The Center for Sales Strategy Blog

3 Things Every Sales Manager Must Do to Become a Sales Leader


Next week I am going to speak at my children’s school for career day and am excited to tell them about how I work with clients around the country to help them achieve results for their businesses. No, I’m not a brain surgeon or a trial lawyer, but what I do as an inbound marketing and sales consultant has an impact on those I work with. I know that each of my clients is better educated about sales and lead generation through our weekly calls and that I am truly making an impact.

As a former sales manager myself, and now working alongside sales managers to help with lead generation, I know that a sales management career is one that can really make an impact. Sales managers are not just the face of most companies and sales organizations, but are also the heart and soul of them, as far as I am concerned. A good sales manager does more than just keep track of sales and new accounts garnered each month. A sales manager that’s interested in becoming a sales leader helps to grow and develop each team member. This goes beyond making sure each member of the sales team knows the company’s products or services and extends to providing each salesperson with a mentor and role model. Let’s also be very candid about this… if a sales team likes their sales manager and the organization they work for, they will work harder and care more about their work and produce greater results every time. 

How can you further your career and make even more of an impact? Here are three things that will take you from being a manager to also being a leader.

3 Things Every Sales Manager Must Do to Become a Sales Leader

1) Encourage and Motivate.

Regardless of what your sales team is selling, sales isn’t an easy job. It’s actually one of the hardest jobs that you can do, so it helps when sales managers can be encouraging and use motivation to drive a sales team towards their goals. Because sales is such a difficult job, sales managers who can move from being a taskmaster to being a coach can earn both the trust and respect of their teams, which will lead to greater sales.  

2) Set the Tone.

As the leader of the sales organization, a sales manager has to set the tone and develop the culture within the sales organization. Is the culture that the sales manager wants to set fun and light or serious and very strutured? There is nothing wrong with either of these approaches, but it’s definitely the sales manager that sets the tone for the entire sales organization based on his or her own actions. The sales manager who's willing to go on calls with young account executives and take them to lunch to talk about their performance or have an impromptu celebration when a big sale is made sets a tone that shows the manager doesn’t just care about meeting or exceeding the team's sales quota, but also cares about the success of each team member.

3) Be Aspirational, Not Punitive.

There are two types of motivation. A sales manager can set goals and encourage his or her team to do their very best with financial incentives and encouragement, or the sales manager can crack the whip towards the end of each month or quarter and let the team know who the bottom performers are and threaten to fire them. The saying “You can catch more flies with honey” is true with managing salespeople as well. True sales leaders manage using aspirational language and stress the importance of higher goals, while those that manage to the lowest common denominator just focus on meeting quotas.

These three characteristics set true leaders apart. But there's an additional characteristic that makes leaders into motivators. Excellent leaders who inspire will strive to develop deep personal connections with their sales team rather than manage from a distance, not getting too deeply involved. While there always must be a clear line in the friendship of a sales manager and a salesperson, a salesperson whose manager treats him or her as a human being with genuine talent and potential will perform far beyond what he or she could have otherwise.

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Topics: leadership