Six Essential Skills of a Successful Sales Manager


Of all the business functions, it is only the sales function that brings in money into the coffers of the firm. It is clear then that for any organisation to achieve its objectives, be it accelerated growth, survival, diversification, increased profitability/market share, the salesmen must be performing well on a consistent basis.

The overarching responsibility of a sales manager is to achieve and exceed sales objectives by ensuring that every member of the team achieves or surpasses his or her respective objectives. Of course, there have been major strides in helping sales people become stronger with sales enablement programmes, training and automation. Yet, the fact remains that selling is about people. Having great sales managers is still the foundational piece to making your sales department perform. I would rather have a great sales manager and seven mediocre sales reps than a mediocre sales manager and seven-star sales people.

If you are a sales manager and want to be a STAR or you are the CSO and want to build a STAR sales department, here are the six essential skills required for your success and the success of the entire sales team.

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Pharm. Tunde Oyeniran

Committed people-developer

The most important truth a sales manager must realise and accept is that he depends on others – his reps – for his results and performance. Consistent performance and growth can only come from consistent growth and development aggregate of his team members. He needs to make them continuously better by reviewing each of their performances, identifying key areas for improvement, coaching, counselling, improving knowledge / skill level, training personality improvement, etc.


Coaching is the number one sales management activity that drives sales performance. The goal of coaching is to help each sales rep to improve their performance and reach their true potential. It’s about developing your “A” sales people to become “A+” and developing your “B” sales people to become “As”. A sales manager with great coaching skills will not only see improved sales performance, but will have better sales rep engagement, reduced turnover and improved job satisfaction.

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The major components of the leadership gene are drive and passion, a strong desire to lead, high integrity index, self-confidence, intelligence and possession of relevant knowledge. Sales managers need to be strong leaders. The key to developing a strong sales team is for sales managers to be able to create and share a vision with their sales team. Strong sales leaders have the skill and the will to help their team adopt the vision and keep them focused on working towards achieving it. Sales leaders require the ability to communicate, innovate, inspire and set the tone for the sales team.

Productivity and performance management

There are many definitions of performance management. I don’t see performance management as conducting quarterly business reviews, managing non-performing sales reps and managing your boss. Rather, at the heart of this for a sales manager is that the rep delivers daily on what is expected of them, in terms of daily call rates, market development, relationship building, market intelligence, etc. A manager must not make any assumptions about it.  Of course, this is measured by financial and non-financial outcomes.

It is EXTREMELY DANGEROUS for performance issues to go unchecked, as sales and team morale can be negatively affected. Many sales managers shy away from confronting salespeople who are not performing. It is up to the sales manager to have planned and unplanned checkpoints to address performance issues and develop a plan of action to correct the problem.

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The star sales manager continually raises the bar on performance. As a manager, you must not forget that (i) whatever you want done must be measured; (i) if you want it done well, it must be supervised; (iii) tracking performance is the insurance and assurance against complete failure (don’t wait till your people have completely failed – it doesn’t benefit you in any way).

Another part of performance management is to proactively communicate to your boss when performance issues arise, and to have a solution in place.

Sales planner and strategist

People carry on with the idea that all you need to do is to start selling once you decide you want to sell. Like “Just do it” action drive.  Wrong. Selling requires planning and strategy, as there are often many options available to achieve one particular sales objective.

What product (or group of products) will give you the best shot? What region? What customer type? Which customer or set of customers? The sales manager needs to be good at objective setting, assigning the responsibilities as per the resources, providing alternative steps in case of crisis, managing coverage, gathering information from distributors/retailers to assess the actual market potential, as well as designing and managing customer contact programmes.

Every day, nay, every second, he has many things to do, all appearing urgent. In this regard, he must have prioritisation and time management skills. Where are the critical junctions, turning points and rate-limiting steps?

Business acumen

Business acumen is defined as the critical business thinking required to achieve your sales objectives. Simply put, business is about best orchestration of resources to get the maximum profit and longevity for the business entity. The business environment demands that both sales reps and managers have strong business skills. Sales managers need to be able to understand complex business issues and help their sales reps view their business strategically.

Purpose-driven leadership in Africa

Managers need to realise that every of their actions and decisions either brings in money/profit or loss. Sales managers need to teach their salespeople how to make wiser decisions, plan better, and effectively allocate their resources based on customer needs and potential for growth.

Interpersonal and relationship skills

This is necessary to relate with their team-members, customers, stakeholders, bosses, peers, and other. A strong ability to build relationship and bridges is a sure instrument for outstanding success for a sales manager. In fact, once you are made a manager, over 80 per cent of your success will come from your interpersonal skills. Excellent communication skills, emotional intelligence, focusing on long-term benefits, paying attention to others, being aware of your environment/organisational culture and understanding the big-picture are some of the building blocks for developing and maintaining relationships


Sales managers who master these six essential sales management skill sets will always be on the podium and have the top performing team.

We have these programmes running in March: Doing More With Less: Personal Effectiveness for Sales Leaders/Managers; The Pharmacy Technician in The Contemporary Health Care System; Leading and Managing Pharmaceutical Sales Teams For Exceptional Performance and Professional Pharmaceutical/Medical Sales Representation Course. For more information, contact us via 08029606103(Call/SMS/WhatsAppy) or



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