20 Tips for a Front-Line Sales Manager

7 min read

Are you a great sales rep that now finds yourself in a front-line sales manager role? If so, you've either got a ton of questions, you're feeling overwhelmed, or both. Below are my tips to help you know where to focus, how to spend your time, and what you should do to be a great front-line sales manager.
  1. Roadmap: Have a vision, mission, strategies and plans to get there. Plus, make sure you think about the obstacles you may face, and how you'll address them. Then keep selling this to your team and upper management to inspire and motivate them.
  2. Decisions: Make decisions based on data, proof and observations, not on “gut feel.”
  3. Change: When changes need to happen, explain why and how you’re all going to get there. Then begin selling it internally to influence the people who will help make the change happen.
  4. Closing: Get out of the way of your sales reps and don’t jump in to save and close their deals. If they need help closing deals, coach them on it, get them training on it, but let them do it.
  5. Mistakes: Mistakes happen. Use mistakes as a way to inspire your reps to learn from their mistakes.
  6. Goals: Set realistic goals that reps can achieve and succeed at. Remember, if they fail, you fail.
  7. Up-Level: Nurture your reps and help them achieve their goals, and ultimately their potential. This includes helping them identify weaknesses to improve and either training them or getting them the right training.
  8. Individuality: Not everyone will sell the same way you  (did), and that’s OK. Yes, they need to follow your company’s sales process, tracking the right activities and data points in your CRM system, and probably using whatever sales methodology your company prefers. But, each sales rep presents in their own way, builds rapport in their own way, and ultimately sells in their own way.
  9. Fairness: Don’t play favorites; and conversely, don’t ignore or avoid reps who need your help.
  10. Praise: Never criticize your employee in front of their peers (or anyone, really). But, do give praise publicly and often.
  11. Observe: Focusing on a single sales rep through ride-alongs, listening to calls, reviewing rep activities in your CRM, conversion rates between sales stages, and customer feedback.
  12. Accountability: Just like you must make the time and not miss coaching sessions, the rep must also. Then, once a plan of action to improve a skill or behavior is in place, you need to follow up and make sure the plans are happening.
  13. Forecast: Forecast accurately, by ensuring your sales reps are being realistic about each opportunity. With that, make sure you understand the health of your team’s biggest deals, because your own manager is probably going to want to know about it (or should).
  14. Pipeline: Manage your team’s pipeline, by ensuring your sales reps are being realistic about how many stage 1 deals they need to start each month and quarter to be able to close the right number of deals.
  15. Credit: When a big deal closes and your sales VP is excited to hear it, make sure to give credit to the rep and whoever helped make it happen.
  16. Hire smart: When hiring someone, think to yourself “is this someone I can trust to carry their own weight for the team?” and “would I be happy working for this person one day?” Make sure to look for the right sales competencies and behaviors for your business.
  17. Manage Up: If you have complaints, share them with your manager, not  your reps.
  18. Marketing: Don’t complain about the content you get from Marketing. Help them create the right content by explaining why you need it, when you need it, who will see it, and how you’ll use it.
  19. Technical Sales: Whatever you call them, there are people in your company who will help with the more complex product demonstrations, implementation details, and so on. Don’t abuse their time, and give them credit when they deserve it.
  20. Enablement: Turn to, and trust, your sales enablement team to help up-level your sales reps and to provide them with the tools and guidance to be as efficient at their job as possible.
This document represents a variety of guidance from the Brian Groth’s own experience, plus the Sales Readiness Group, the Sales Training Connection, Coach4Growth, Miller Heiman, Salesforce Training & Consulting, Sales Benchmark Index, the Corporate Executive Board, and more.