strong, sales managers are more likely to execute the strategies and tactics that they are uncomfortable with.

78% of sales managers have a strong commitment.

Having a positive outlook

Great outlook has a positive impact on bravery and can help sales managers hang tough in the most challenging situations.

74% of sales managers have a strong outlook.

Ability to take responsibility

Sales managers who have the ability to take responsibility, don’t rationalize or make excuses; they take responsibility when they don’t achieve the desired results and this lays a great foundation for improvement and change.

46% of sales managers have strong responsibility.

Having a strong motivation

Motivation is as important as ever, but today’s salespeople and sales managers are not necessarily motivated by money the way they might have before. Motivation can appear as Intrinsic, Extrinsic, and/or Altruistic.

  • Intrinsics tend to be motivated by recognition, fulfillment, satisfaction, enjoyment, love of sales or sales management, mastery, or even when they have something to prove to others. They are often more consistent in a longer and more complex sales cycle.
  • Extrinsics tend to be motivated by money, rewards, toys, vacations, and material things. They are more effective in a shorter and/or more heavily commissioned sales cycle.
  • Altruistics are motivated to serve others at a cost to themselves. These salespeople put the customer ahead of their company’s needs and requirements.

A sales manager’s degree of motivation indicates just how motivated they are. Type and degree are independent.


Sales management isn’t easy and, unfortunately, most sales managers don’t have the competencies necessary. The good news is that those first 10 competencies can be learned and improved.

The 10 other competencies make up a sales manager’s Sales Management DNA and Will to Manage Salespeople. Those competencies are more important than technical sales management competencies because they can facilitate or hinder technical competencies.

Before promoting or hiring a sales managers, a sales leader also needs to look at whether the candidate is coachable. A high willingness and DNA, along with the degree of coachability, will increase the chances of recruiting a good sales manager.