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What do Sales Managers do ? Exploring the Sales Manager Role

Who is a Sales Manager

It is quite trendy to talk about the “turnover” of an org and the “growth in revenues”, but have you ever wondered who is the person who is primarily responsible for this growth ?

The CEO, obviously! Right ? Well, that may be true so far as finding the right talent and putting them to work in the desired direction matters.

But here I am talking about the frontline commander who fights the battle with the competition to deliver the organization’s revenue – the much needed fuel needed to run all other activities.

Today, we will demystify the role of a Sales Manager.

What do Sales Managers do – Understanding the Role

1. Planning and Delivering sales targets.

The Sales Manager builds the Sales Plan, then executes it step by step to deliver the sweet revenue that runs the organization.

This requires more than just excel skills – the sales manager is typically a frontline sales veteran who understands customer behaviour, seasonalities, data patterns and sales techniques. The ability to estimate the possible sales comes naturally to them. 

2. Managing and Leading the team.

Ronald Reagan

Ronald Reagan quotes on leadership

A Sales Manager is a people person. Which means he is quite handy while interacting with people. In a typical day, he motivates his team, dictates and assigns the targets, appreciates and rewards top performers, conducts “hard talk” with those consistently in disorder, helps the team members who need support, and resolves conflicts between the team. 

This is quite a people intensive job. If you are a person who likes to work in isolation, you are probably not a good fit for this role. But if you enjoy achieving and analyzing numbers, working with people, and have a flair for storytelling – this is the place for you.

Key responsibilities and duties of a sales manager

A Sales Manager can wear many hats in a single day. I will cover some key responsibilities  that you might face in your role as a Sales manager. Check if you have this experience on your sales resume.

1. Planning and Execution:

A sales manager is the architect behind successful (and failed)  sales strategies. From setting ambitious yet achievable goals to executing plans that drive results, they lay the foundation for the team’s success.

2. Hiring the Sales Team:

Building a high-performing sales team starts with hiring the right talent. Sales managers play a crucial role in identifying and recruiting individuals with the skills and mindset that align with the company’s objectives.

At a blitzscaling startup that I worked with (which later got , the Sales Division clearly led the success story. But If you ask me – the major reason for its success was our ability to hire top sales persons in the fastest time possible. Quickly ramping up the sales team once the customers start liking ( and therefore, buying) the product is a key success factor in organizations. A sales manager shares a bulk load of this responsibility.

3. Training the Team:

Once the team is in place, a sales manager takes on the role of a mentor, providing guidance and training to ensure each member is equipped with the knowledge and skills needed to excel in their roles. Andy Grove, the long running Intel CEO, explains the importance of training in his book “High Output Management” in a chapter named -“Why Training is the Boss’s Job?” .

Training is the Boss’s Job.

Andy Grove, High Output Management

5. Managing Performance:

Monitoring and evaluating the performance of the team is a continuous process. Sales managers set benchmarks, track progress, and implement strategies to keep the team on the path to success.

5. Rewards and Recognition:

Recognizing and celebrating achievements is not just a feel-good measure; it’s a motivator. Sales managers understand the power of acknowledgment and utilize rewards to foster a positive and competitive team spirit.

6. Performance Improvement Plans:

In the face of challenges, sales managers implement performance improvement plans to help team members overcome obstacles, ensuring everyone has the opportunity to grow and contribute to the team’s success.

7. Letting Go (Firing):

While a difficult aspect of the job, sales managers must make tough decisions when necessary. Whether due to performance issues or a misalignment with the team’s objectives, letting go of team members who aren’t contributing is crucial for maintaining overall team efficiency.

8. Analyzing Data to Forecast & Manage, and Report Sales Patterns:

Data is the compass guiding a sales manager. From analyzing trends to forecasting future sales, they leverage data insights to make informed decisions, manage resources efficiently, and provide detailed reports on sales patterns to key stakeholders.

Skills Needed for the Sales Manager Role

The role of a sales manager requires a unique blend of skills that go beyond merely hitting sales targets. Here’s a breakdown of the essential skills needed for success in the dynamic realm of sales management:

1. Communication and Storytelling:

I have found great sales managers to be compelling communicators, who are able to articulate strategies, goals, and expectations clearly. Mastering the art of storytelling enhances their ability to inspire and motivate the sales team, nurturing a shared vision.

2. Leadership:

Leadership is not just a title; it’s a commitment to guiding a team toward success. Sales managers need to exhibit strong leadership qualities, inspiring trust and confidence among team members while providing direction in the face of challenges. 

While there are many differing thoughts on a successful leadership style, a common factor in great leaders is a fair treatment of their team members. Irrespective of the leadership style – motivational or autocratic, fairness and transparency is the trust that binds the team to their leaders.

3. Negotiation Skills

In the world of sales, negotiation is a key skill. Sales managers must be adept at negotiating deals, resolving conflicts, and securing favorable terms, ensuring that both the team and the clients feel satisfied with the outcomes.

In a typical sales day, they negotiate not only with the customers to set the expectations and scopes in place, they consistently negotiate with the senior management for their targets (quotas), and growth of their team members. They negotiate with their subordinates over sales targets, incentives, and growth plans.

4. Data Analysis

Beyond gut feelings, data-driven decision-making is at the core of effective sales management. Proficiency in data analysis allows sales managers to identify trends, make informed strategic decisions, and constantly optimize sales approaches for better results. 

In my role as President Sales , I had asked all my VPs to ensure that their teams know how to run basic analysis on excel (or google sheet). Ability to analyze, plan, and improvise is a key to success in sales. 

5. Selling Ability

While not always in the front lines, a sales manager should possess strong selling abilities. Whether it’s selling a vision to the team or representing the company to potential clients, the ability to effectively sell ideas and products is crucial.

6. Customer Relationship Management

Building and maintaining strong relationships with customers is paramount. A sales manager should understand the nuances of customer relationship management, ensuring customer satisfaction and loyalty, which are integral to long-term success.

These skills collectively empower sales managers to navigate the complexities of the role, turning challenges into opportunities for growth and contributing to the overall success of the sales team and the organization.

How much does a Sales Manager Make ?

Base Salaries in Sales represent just a tip of the iceberg. It’s the incentive that really makes a Top Sales person draw insane salaries. Sales is one of the few jobs where Key Performance Indicators (KPIs) are extremely clear.

If you meet your targets (quotas) , you get a certain amount in incentive. If you exceed by a certain percent, you get a higher incentive. In my experience as President (Sales) at a top Ed-tech, I had seen some of my top performing team members draw as much as ₹2,00,000 per week in incentives alone. Of course, these kind of salaries are available only in early stage startups, and compensate for the risk that you take to join a startup early.

Apart from the size and stage of the company, the salaries also vary by geography in which you work. A better yielding geography can help you make better incentives. Needless to say, you have to prove your worth for such a deputation. Only top performing sales managers are placed in high value products and places.

Sales Manager Salaries by Location

Average Salaries of Sales Managers by Location

Challenges Faced by Sales Managers

The profile of a sales manager comes with its fair share of challenges. Let’s dive into two critical hurdles that often define the landscape of sales management.

1. Handling Team Dynamics

Addressing conflicts within the sales team:

Sales teams, like any other group, can encounter conflicts. Sales managers must be adept at identifying and resolving issues promptly. Whether it’s a clash of personalities or disagreements on strategies, addressing conflicts ensures a harmonious and focused team.

Maintaining a positive and productive team culture:

Building a positive team culture doesn’t happen by chance. Sales managers need to implement effective strategies to foster collaboration, open communication, and a shared sense of purpose. This involves team-building activities, clear communication channels, and cultivating a supportive environment that encourages growth and collaboration.

2. Meeting Targets and Quotas

Dealing with the pressure of achieving sales targets

Sales targets are a constant presence, and the pressure to meet them can be intense. Sales managers must handle this pressure with resilience, guiding the team through challenging times, maintaining morale, and instilling confidence that the targets are achievable.

Overcoming obstacles to consistently meet or exceed quotas

Obstacles are inevitable in the pursuit of sales targets. Whether it’s market fluctuations, unforeseen challenges, or changes in consumer behavior, sales managers need to proactively identify potential roadblocks and equip the team with strategies to overcome them. This involves a combination of adaptability, strategic planning, and resource optimization.

By addressing these challenges head-on, sales managers not only ensure the success of their teams but also contribute significantly to the overall growth and profitability of the organization. Embracing these challenges as opportunities for improvement and learning is key to thriving in the dynamic field of sales management.

So, in this article, I have covered the role, responsibilities, and skills required for a sales manager role. If you’re curious about the secrets behind successful sales management or have stories to share, let’s chat in the comments.


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