What Is Sales Management?

Master the skills, techniques, and tools you need to take your sales team to the next level.

Time to Read: 9 Minutes

Sales management is how sales managers organize, motivate, and lead their sales reps while tracking — and improving — team performance. This includes hiring top talent, training sales staff, coordinating operations across the sales department, and implementing a cohesive sales strategy that drives business revenues.

Think of it like a sports team. Have you ever heard of a top-ranked baseball team without a coach? Of course not. The coach provides the guidance, inspiration, strategy, and training that enable players to secure big wins. The best sales managers operate the same way, inspiring, educating, and guiding their teams to maximize revenue. The result? Consistent sales growth and a happy team — not to mention sizable commissions.

What we will cover in this article:

What is the sales management process?

An effective sales management process includes hiring and training a skilled sales team, setting team-wide goals, developing a sales strategy, managing leads, forecasting, and reporting.

As part of the sales management process, a sales manager does the following:

  • Hires and trains top talent
  • Sets goals for the sales team
  • Formulates a sales management strategy to achieve those goals
  • Executes that strategy while managing and motivating staff
  • Evaluates and reports on sales performance

To ensure the sales management process is executed well, managers need specific sales management skills. These can be gained through on-the-job experience or through training modules like those available through Salesforce Trailhead.

What are the most important sales management skills?

To ensure effective sales management, sales managers should focus on mastering the following skills:
 

Planning

Setting targets, assigning areas of coverage, and designing lead generation tactics

 

Directing and Communicating

Leading day-to-day operations and offering feedback and guidance

 

Problem-Solving

Addressing concerns and issues as they arise and finding solutions quickly

 

Evaluating

Analyzing strategy success and team performance

 

Supporting

Keeping staff motivated and working hard with the right incentives and realistic but ambitious targets

When all these elements are in place, sales managers can help their team achieve their targets and have a positive impact on the bottom line.

Effective sales management contributes to:

  • Increased sales revenue and profitability
  • Improved sales forecast reliability, allowing for consistent revenue
  • Higher satisfaction and loyalty, both from customers and staff
  • Reduced staff turnover, resulting in reduced recruitment, training, and retention costs
  • Increased productivity

What are the best sales management techniques?

A manager should leverage the following techniques to ensure their sales team is productive:

1. Recruit top-tier candidates and lead ongoing training.

The first step to ensuring successful sales is finding, hiring, and retaining the best sales staff. Recruitment is an expensive process, but managers will save money on recruitment and training if they spend the time upfront to secure the best people for the job. The best candidates are both a good cultural addition to a business and are aligned with team goals.

Once the right people are on board, managers should invest in their growth. Successful sales organizations have regular training and professional development, both to stay on top of industry trends and to help motivate staff. Sales reps need to be updated with new product knowledge, information about the competitive landscape, and new avenues for leads. They should also receive regular training on industry best practices and regulations.

2. Provide ongoing feedback.

There’s no denying it: The sales profession breeds independent, highly competitive workers and they’re not always the easiest to manage. The good news is, effective sales managers can take that competition and use it to motivate everyone on a sales team.

For example, a sales manager might encourage friendly competition by highlighting a top performer on internal communication channels, like Slack. This spurs the rest of the sales staff to increase their own sales and secure shoutouts.

Sales managers should also give positive feedback to the team as a whole. This emphasizes the value of teamwork and provides an incentive for leveling up.

Providing this kind of regular feedback is easier than ever with modern sales management systems (see section below), which enable real-time sales tracking and instantaneous feedback. Employees can get updates from sales managers wherever they are, respond in the moment, and compare their performance with key performance indicators (KPIs) to measure their own progress.

3. Forecast future sales and track key metrics.

The third key technique used in successful sales management is a combination of forecasting and tracking. Sales managers need to forecast revenue for deals that are “in the bag” as well as likely sales from future leads. This determines what sales goals should be set for future quarters. Also, forecasting should pinpoint holdups in the sale pipeline so the sales team knows whether to focus on lead sourcing, relationship building, or closing deals in the months ahead.

To ensure there is no confusion, the sales manager should track the same metrics each quarter and make their forecasting transparent. Everyone should know how the team is performing, preferably in real time. This allows both sales reps and sales managers to understand the team’s progress compared to quarterly goals while also allowing them to pivot when priorities change.

What is a sales management system?

A sales management system (also referred to as sales management software or sales CRM) is a program that’s designed to make the sales management process simpler and sales data more accessible. Salespeople can use the system to manage contacts, track deals, generate reports, forecast future leads and revenue, and easily complete administrative tasks so they can focus on sales calls.

Today’s sales management systems are sophisticated, often incorporating a wide range of customer and prospect information, including social profiles, online activity, connections within online networks, and other details. Artificial intelligence (AI) is an increasingly common feature, too, allowing staff to generate sales predictions and lead recommendations within seconds.

The benefits of a sales management system include:

 

More granular prioritization

An effective sales management system helps managers prioritize tasks and assign them to the right rep for the job. For example, the system could help a sales manager identify a new lead and send contact details to a rep with a request to set up a product demo. Sales management systems can also filter leads to help focus on those that are most likely to generate revenue for each product.

 

A detailed overview of customer history

With sales management software, all communication with or about a customer can be stored in the same place, allowing team members to see their complete history. This type of overview ensures there’s no time wasted covering old ground. More importantly, sales staff can use this information to engage each customer with a personal touch.

 

Automated workflows and reduced administrative tasks

A sales management system keeps reps focused on sales, not distracted by mounting admin tasks. Most systems can identify important follow-up information in calls and flag it for sales rep action. Many will also create calendar events or reminders for more accurate task tracking. Not only does this ensure active leads and loyal customers receive timely communication, but it also allows sales reps to connect with stale leads and customers who haven’t reached out in several months.

 

Improved forecasting, analytics, and reports

For decades, report generation and forecasting was a cumbersome, manual task. Fortunately, modern sales management systems can assess sales pipelines, revenue, cycles, and more – often with just a few clicks. By analyzing lead-to-conversion ratios, for example, sales management software can assess sales rep performance and identify areas that need improvement. It can also compile data to automate sales forecasting and improve future pipeline management by identifying where effective lead sources are coming from and where sales opportunities are lost.

What are the best sales management tools?

Steve Jobs once said that “if you give [people] tools, they’ll do wonderful things with them.” He was talking broadly about technology, of course, but the same idea holds true in the world of sales. The best sales management software allows sales reps to connect to their team, customers, and leads remotely and in real time, typically via virtual sales tools like cloud-based software and mobile applications. This includes sales management systems, videoconferencing hardware/software, social media management platforms, intelligent automation tools, and presentation tools.

You may be wondering: What about in-person sales (also known as field sales or outside sales)? While there are some analog tools still used in field sales, many field reps are swapping clipboards and business cards for laptops and smartphones. A 2021 Sales Snapshot study conducted by Salesforce highlights this reality: Almost half of all reps interviewed said they would be selling virtually after the pandemic. No surprise, then, that cloud and mobile apps make up most of their toolkit.
Key sales management tools include:

All-in-One Sales Management Systems (Desktop and Mobile)

The best sales management systems combine functionality once spread across different tools or apps. Look for platforms that include the following:

  • Pipeline tracking/management
  • Built-in phone dialer
  • Email integration
  • Calendar
  • Reminders
  • Quote builder
  • Invoicing functionality

With all of this centralized, sales staff can complete tasks like customer follow-up, team check-ins, workflow updates, and contract approvals both in and out of the office – as long as they have internet access.

Perhaps the best way to improve workflows for your team is by leveraging intelligent automation. Ideally, this technology will be folded into your sales management system so you don’t have to fuss with call logging, voicemail drops, and follow-up email sends. Just set up a “macro” – or trigger – for the system to take a desired action and you easily eliminate manual tasks.

Oh, and any sales management system worth its salt should have an intuitive mobile app, too. Key mobile features include geolocation that supports navigation in the field, push notifications for in-the-moment updates on accounts, and, of course, AI-driven bots that can complete basic tasks with simple vocal or written commands.

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Videoconferencing Equipment and Software

With virtual selling the name of the game, reps must be equipped with quality cameras, audio equipment, and videoconferencing software so they can conduct professional sales calls. In some cases, built-in laptop cameras, speakers, and microphones will suffice, but it’s always a good idea to test your equipment to make sure it delivers a high-quality experience for prospects. If not, consider upgrading to high-definition, high-fidelity equipment.

Also, be sure to set up reliable, intuitive videoconferencing software for your team. Ideally, pick something that doesn’t require prospects to download new software just for a sales call. If that’s not possible, pick software that’s highly rated and widely used.

Social Media Management Tools

Here’s a shocker: Social media is where we do a ton of online research. In fact, a 2021 study by Global Web Index found that 45% of consumers primarily use social media networks for product research. And where customers are, sales reps should be.

A variety of social sales tools help reps track customer activity on social media, and are often called “social listening tools.” Reps can simply plug in keywords or topics they want to follow and track a regularly updated feed of customer comments and questions about the topics they’ve selected.

Other apps can help sales staff generate and curate applicable content to post online, either in company feeds or in response to clients’ posts. In fact, Salesforce has its own cutting-edge tool in this space that’s part of our Marketing 360 platform.

Sales Presentation Tools

Sales call scheduled? Now it’s time for your team to polish their presentation. Too often, however, this ends up being tedious and cumbersome. To make life easy on your reps, roll out a drag-and-drop presentation tool so they can create decks in minutes. Be sure to pick one with a large image library and lots of easy customization options so each deck can be tailored to the prospect.

Next Steps

Now that you know the core skills, techniques, and tools of sales management, it’s time to put it all together. The key to managerial success is consistency and commitment — take the classes you need to skill up, test techniques to see what works best for your team, and experiment with the tools that fit your unique needs. Management isn’t a “one-and-done” project, so be sure you revisit your goals, strategies, and strengths/weaknesses every quarter to find ways to improve. Onward!
 

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