Concentrate on Just Three Hats

By Heather Baldwin

Is there any tougher job in the world than that of sales manager? On any given day you’re a coach, salesperson, strategic planner, cheerleader, product and industry expert, writer, meeting planner, negotiator and more. You wear so many hats, it probably seems as if one of them, at any given moment, is going to fall off. The good news is that if you focus on improving just three areas, your performance is likely to skyrocket. Ron Koprowski, senior VP, sales capability director at The Forum Corporation (, says his research into high-performing sales managers reveals three critical roles sales managers must play.

Coach and motivator. The best managers make time every day to develop their salespeople. They help their team members improve process and results by demonstrating how to prepare for, execute and follow up on calls. You can become a better coach by spending several minutes every day in a one-on-one conversation with each of your reps, learning about if and where they need help, what obstacles they’re facing and what’s going on in their lives. Koprowski says other best practices of top sales managers in this area include learning the limits of people’s abilities and pushing them just beyond those limits so they continue to grow; encouraging team members to take the lead in meetings and presentations to upper management while being available as a resource to ensure they succeed in those endeavors; communicating with respect and patience; and tailoring your level of guidance to the needs and skills of each team member.

Strategist. In the role of strategist, Koprowski says sales managers must perform five tasks exceedingly well. First, they must develop a sales force strategy that provides competitive advantage, clearly states how the sales organization will achieve its goals and dictates the tactics the sales staff will implement. Second, managers must align the sales force with the strategy so reps want to work toward those goals. Involving team members in strategy creation pays big dividends when it comes to aligning reps with that strategy. Third, managers must conduct regular pipeline or funnel meetings to help ensure the sales force is implementing the sales strategy. These meetings can help surface problems at an early stage so managers can provide quick coaching. Fourth, they must conduct effective skill development meetings. Finally, managers must advocate internally across the organization. High-performing managers view business as a set of processes that cut across departments and divisions to create value for customers. They work to improve the systems and relationships that are essential to meeting customer needs.

Model salesperson. Nothing is as persuasive and motivating to salespeople as seeing the behaviors expected of them in action at a high level. The best managers demonstrate effective sales skills in front of clients and in front of their own sales staff. A manager who can walk the walk – not just talk the talk – is an inspiration and a role model.