Your Guide to Sales Management: Responsibilities, Skills, and Objectives
Do you want to grow your business and boost your revenue but don’t know where to start? You’re not alone. Keeping up with the latest trends and sales innovations can be daunting.
But don’t worry. We’re here to alleviate some of the overwhelm by pointing you in the right direction. Let’s start with sales management – the most important function in business enterprise.
If you’re wondering whether sales management is what your organization needs, you can find out by taking this easy quiz:
Question 1: Does your company sell stuff?
If you said yes, then sales management is for you.
By the time you’ve read this guide to sales management, you’ll have a clear understanding of the roles, skills, and objectives involved, and be ready to embark on setting up your own sales management process.
First things first...
What is sales management?
Sales management is the process by which a company drives revenue by meeting its goals, targets, and objectives.
The need for sales management arose as a result of the Industrial Revolution – and never went away.
The definition of sales management used to be pretty straightforward. It was, quite simply, the management of the sales force. But over time, the term, and the job that comes with it, has evolved.
Sales management has become a multi-faceted role with much higher stakes and plays a uniquely critical part in the success of a company, now more than ever.
So, what exactly does sales management entail today?
It’s not as simple as the job description of old, but sales management responsibilities can be summed up as:
- Hiring the right people
- Training and developing the sales team
- Setting personal selling objectives
- Merchandising and pricing products
- Building a productive sales process
- Managing the sales pipeline
- Coordinating sales operations
- Formulating sales policies and strategies
- Implementing sales techniques
- Leveraging CRM software to maximize selling opportunities
- Controlling and evaluating results
Which may seem like a lot to take in. To simplify:
There, now that’s not as scary is it? This article will keep breaking sales management down so you have a comprehensive guide you can always fall back on.
Sales Management Responsibilities
So, the sales manager manages four main components: Planning, people, strategy, and reporting. How do these translate into tangible duties?
Before you hire your dream team you’ll need a sales process – a series of repeatable steps that will take your team through every stage of the selling journey.
A team is made up of individual salespeople but it should operate like a well-oiled selling machine. A sales process will help with this, keeping your salesforce aligned and working towards the same goal.
To create this process, you’ll need to determine:
- Who you are selling to
- What channels they frequent (offline and online)
- What areas you need to be in geographically
- What sales methodology or methodologies you will use
You’ll also need to determine targets based on your company’s objectives. This will help you set the vision and strategy for your salesforce moving forward. We’ll delve deeper into strategy a little later on.
As the bridge connecting your customers to your product, your sales team is priceless.
No sales team. No sales.
But remember, your sales team is made up of humans, not dollar signs or money-making machines. So treat them as such, at every stage of the process, starting with recruitment.
You need to find the best of the best. But how? Ever heard the phrase ‘it takes one to know one’? Great salespeople know great salespeople, so ask around within your team. However you find your new hires, look for individuals with the following qualities:
- High energy
- Great communication skills
Once your recruits have been onboarded, training follows.
- Make sure they know your product well enough to sell it convincingly and with the utmost confidence.
- Educate them on your company’s history and values, so they feel part of something special and collaborative.
- Make sure they understand the sales methodologies your companies use. (It doesn’t matter how experienced they are. If they’re using different selling techniques from the rest of the team, your department won’t be aligned).
Bringing out the best in your sales force is an ongoing process. 88% of missed opportunities were caused because sales couldn’t find or leverage internal resources, so it’s crucial to provide them with resources to make their job – and yours – easier. You can also set your team up for success in a variety of other ways:
- Set targets that are high, yet achievable
- Make sure these targets are trackable so you can measure future success
- Give them incentives
- Make time for one on one coaching
How you do your job will determine how your team does theirs. But what makes a good leader?
According to American entrepreneur and author Jim Rohn,
"A good objective of leadership is to help those who are doing poorly to do well and to help those who are doing well to do even better."
Great. But how? Start with the following, but don’t stop there:
- Counsel them throughout the entire process
- Encourage them when needed
- Don’t be afraid to show vulnerability
- Think back on what you needed from past leaders throughout your career
- Support them during difficult times
- Lead by example
- Invest in your own personal growth
- Advocate for your team as a whole
- Celebrate wins
- Understand losses
- Be authentic
Moving from sales to sales management can present a steep learning curve. If this is an area you’re eager to develop in, you may be interested in Krauthammer’s leadership and management programmes that use unique learning methods to bring about lasting behavioral change.
Now that you’ve created your sales process, set targets, and hired a strong team, what’s next?
One of the easiest ways to boost your bottom line is with a sales strategy.
Your sales strategy will define the sales process and determine how you carry it out.
What is a sales strategy?
A sales strategy is a documented plan for positioning and selling your product. It’s made up of a series of tasks that helps your sales team reach prospects and turn them into buyers. But before sending them out into the field with a watertight set of steps, you’ll also need to:
- Set compensation
- Design sales territories
- Assign sales goals
- Establish quotas
What should a sales strategy include?
Your sales strategy acts as a guide for your salesforce, providing clear objectives and vital information like:
- Growth goals
- Buyer personas
- Sales processes
- Team structure
- Competitive analysis
- Product positioning
- Selling methodologies
Your team is made up of individual salespeople but it should run like a tight ship. A sales pipeline will help to align your salesforce and ensure consistency across the board by helping them stay organized and take ownership of their work.
Don’t confuse sales pipeline with sales funnel, because while they’re both important to the sales process, they do differ. A pipeline provides more of an overview, while a funnel focuses on the numbers.
By definition, a sales pipeline is a set of specific actions taken by the salesforce to turn prospects into customers.
A sales pipeline provides efficiency and consistency.
It makes it much easier for your sales team to reach their quotas, and for your business to achieve its growth and profitability goals.
In a nutshell, a sales pipeline increases the revenue of your business.
So, now you can start optimizing your current sales pipeline, right?
Not so fast. First, you'll need to make sure the data it's producing is accurate and current. This brings us to the next category.
Analyzing and reporting
Sales reporting may be the final component of your sales management process, but it’s the most essential: Analyzing and reporting on your sales activity is a must-have.
During this stage, you’ll compare your original goals and objectives with the performance of your sales team as a whole, and individually. Your reporting process should cover:
- Win rate
- Average sales cycle
- Lead-to-opportunity conversion rate
- The average size of each deal
- The average percentage of deals cracked
- The average time that is taken to close the deals
- Cash flow
- Customer satisfaction
Reporting isn’t something that happens once in a while. You’ll need to constantly measure results and fine-tune your sales strategy accordingly. How you fine-tune must depend entirely on your findings and any new idea or change to the process should have data to back it up.
Why this stage is so important:
A systematic approach to reporting lets your salesforce know how they’re being measured, how they’re progressing, and how they can improve. And it lets you accurately forecast future sales revenue.
Sales management skills
Jason Jordan, co-author of Cracking the Sales Management Code said,
“Over the long haul, salespeople come and go, but having top-shelf management in place is the ultimate answer.”
He also referred to it as the toughest job in the sales force!
Ideally, the right sales manager will have the relevant qualifications combined with a proven track record of driving revenue growth and developing sales processes.
But there’s also a long list of sales management skills required, that can be developed throughout a career or simply possessed innately.
1. Analytic skills
As mentioned earlier, analyzing and reporting data is the final step in the sales management process. During this analysis stage, the sales manager must be able to glean insights from said data, so they can forecast sales, identify ways to improve, and determine how to proceed.
Analytic skills come in useful when it’s time to:
- Review data
- Identify what's relevant
- Draw meaningful conclusions
- Find actionable takeaways
2. Strategic planning skills
Gathering evidence and reporting on it is one thing, but figuring out where to go from there based on your findings is a whole other matter. That’s where strategic planning skills play an important role. A strategic sales plan will:
- Minimize losses
- Maximize profit
- Creates sustainable growth
3. Coaching skills
How do you motivate others if you aren’t motivated? Exactly. You can’t. To keep your team fired up, you need to model passion – for your company, for selling, and your goals.
45% of managers say they spend 30-60 minutes individually coaching sales reps each week. This is proof that coaching skills are what you need to bring out the best in your team and take them to the next level.
4. Management skills
Sometimes delegation can be difficult, especially if you’re a perfectionist who holds everything you execute to the highest standard possible. However, it’s one of the most important elements when it comes to management.
Delegating optimizes efficiency, and efficiency garners success. It also gives your salesforce a chance to shine and an opportunity to keep improving their skills. The best leaders empower their employees, instead of micromanaging them.
5. Diplomacy skills
No job comes without its stresses but management has its own type of pressures thanks to:
- and the ever-present quotas hanging over your head.
Diplomacy is a huge part of managing relationships. You’ll need to put out fires, give constructive feedback, resolve interpersonal conflict, and have grace when it comes to coping with daily stresses. Remaining calm under stress is a must. There’s no room for lashing out or snapping under pressure.
6. People Skills
This one is obvious, right? You can’t manage people without people skills.
You may think you can, but it certainly won’t make you a very good manager! You need to be able to communicate – assertively, efficiently, and as mentioned above, diplomatically. You’re managing a team, so being able to collaborate is an absolute must.
You’re all in this together. (Remember what was said previously about delegation!)
So, do you have what it takes to be an amazing sales manager or know someone who does?
Sales management objectives
The three main objectives of any company are:
- Long-term growth
And who plays a massive role in achieving these objectives? You guessed it. The salesforce, and the individual at the helm – the sales manager.
Sales objectives generally come from the top, but it’s up to the sales manager to translate these objectives into definitive goals and then to create a plan for how those goals will come to fruition.
Other sales management objectives might include:
- Increasing sales volume through efficient sales management
- Sustaining profits through effective planning, coordination, and control
- Gaining market share to grow the organization
- Enabling the company to become a market leader
- Converting prospects into customers
- Incentivizing the salesforce to sell
- Supporting the company’s marketing functions
Marketing and sales must work together to achieve the goals set as a result of the company’s objectives.
Who benefits from Sales Management?
In short, sales management is a WIN-WIN-WIN situation, affecting the customer, the sales force, and the sales manager positively.
1. The customer
A sales management process is bound to elevate the customer experience. The chance of your customer returning will increase and they’ll also be more likely to spread the word.
2. The salesforce
A team member who feels valued and has been equipped with the right tools to do their job will be motivated and driven to succeed.
3. The sales manager
The sales manager will meet targets and be able to drive their company forward.
Your sales management process is like fine wine (or sourdough starter for the lockdown bakers among us). The more mature it becomes, the better it gets. The better it gets, the more you meet your targets and increase revenue.
See what we mean about WIN-WIN-WIN?
Looking forward: Sales management in the digital age
What does the future hold for sales managers?
Well, like every other aspect of business, sales continue to evolve. You might be wondering, in a world that’s recently embraced remote selling and remote working in general, will you ever again be able to do your job the way it’s meant to be done?
Or worse yet, will sales management become obsolete?
In short, we don’t think so. Good sales managers will stick around. The ones who are willing to evolve with the landscape. And the ones who are open to preparing for the changes and challenges that lie ahead.