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Sales management definition, process, strategies and resources

Sales management
Topics
What is sales management?
The three key aspects of sales management
What is a sales manager and what does a sales manager do?
Who benefits from sales management?
Use technology to manage customer relationships
Sales management tips and tricks
Sales manager resources: How to start managing a sales team
Final thoughts
Key terms for your sales glossary

An effective sales management process ensures every aspect of your company’s collective sales effort works efficiently.

To succeed in any industry, it’s important to have a great sales manager who helps their team satisfy buyers and maximize profits.

In this article, we look at what sales management is, the role of a good sales manager in building and managing sales teams and how to report on the sales process.

We’ll also touch on sales management tools and explain how to empower your team’s professional development.


What is sales management?

Sales management is the process of developing a sales force, organizing sales efforts and implementing sales techniques that allow a business to hit its sales goals.

The secret to boosting sales in any industry is always precise sales management processes. This starts with a great sales manager who can inspire and lead a sales department.

Besides helping your company reach its sales objectives, a sales management system allows you to stay in tune with your industry. It can be the difference between surviving and flourishing in a competitive marketplace.

Whether you’re an experienced or new sales manager, the following guide to sales management will help you evaluate and gain visibility into your current sales force.

Once you have a clear picture of what processes to monitor and how to keep track, you’ll be ready to pinpoint issues early on, coach people before it’s too late and have a better overview of which tasks the team should focus on to increase sales.

Sales reps who stumble across this guide can also benefit.It will help you understand how your company manages its sales process, allowing you to become more in sync with your team, create a better relationship with your manager and achieve better individual sales results.


The three key aspects of sales management

There are three umbrellas to manage within the sales process:

The process will vary from business to business but operations, strategy and analysis are the three key starting points.

Sales management office block


What is a sales manager and what does a sales manager do?

The first step in answering the question “What is sales management?” is understanding the role of a sales manager.

A great sales manager is the person who guides your salespeople and is responsible for:

These are just some of the responsibilities in a sales manager’s job description. Let’s focus on three of the most important tasks a good sales manager excels at: building the team, defining the sales process and reporting.

Sales operations: Building the team

After you’ve acquired a great sales manager, it’s time to expand the team.

The sales team is the backbone of any company: a direct connection between product and customer.

Sales team members should feel like they are valued parts of the company and have the resources to progress, instead of being viewed as money-making machines.

When selecting and onboarding new talent, thoroughly train them and develop their skills regardless of their sales experience and sales certifications.

This is because it’s not enough for salespeople to be great sellers – they must also be great at dealing with your product and representing your organization, so that customers want to engage with it.

The sales team you manage should be closely aligned, working as individuals within a collaborative unit. A joined-up approach will result in fewer errors and greater achievements for the sales force and wider company.

Set your team up for success by giving them ambitious yet realistic targets, which you can track to measure future success (learn more about this in the “Reporting” section below).

To do this:

  • Set sales and development targets

  • Assign territories for team members to manage

  • Establish goals and sales quotas

Note: Sales territory management is a delicate process but important for any national or regional sales manager to get right. It is recommended that sales managers review their territory structure regularly to tweak their strategies and optimize their sales budgets. Learn more in our guide to sales territory management.


The sales manager must also counsel the team throughout the process, ensure they are still on track and motivate them when needed.

Think about what experiences have driven you throughout your career, and use them to inspire and motivate your sales team. On the flip side, don’t forget to share your disappointments and failures, how you overcame those challenges and offer support during difficult periods.

Download your guide to managing teams and scaling sales

The blueprint you need to find a team of superstars and build a strong foundation for lasting sales success

Sales strategy: Defining the sales process

Once you have a sales team and know your targets, you might wonder: how do you carry out the sales?

Sales has many definitions but it essentially means facilitating a transaction between your company and its customers, moving them through a process that leads to an exchange.

Every business has a sales cycle. This is a series of tasks that helps a company’s product reach its users. A sales pipeline, or sales funnel, makes it easier to organize these tasks and maneuver deals to completion.

What is a sales pipeline?

A sales pipeline is a visual way of tracking prospects and leads as they move through various stages of the buying journey.

A visual pipeline helps salespeople organize their work.

However, even with a clearly mapped pipeline, there are some things you have little or no control over, such as your results.

That’s where managing activities comes into play. Seeing the sales process broken down into stages motivates salespeople to work harder on controllable activities, stay focused and conquer more challenges.

Sales activities that are within a salesperson’s control include:

  • Lead generation, scoring and qualification

  • The number of sales calls, follow-up emails, social media messages (e.g., LinkedIn) and other outreach activities they undertake

  • Market research on new products, new segments and other relevant information

  • Product knowledge

Keeping salespeople accountable for performance is also an important aspect of the sales manager’s job – that’s where reporting comes in.

Sales analysis: Reporting

Reporting helps you understand how your current strategy affects your company’s success and gives you insight into what you can do to improve your efforts, whether it’s hiring more salespeople or redistributing tasks.

Successful reporting involves using sales metrics or quantifiable indicators that tell you how each aspect of your sales operations performs and whether you are achieving your targets.

With the standard sales funnel, you should be able to measure the following four metrics:

  1. Number of deals

  2. Average deal size in your funnel

  3. Close ratio, or average percentage of deals won

  4. Sales velocity, or average deal lifetime before closing

Collecting this sales data will help you find your ideal customers quicker. This is because you’ll see which types of customers move through the process in the shortest time and who spends the most.

A CRM sales management tool will help you gather this information in reports and dashboards to streamline your sales management process.


Who benefits from sales management?

Effective sales management positively affects everyone involved in the sales cycle.

The more mature your sales process is and the more the sales manager adapts and improves it, the more likely your team will achieve top performance.

Three key stakeholders are involved with the sales management process: the sales manager, the salesperson and the customer.

Sales managers

A sales manager directs an organization’s sales team, oversees its processes and is typically in charge of talent development and leadership.

Clarity and scope are essential to sales managers, who typically oversee the planning and execution of company-wide targets.

Having an effective management process allows them to drive the company forward. They’ll have a clearer vision of where they stand amongst their competition and know how to stay ahead.

Salespeople

A salesperson represents their company and directly contacts potential customers whether face-to-face, via phone or solely online. Salespeople typically report to and work closely with their sales managers on performance goals.

Sales is tough. To succeed, you need to be able to engage your current customer base while also expanding your reach.

As with the sales manager, the scope and clarity that come from effective sales management boost confidence and give salespeople better visibility of their work. If you’re a business owner, consider investing in sales training for every team member – it’ll pay off in the long run.

Customers

The customer will inevitably have a better experience and be more inclined to purchase your product or services with an effective sales management process.

They may even share their experiences online, providing social proof to help other prospects convert.

With all these parts working well together, a great sales company can set itself up for success.


Use technology to manage customer relationships

You need an organized sales funnel to get a clear view of your sales management process.

A sales funnel provides a clear view of the opportunities available to a sales team while forecasting revenue for the months ahead.

While some initially opt for Excel spreadsheets and sticky notes, a CRM tool will give you a clearer overview of your current assets and pinpoint key factors in your company’s future success.

Incorporating technology in your sales strategy will help to ensure no deals fall through the cracks so you can maximize profits.

Cloud-based CRMs are great for helping your team improve collaboration, as they typically offer flexible pricing and easy access via the internet. There are tons of popular CRMs out there, but choosing the right one can be challenging.

Before purchasing any CRM tool, answer the following questions to ensure you make the most suitable choice for your team:

  • Is it easy to learn and use?

  • How can I customize it to fit my needs?

  • Are there cross-platform integrations?

  • Will it notify me when I need to take action, and will those notifications come in real time or intervals?

  • Does it offer accurate sales forecasting and reporting?

  • Is it mobile-friendly? Can I access it from anywhere?

Download the ultimate sales kit

You’ll get 8 free guides, templates, spreadsheets and process docs to take your sales skills to a new level


Sales management tips and tricks

Your sales process should be simple and save you time, not drain it.

The more time you put in, the more you should get out. For example, if you put time into building a CRM that aligns with your processes, needs and goals – and employ integrations and automation to help you save time – you’ll be able to push more deals through the pipeline and pull in more revenue.

For busy sales leaders and salespeople, there are plenty of productivity tools to help ease the process of managing and closing deals. They include apps like Evernote, Any.do, Audible, Downcast and Pocket. Scanner Pro, Calendars 5 and Waze are also useful.

Also, sales managers can work with content teams to develop content marketing materials that build value around their products or services, making it easier for salespeople to sell.

After all, selling is an ongoing process as most people don’t buy immediately. They need convincing and reassuring.

In the same way trials or testers are used to make products more attainable, content can help customers become familiar with your services, especially if it solves a highly specific and relevant problem.

Having a content team working within the company ensures creators can get to know the product and better understand the value it provides to customers. However, you can also outsource content creation to a freelancer or agency if you’re not ready to hire full time.

Great content is more likely to move consumers along the sales cycle than a salesperson alone. In fact, informative content often introduces products and services to potential buyers – especially when it appears high in search engine results pages, where many buyers start their journeys.

Note: Finding the CRM market daunting? Check out our guide on how to choose the perfect CRM. It covers the core features to prioritize and includes an evaluation checklist.


Sales manager resources: How to start managing a sales team

If you’re interested in becoming a sales manager or improving in the sales manager role, you must understand the importance of the sales management process. This includes the planning and goal-setting tasks that come with it.

Planning is a vital part of achieving results. There are endless resources that will help you get started as you build your team and grow your company.

Let’s look at two of the key aspects most sales professionals consider first when moving into management: career types and compensation.

Sales leadership careers

There are many kinds of sales management jobs but they all share the same core responsibility: refining the sales process to make sure the company improves its bottom line.

The people who oversee sales organizations and manage sales teams typically have one of the following roles:

  • Director of sales

  • District sales manager

  • General manager

  • Chief revenue officer

  • Sales and account manager

  • Business development manager

  • Regional sales manager

  • Sales and marketing manager

  • Sales and marketing vice president

  • Sales supervisor

  • Vice-president of sales

Some of these titles may even be interchangeable depending on the size and structure of your company.

Sales managers can also come from a variety of backgrounds. Some start off as sales representatives and work their way up and others come from unrelated fields without years of experience.

Either way, anyone applying for a sales manager role must have strong communication skills, leadership skills and problem-solving abilities in their sales manager cover letter and resume.

Sales leadership salaries

A sales manager’s salary will vary depending on the type of business and the geographical location.

According to the latest US Bureau of Labor Statistics data (May 2022), sales managers earned a median salary of $130,600.

Glassdoor, which measures salaries based on user submissions, lists the average sales manager salary in the US at around $120,000, as of 2024.


Final thoughts

Ready to find out more about achieving success in the sales manager position? There’s plenty to learn and work on.

Once you decide to build or improve your sales management process, you can start by:

  • Reading account management books, sales books or blogs

  • Making a Google alert for key terms such as “sales management” to stay up-to-date with the latest news in your industry

  • Experimenting with sales management software that will help you gain visibility into and stay on top of your management process

  • Reading the sales glossary below to brush up on your sales vocabulary

Also, check out our Global Sales Performance Review for a global insight into how others sell.

Note: There are books and blogs on all sales specialisms. For example, if you’re wondering how to manage a store successfully, focus on books and articles from retail experts. If you want to know how to project sales for a new business, seek content from a startup specialist.


Key terms for your sales glossary

Here’s a selection of key lingo, but for a more comprehensive guide visit our full glossary of sales terms.

Activity-based selling: The theory that you can close more deals by focusing on the activities you can control, such as the number of calls or appointments made, rather than focusing on sales results or sales volume, or making a certain amount of money in sales.

Close/closing: Bringing a prospect to a final buying decision.

Close ratio: Number of deals you close compared to the number of deals you have presented.

Cold calling: Getting in contact with a potential customer with no prior contact or relationship in hopes of setting up an appointment or informing them about your product or service.

Conversion: The act of turning a prospect into a customer.

Conversion rate: The percentage of prospects turned into new customers

Customer relationship management (CRM): A tool or piece of sales management software to manage your customer relationships and sales pipeline. Often also used as process management software.

Deal: An agreement to meet or take action with a prospect.

Demo: A sales presentation of your product or service.

Lead: Anyone who could potentially be a customer.

Marketing: The act of promoting your product or service.

Metrics: A collection of individual and organizational performance indicators and ratios calculated from collected data that describe a company’s historical and ongoing sales processes.

Product: Something made to be sold to a consumer.

Prospect: A potential customer or person who may be interested in a company’s product or service.

Sales quota: A fixed share of something that a person or group is expected to achieve or contribute to.

Retention rate: The percentage of customers who stay with a business.

Revenue: A company’s income or earnings.

Sales cycle: The series of predictable phases required to sell a product or a service. Sales cycles can vary greatly among organizations, products and services, and no two sales will be exactly the same.

Sales dashboard: A method of measuring sales performance from a birds-eye view. A sales dashboard helps measure key metrics, individual team members and sales activities.

Sales force: Division of a business responsible for selling products or services.

Sales funnel (or pipeline): A systematic and visual approach to selling a product or service. The sales pipeline is helpful in showing you exactly where the money is in your sales process.

Sales management: Process of developing and coordinating a sales team.

Sales management planning: Process of thinking and organizing activities to achieve a desired goal.

Sales management process: Steps taken to attain a company’s performance objectives.

Sales management strategy: A method to bring about a desired outcome.

Sales manager: Someone who’s responsible for managing sales professionals and overseeing a company’s sales process.

Sales meeting: A meeting with the sales team, often to discuss processes, products and services, as well as the potential benefits for the buyer.

Salesperson: Someone who typically works directly with customers to inform them and sell a product while providing customer service.

Sales reporting: The documentation of a company’s activities.

Sales targets: Objectives or goals for a salesperson or company.

Sales velocity: Time it takes for a new deal to close, from the initial contact.

Service: An action performed to satisfy a customer’s need or problem.

Download your guide to managing teams and scaling sales

The blueprint you need to find a team of superstars and build a strong foundation for lasting sales success

Driving business growth