This is an excerpt from my second book, Managing the Sales Process, available on You can find a series of these excerpts in a dedicated blog category to get a broad overview, post-by-post, of the book (they are listed in reverse order in the category, so start with the oldest).

From Chapter 4 – WHAT THE SALES MANAGER SHOULD BE DOING – Coaching and Motivating

A sales manager that I worked with some time ago told me how he viewed a sales organization. He simply cut it into thirds by revenue.

  • For the bottom third, you try to help get them into the middle third or out of the company.
  • For the middle third, you try to help them get into the top third.
  • For the top third, you leave them alone or get obstacles out of their way.

Of course, there is more to sales management than that, but it is a good model to start with at the macro level. So how can the sales manager do this?

The key role here is sales coach, but what should the sales manager coach on? Many sales managers don’t apply the same needs analysis discipline to the needs of their salespeople that they expect their salespeople to apply to their customers, but they should. Instead, the sales manager assumes what the problem is based on a bit of conversation and a snap judgment, then doles out some advice from his or her time in the trenches.

As I hope you have seen by now, there is a better way ─ both to sell and to manage!

If instead, the sales manager reviews a salesperson according to the metrics laid out in this chapter, the specific place where the salesperson is having trouble can be targeted. This makes for a much more focused and objective conversation and serves as a point of departure into the correct coaching support from the manager. For example:

“Joe, I noticed that compared to a lot of the other reps, in the last 3 months, you wrote a lot more proposals but have a lower percentage of them close. Why do you think that is?”

The salesperson may have a good idea, or the manager may have to steer him or her away from some silly speculation, but either way the conversation starts with something tangible and leads to a coaching opportunity to improve the effectiveness of the salesperson.

Wouldn’t it be great if the next conversation sounded more like:

“Hey Joe, look at this – remember last time we spoke? Your ratio of proposals to closes is getting a lot better. Way to go!”

Yup ─ sounds swell ─ but even this:

“Hey Joe, look at this, remember last time we spoke? Since then your ratio of proposals to closes hasn’t changed a bit (or got worse), and your other metrics are stagnant as well. It looks to me like nothing has changed since we last talked. We’re going to need to find a way to improve these numbers or consider whether or not you can be effective as a salesperson here. What do you think we should do?”

….is better than the typical shrugged shoulders, hollow ultimatums, or random war stories that tend to result from attempts to manage a sales force without the benefit of some hard data.

The metrics that fall out of the sales process point the way for coaching to happen so that a directed skills transfer can take place between the salesperson and the more experienced sales manager.

What every salesperson and sales manager knows all too well is that sometimes pushing for sales and hitting various walls and obstacles can be very frustrating and demotivating.

As such, the other key role for our sales manager to adopt is that of a motivator. This can take place in terms of one-on-one spot encouragement, longer term mentoring, or recognition schemes directed at helping salespeople get past limitations and that encourage the kinds of behaviors that management wants to see more of. Motivation alone won’t overcome poor sales performance, but it can help good salespeople through a rough time and keep them on track. Good salespeople are hard to find. It is a good investment to support them when needed and should provide valuable returns in the cases where just a boost in motivation was needed to keep them engaged and moving forward.

Much has been written about motivation, and I don’t want to short-change this important subject with a few paragraphs here. The main point for our purpose is this: The combination of metrics-based accountability, coaching, and motivating are the work that a sales manager should be doing to support the efforts of the sales team. All of these things can be done without a metrics-based process or the right people, but it sure is a lot easier when you have both!


Authors note (AKA shameless plugs)

So, this 7-step sales process and associated topics…. Yup, I write about that a lot. I’ve been working with it since I developed it about 25 years ago – in my own diverse work experiences, with my teams when I had them, and with clients ever since.

If you would like to develop you own personalized and customized, highly effective and efficient B2B selling system, here are some further steps you can take:

The Salesman’s Guide to Dating is a free or very cheap (depending on Amazon) Kindle book that walks you through the sales process using the familiar analogy of dating. It’s a good, fun and quick way to get your mind around the whole process and how the pieces fit together.

Building Your Sales Process (BYSP) is a free and very thorough exploration of the same 7-step process that will walk you through the development of your own customized, personal B2B selling system. When you are done, you will know exactly what to do to get new business.

The Momentum Selling System® is an inexpensive but very robust online sales training course that is similar to BYSP, but goes deeper into the concepts behind each of the steps, and also helps you develop a plan not only for the 7-step process but also addresses mindset, repeat business and client base management.

If none of that sounds right, I do personal coaching and offer a free 30-minute intake session so that we can both learn if it makes sense to work together 1-on-1. If this sounds interesting, click over to the coaching page on this site and sign up for the free session.

Here’s to your success!