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What is a Sales Manager?

The sales manager is the person responsible for leading and coaching a team of salespeople. Her duties in a small company often include assigning sales territories, setting quotas, mentoring the members of her sales team, arranging for sales training, building or helping her team to build a sales plan, and sometimes hiring and firing. In large companies, sales quotas and plans are typically established at the executive level and a sales manager’s main responsibility is to help her salespeople meet those quotas.

Some sales managers were in management in other departments and chose to transfer to sales, but the majority are star salespeople who were promoted to a management position. Because these former salespeople usually have little or no management experience, their main challenge is learning to allow their sales teams to do the selling. A sales manager’s role is to support the sales team, not do their selling for them.

Because a sales manager’s compensation is tied to how well her team sells, she’s highly motivated to get those salespeople producing. This can lead her to micromanage her sales team, hanging over their shoulders and constantly asking for updates. Micromanagement is especially common with former star salespeople, who tend to want to feel in control of every situation — particularly where their own compensation is involved. Unfortunately, salespeople don’t work well in this kind of environment, and their performance will suffer, leading the sales manager to micromanage even more intensely as her salespeople fail to meet their quotas. So sales management is a balancing act of providing guidance and direction without taking it to extremes.

A sales manager must have excellent communication skills to succeed. She must be able to understand the company’s sales plan and overall direction and explain them clearly to her sales team. She must also learn her salespeople’s needs and communicate those needs to her own bosses. If a problem such as an unrealistic quota develops, she must be able to go to bat for her salespeople with upper management and get the issue resolved. When her salespeople are doing well she must show them that their hard work is appreciated, and when they’re struggling she must find the problem and fix it.

About the author

My first sales position was a summer job selling vacuum cleaners door-to-door. I continued through a variety of sales jobs ranging from retail sales for a storage company to selling bank products for a Fortune 500 financial institution.

As a small business owner, I now focuses on selling for my own company, Tailored Content, a website content provider. I write on a wide range of topics but my primary focus is sales and how to sell effectively.