6 Must-​Have Skills to Effectively Lead Your Sales Team

BY Kathy Crosett
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As we move into 2021 and you look at the numbers you agreed to deliver for the year, ask yourself how you can get the most from your sales team. We’ve assembled a list of the six must-​have skills you need to lead your team. If you’re not confident of your abilities in any of these areas, you may want to enroll in a good sales manager training program.

As our CEO C. Lee Smith often says, "the job of the sales manager is to develop the team sufficiently so they can make their numbers." In our Voice of the Sales Manager survey, respondents told us they believe the following skills are critical if they are to succeed in their positions.

  • Sales team engagement and motivation 62%
  • Sales training 61%
  • Goal setting and accountability 57%
  • Sales coaching 53%
  • Sales talent recruiting 48%
  • Soft skills 47%

Let's take a look at what each of these skills entails.

Engagement and Motivation

To truly engage sales reps, managers should understand what drives them. Too often, we believe reps are simply motivated by money. Like other people, a many factors motivate sales reps. You can gain insight into each rep’s motivators by having them take a sales competency assessment that also measures other elements of their work behavior. It may surprise you to learn that one of your reps is highly curious. They’ll be more motivated and engaged when you give them assignments that allow for in-​depth discovery.

Feedback provides another key component of engagement. When you were a sales rep, it felt great when you closed a deal. It felt even better when your manager publicly acknowledged your success, didn’t it? And receiving both positive feedback and helpful tips on what to do in the future may have provided the biggest motivation for working harder.


While you want to motivate your reps, you also need them to follow the guidelines that apply to everyone in the department. You need a certain level of consistency when it comes to details like maintaining information in the CRM and understanding the key features of the solution your reps sell. As new features are added, training your reps regularly is key. Training is best done on a many-​to-​one basis. The task can be also be time-​consuming. As you improve your skills through sales management training, you may decide that training for your reps can be handled by someone else.

Goal Setting and Accountability

Breaking down the corporate sales target into manageable pieces and assigning quotas to individual reps may not be difficult for many managers. If you were previously a sales star, you likely know how to haggle. In this case, the haggling is a bit different. You are not in a negotiation to win the best deal. Your job is to settle on a number that your rep sees as achievable.

Accountability represents a bigger challenge for sales managers. You must check in regularly with reps to be sure they are on track. Accountability is not just about hassling the reps until they do better. To get the most out of your team, use your sales management training to learn techniques that will help you productively encourage reps to do their best.

Sales Coaching

One way to ensure top performance from your reps is to regularly coach them. Every rep has strengths and weaknesses. To improve their skills, you’ll need to provide one-​on-​one coaching. Reps will need this coaching from you on at least a weekly basis. For best results, you should measure their progress using an automated coaching system. These kinds of systems can also help you work more productively.

Sales Talent Recruiting

Sales talent recruiting can be one of the biggest challenges for managers. Our research shows that when managers hire the wrong person for a position, they can set back their organization for over a year. And the expense of a bad hire can easily exceed the cost of that person’s compensation for a year. With proper sales management training, you can greatly reduce your chances of making these kinds of mistakes. 

Soft Skills

Having the right soft skills can make or break your success as a sales manager. If you lack attention to detail, for example, you’ll want to spend extra time improving that skill during your training. It’s often been said that sales managers have the toughest job in any organization. You must successfully manage up and down the organizational ladder. At times, you’ll need to stay determined and resilient. At other times, you’ll need to know just what to say in order to persuade a struggling rep to try something new.

Get the Most from Your Sales Team

To get the most from your sales team, you'll need good sales manager training. And you'll need to work hard to develop the skills that don't come easily to you. But the investment of your time and energy will show when your team meets and then exceeds the goals you've set.