Ultimate Keys to Developing a Great Sales Manager

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If you want your sales managers to perform at a high level, you should have a great sales manager development plan in place. Our research shows that 44% of sales managers intend to stay in their current position. Another 31% hope for a leadership position with their existing employer. Here are a few key topics your sales manager development plan should address to make these hopes a reality.

  1. Generate New Business
  2. Sales Forecasting
  3. Team Motivation

Generate New Business

We all know that one of the most important sales manager tasks is to develop their reps so they can increase sales. Sales managers also feel pressure to generate new business and leads for their reps. Our survey, taken before the pandemic began, shows that 33% of sales managers felt it was getting harder to generate new business.

One aspect your sales manager development plan should focus on is the idea generation process. Thinking about how to come up with new leads or ideas on which business vertical would be able to use your company’s product or service requires stretching a manager’s creativity. If your manager isn’t a natural at leading ideation sessions with their team, have them practice in a group with their peers. These training sessions should allow managers to take turns at leading. And they should include a review at the end about what managers can do differently to generate more enthusiasm and engagement from their reps.

Sales Forecasting

It’s never a good feeling to miss the forecast you committed to at the start of the year. A missed forecast dings your sales manager’s credibility. It increases pressure on their team. And it can disrupt the organization if leaders have hired employees based on the forecast.

How can you help your sales managers improve their forecasting ability? Ryan Robinson advises managers to first learn how to leave emotions out of the forecast. Yes, they may want that account their top rep has been working on for months to close this quarter. Their wishes can’t make the dream come true.

Your internal sales manager development plan should include training on how to put together a forecast. Using the previous year’s plan is a good starting point. Realistic projections about sales for the current year will depend, in part, on the following factors:

  • Where your product is in its lifecycle
  • Number of competitors in the marketplace
  • Estimated size of the market (know whether it is growing or shrinking) 

Your managers should also learn how to identify a niche. If your organization is rolling out a new product, they need to develop an ideal customer profile. From there, they can determine the potential size of the market. They should also understand the strengths and weaknesses of your company’s product in relation to the competition. After they compile that data, they can analyze the sales cycle. Once they know whether it will take one month or one year to close the typical deal, they can build deadlines, or create milestones, for the team and each rep.

Team Motivation

After a sales manager identifies a new opportunity or channel and builds a forecast, they face another hurdle: motivating their team members. Your sales manager development plan should contain a module to build understanding of human behavior. Specifically, a good sales manager knows that one rep will be excited to sell a new product because they are geeking out over the cool new features. Another rep will be less enthusiastic about hawking new technology but finds the process of helping customers with existing products to be the most rewarding part of their work life. Designing job responsibilities to match individual strengths and interests is one way to motivate reps.

Sales Manager Development Plan

You rely on your sales managers to do the heavy lifting of improving sales rep performance. Make the most of your investment in these key personnel by creating a strong sales manager development plan.

Kathy Crosett
Kathy is the Vice President of Research for SalesFuel. She holds a Masters in Business Administration from the University of Vermont and oversees a staff of researchers, writers and content providers for SalesFuel. Previously, she was co-​owner of several small businesses in the health care services sector.