It takes a skilled, confident manager to coordinate and boost the performance of a sales team – skilled sales team management is key to an efficient and effective sales team.
If you’re in the sales world, it’s entirely within your power to become a better sales team manager.
And I’m here to help you do it.
Table of Contents
- What is Sales Team Management?
- Tips for Sales Team Management
- 1. Hire the right people.
- 2. Train your reps.
- 3. Align marketing and sales.
- 4. Review your infrastructure.
- 5. Measure performance and address gaps.
- 6. Perfect your compensation and reward model.
- 7. Facilitate the right culture (from the top down).
- 8. Designate and support strong leaders.
- 9. Foster growth opportunities.
- 10. Build a team.
- 11. Focus on habits.
- 12. Give specific feedback.
- 13. Collect feedback.
- Remote Sales Team Management
- What’s Next?
What is Sales Team Management?
By now, we’re all familiar with the Avengers, Marvel’s legendary team of superheroes who have dominated the box office for over a decade (even if you don’t like superheroes). They’re strong individually, but stronger together.
But in The Avengers, the original 2012 team-up movie, the team is neither particularly effective nor unified. There are some talented heroes, sure, but do they really belong in the team? Can they work together? Can the Hulk calm down long enough to actually do something constructive?
Thankfully, there’s Nick Fury and his organization SHIELD. He works with our titular heroes to bring them together, provides them with the latest tech, attempts to resolve their differences, manages threats, and ultimately motivates them to do their best.
In short? He’s the team manager responsible for bringing the Avengers together. Otherwise, they’re just a smattering of semi-effective solo acts.
The point is, it takes skilled leadership to maximize the effectiveness of any team.
So, let’s dive into the broad goals of sales team management.
With the tips I’m about to provide you, you’ll be able to accomplish the following goals for your sales team:
- Increase performance.
- Improve efficiency.
- Boost morale.
Tips for Sales Team Management
Neat. So how do we do it?
These are my best tips for improving your approach to sales team management.
1. Hire the right people.
Nick Fury can’t assemble a team of heroes from a bunch of ordinary citizens. He needs people with superpowers.
You don’t need superheroes. But you do need qualified candidates. Even the best sales team managers aren’t going to be effective in managing a team with candidates who just… don’t fit.
Look for the following when hiring:
- Education. This is often a high priority for hiring managers, but it’s arguably the least important factor here. A background in sales or business can be helpful, but there are plenty of salespeople with little to no education who see amazing results.
- Experience. Even more important is experience. Sales reps with years of previous experience (in almost any industry) are generally more effective than their new counterparts.
- Personality/culture fit. You’ll also need to think about each rep’s personality and culture fit. You want people who are passionate, and who will work well with others, and will bring something valuable to your organization. This is why interview questions are so important; if you’re trying to build a culture of energetic optimists, a dour Negative Nancy probably isn’t going to add much to your team (even if they’ve had a good sales record in the past).
- Skill. Consider giving candidates a test during the interview process – like “sell me this pen.” You’ll be able to gauge their skills (at least in some ways).
It’s better to take your time and hire the right candidates than to fill your team up as quickly as possible with team members who end up doing little to support your organization.
2. Train your reps.
Okay, let’s say you’ve hired a real rock star for your team.
Great – now they can just do what they do and bring awesome results to your organization. Right?
Wrong. Even the best salespeople benefit from onboarding and training. It’s your responsibility as a sales team manager to give your reps everything they need to succeed in this business.
That includes documentation on your products and services, guides on your sales process, and even one-on-one mentorships.
The more you invest in your salespeople, the more they’ll be able to return. You can use these sales enablement tools to help with the onboarding and training process.
3. Align marketing and sales.
Are marketing and sales just two sides of the same coin?
Or are they two independent, powerful machines?
I don’t care how you answer this. Either way, marketing and sales must work together if your organization is going to succeed.
Some of your responsibilities in sales team management extend to marketing and advertising. You may not work with marketers in your organization directly, but you should be working to cross train, learn from marketers, and align your salespeople to work well with the marketing team.
The closer you work together, the better.
4. Review your infrastructure.
There’s an infrastructure supporting your sales team. Upgrading and perfecting this infrastructure can equip your reps with all the things they need to be successful.
For example, consider:
- Devices. Do your sales reps have laptops, smartphones, tablets, or other devices they need to sell efficiently?
- Software. You’ll also need to provide your sales reps with CRM software, email automation software, and other platforms to make the job easier.
- Methodologies/workflows. What is the process for reaching out to cold leads? How do you handle rejections? How do you manage the flow from the marketing world to the sales world? Do you have any templates or scripts for salespeople to use? Review these methodologies, workflows, and other resources carefully.
You’ll need to revisit these things periodically while managing your sales team. For help, see these guides:
- 17 Sales Productivity Tools Your Team Should Use
- 50 Sales Prospecting Tools and Techniques That Actually Work
- How to Build the Ultimate Sales Process in 6 Steps
- B2B Sales: The Ultimate Guide + 10 Best Tools
- 50 Science-Backed Sales Tips and Tricks That Work
5. Measure performance and address gaps.
How do you know if you’re doing a good job in sales team management?
The only way to tell for sure is by measuring sales rep performance.
There are several stats worth considering here, including:
- Cost per lead.
- Close rate.
- Time spent selling.
- Lead response time.
- Customer lifetime value.
If a sales rep isn’t quite at the level you want them to be, try to figure out why.
Could it be:
- Motivation. Is this sales rep struggling to stay motivated? Do they feel overwhelmed or under-stimulated? Are they struggling with something personal? Are they unhappy with how they’re being compensated?
- Resource access. Does this salesperson have access to all the resources they need to do the job well? Are they struggling with an outdated device, unfamiliar software, or a total lack of training documentation?
- Skill/knowledge. Does this person have limited skill or experience? Can you work to close that gap by pairing them with someone more experienced and knowledgeable?
Most sales reps will see increased performance with even minor improvements here.
- 17 Ways to Track, Measure, and Calculate Employee Productivity
- 10 Employee Productivity Tracking Software Tools Every Manager Needs to Be Using
6. Perfect your compensation and reward model.
Let’s face it.
There aren’t a lot of salespeople who are motivated purely by the thrill of the sale. I can tell because most salespeople won’t work for free.
The reality is that the most reliable motivator for almost any sales team is money.
EmailAnalytics Visualizes Your Team's Email Activity
- 35-50% of sales go to the first-responding vendor.
- Following up within an hour increases your chances of success by 7x.
- Salespeople spend an average of 13 hours per week on email.
With a better compensation and general reward model, you’ll naturally have more motivated salespeople.
Consider offering a hybrid salary and commission model, and providing bonuses to your most successful (or most improved) team members.
7. Facilitate the right culture (from the top down).
Company culture counts in a sales team.
The stronger it is and the more it favors a successful sales strategy, the better.
These are some of the most important cultural qualities to establish:
- Openness and honesty. Open, honest teams are more likely to trust each other. They also make it easy to give and receive feedback.
- Diligence and efficiency. Hard workers who are willing to get their hands dirty are much more likely to enjoy a high close rate.
- Passion. Passionate salespeople are willing to go above and beyond the call of duty. They’re also more likely to positively influence the other members of your team.
- Support and cooperation. Good sales team managers always promote support and cooperation. It’s important for your reps to help each other and work together for common goals.
These qualities need to be presented and encouraged from the top down. In other words, they need to be exhibited and encouraged by your leaders.
8. Designate and support strong leaders.
Speaking of leaders, your sales team will be much more effective with strong leaders in place. Maybe you’re the only leader. Maybe you have a few team leads under you.
In any case, you’ll need to designate and support effective leaders to inspire, motivate, educate, and coordinate the team.
Strong leaders are confident, decisive, and knowledgeable. They’re also kind, compassionate, and patient. Choose the most qualified people on your team to become leaders, and support them so they can reach their full potential.
9. Foster growth opportunities.
One of the biggest motivators in a given company is the potential for upward momentum. If people feel like there are opportunities for them to earn raises, bonuses, promotions, and higher-level positions, they’ll work harder.
Makes sense, right?
Motivate your employees by giving them as many chances to grow as possible. Introduce them to new classes, workshops, and seminars. Reward them for learning new things. Add new challenges to the environment and promote your best team members (when you can).
10. Build a team.
Uhhh… build a team? Isn’t that what we’ve been doing?
Stick with me here. There’s a big difference between training a bunch of sales reps the same way and encouraging them to work together as a team.
Strong teams have members that train and teach each other new things on a regular basis. They redistribute workloads often, as necessary. They show emotional support and camaraderie in times of crisis. And they work together to achieve collective goals.
Make sure you establish and reinforce the “team” mentality.
- 27 Ways to Boost Collaboration Among Employees
- 50 Team Building Activities for Work Your Team Will Love
11. Focus on habits.
Your sales team members’ successes or failures are often a byproduct of their habits. The actions they take on a daily basis, for better or for worse, will add up to result in a good (or bad) performance.
Accordingly, if you want to see better results, you need to change your reps’ habits.
That means building and reinforcing good habits (like following up with each lead in a timely manner) and eliminating bad habits (like spending too much time in unnecessary meetings).
Every habit has the same foundation:
- A trigger. First, there’s a trigger. For example, you might get a notification on your phone and immediately open your email. Or you might see a Starbucks on your way to work and cruise in for a latte. Or you might see a sticky note that reminds you to smile when talking on the phone.
- An accessible path. The habit needs a path of accessibility that, if broken, makes the habit much harder to indulge. For example, if your phone is on the other side of the room, in a drawer, you’ll be less tempted to check it after getting a notification. If the Starbucks has a long line, you won’t want that latte anymore.
- A reward. There also needs some kind of reward for completing a habit – usually a dopamine release, fueled by something like food, a monetary bonus, or even public recognition. This is possibly your most powerful tool, since you’ll be able to reward your employees however you see fit for their good habits.
If you want to build a good habit, you have to establish these fundamentals. If you want to break a bad habit, you have to identify and dismantle these foundational structures.
Help your salespeople identify their good and bad habits, and work with them to make adjustments as necessary.
12. Give specific feedback.
No sales rep is perfect. Everyone can benefit from hearing feedback and criticism.
During performance reviews, or just in the course of a given week, give your sales reps pieces of specific feedback. For example, “your response time needs to be improved,” or “you should stop talking about The Avengers on sales calls.”
It’s also important to praise your salespeople for what they’re doing right. It will reinforce the positive behavior and keep morale high.
Hearing feedback consistently will guide your sales reps to continuously improve – and make them feel a stronger connection to your business at the same time.
13. Collect feedback.
Feedback is important. And not just for your sales reps.
In addition to providing feedback to your team, it’s vital to collect feedback from your sales reps. What can you be doing better as a sales manager? What are the limitations that sales reps face on a daily basis? What would lead to higher morale?
Collecting feedback will help you learn how to improve. It’s also a great way to build team trust and confidence.
Remote Sales Team Management
What if your sales team is remote?
All of the preceding sales team management tips still apply, but with remote sales reps you’ll need to lean heavily into online sales collaboration software, such as:
Additionally, you’ll need to implement sales productivity monitoring solutions to keep remote sales reps accountable and motivated. Try these:
- Remote employee monitoring software
- Employee productivity tracking software
- Email management software
- Sales management software
With these sales team management tips, you can train a team of better salespeople.
But at this point, you might feel overwhelmed. There’s so much to measure. So much to consider. So much infrastructure to change.
It’s alright. You can take this one step at a time.
The first step is investing in a tool that can help you measure your team’s performance at every step of the process. Lucky you – that tool is EmailAnalytics, and you’re already here!
Jayson is a long-time columnist for Forbes, Entrepreneur, BusinessInsider, Inc.com, and various other major media publications, where he has authored over 1,000 articles since 2012, covering technology, marketing, and entrepreneurship. He keynoted the 2013 MarketingProfs University, and won the “Entrepreneur Blogger of the Year” award in 2015 from the Oxford Center for Entrepreneurs. In 2010, he founded a marketing agency that appeared on the Inc. 5000 before selling it in January of 2019, and he is now the CEO of EmailAnalytics.