5 Things Proactive Sales Managers Do Differently


I recently reviewed the sales manager’s job description for a Fortune 500 company and learned that about 85% of the responsibilities they assigned to their sales managers were related to sales coaching. Then my partner and I conducted in-person interviews with four of their regional sales managers, and asked “What percentage of your time do you actually spend one-on-one, coaching a salesperson?” Not one of the sales managers told us that they spent more than 5% of their time, one-on-one, coaching a salesperson.

So for this company, only 5% of a sales manager’s day was actually spent on tasks associated with achieving 85% of what the company expected a sales manager to accomplish. It was no wonder that this company’s recent “climate survey” had measured low sales morale, an unacceptably high sales turnover rate and poor ramp-up to quota for new-hires.

There are two types of sales managers: proactive and reactive. A sales manager who is reactive is one who is constantly fighting fires. And these “fires” are likely the same problems they were struggling with last month, too. The core problem that many sales managers have is the flawed mindset that, “I am 100% responsible for solving all team problems.”

So, salespeople hand-off their problems to their manager. Problems in customer service, order entry, you name it. They all get dumped in the sales manager’s lap. In extreme cases, a sales manager can take on the role of an administrative assistant to the team. I ask sales managers: “Do you ever wonder what your salespeople are doing after they give you their problems?” Here’s a hint: they’re likely not making more sales calls!

What do great sales managers do differently? Simply put, they manage themselves more effectively. They don’t say, “Sure, I’ll take care of that problem for you.” Instead, they focus on their own priorities, not someone else’s. Instead of solving everybody else’s problems, a sales manager should hold people accountable for solving their own problems. This, then, frees sales managers up for more productive leadership tasks – like coaching and sales opportunity management.

Some additional characteristics of a proactive sales leader/manager include:

1. Possess Educated Foresight

Have a defined process for preventing common sales rep problems and share them with your team. Then, hold reps accountable for resolving these problems. This will help prevent problems from reoccurring and will re-enforce the workflows/procedures you have put in place for your team to follow.

2. Be Well Organized.

A proactive sales manager holds well-organized sales meetings not only with the entire team, but one-on-one with specific reps. These strategy and skill sessions are designed to identify any potential problems the sales rep might be having that month and troubleshoot them together.

As the leader of the team, it’s important to set an example of good time management skills for the team to follow your lead. Help your reps get set-up with all the tools they might need for success. Tread lightly here, some reps have a certain way of doing things and if it’s interpreted as ‘micro-managing’ you might run into other issues. If they are having issues with a certain aspect of their job and realize they aren’t on track to hit their numbers, they are going to be much more willing to listen to your advice.

3. Create an Actionable Plan

A proactive sales manager creates a Sales Playbook that describes best practices and solution options to common problems. For more on creating a sales playbook of your own, check out our free guide.

4. Document Wins and Losses

Every rep has good and bad days. You as the sales manager have been there yourself. Solicit these stories, good and bad, from your team and use them as teaching resources. Let reps hear about potential scenarios their colleagues have faced. Equipping them with sound bites or methods of breaking through those common problems is key. This increases sales rep confidence, product knowledge and problem solving skills.

Make sure to showcase the other side of the equation as well. Wins are a huge morale boost and can also teach team members valuable closing methods and tips.

5. Clearly Communicate Team Vision

As a leader of your team, you need to be an effective, consistent communicator who provides a clear vision. Making sure everyone is on board with the teams goals and the overarching vision is extremely important.

If your reps are on board with your vision, they will be far more motivated to go the extra mile when it’s necessary. Having a cohesive vision on what the company stands for and what it’s goals are can really bring a team together and make them easier to manage.

Download our “Setting Sales Coaching Priorities” quiz to determine how your priorities are organized!

To implement an effective sales coaching culture in your company, we’ve found that teaching sales coaching skills to your managers is not enough. You must also solve the problems that sales managers have that prevent them from being effective sales coaches. Teach your sales managers how to become more proactive and your company will enjoy all the benefits of effective sales coaching, including improved sales morale, lower sales rep turnover and a faster ramp-up to quota for your new-hires. That’s what proactive sales managers can achieve!


Kevin Davis

Kevin F. Davis is the author of The Sales Manager’s Guide to Greatness”, which was named the 2018 Axiom Business Book Award Winner, Silver Medal. Kevin is also the author of Slow Down, Sell Faster!”.