The Ultimate Guide to Sales Management: Strategies, Tools, & Techniques to Skillfully Lead Your Sales Team
So, you are thinking of hiring a sales manager …
Solid sales management is central to effective sales execution and revenue growth. It’s important. But you don’t need to be a sales manager to effectively manage sales.
Many small business owners and leaders can (and have) dominated sales management of their own sales teams. Odds are, you already perform many sales management functions, anyway.
So, maybe you need to elevate your sales management skills instead.
Sales management is more than just directing people. It’s about being smart with resources and implementing repeatable systems that streamline the sales process, optimize the sales funnel, and drive the sales team to accelerated success.
So, wait. What is sales management, exactly?
You can do it. And we’re here to help. 💪
- Sales strategy, sales operations, and sales analysis are three primary responsibilities of sales management.
- Anyone can be an effective sales manager—even if it’s not their job title.
- Implementing the right CRM and sales tools will boost sales performance when used correctly.
- Successful sales management benefits your customers, sales team, and company—not just revenue.
Ready to dive in? Let’s go.
The 3 Key Aspects of Effective Sales Management
At a high level, the sales management process involves three main areas: sales operations, sales strategy, and sales analysis.
Depending on your business size and needs, you’ll find that certain areas require more attention than others. But since both your salespeople and your customers benefit from proper sales management—you’ll really want to nail each one.
Sales Operations: Building and Motivating Your Sales Force
Sales operations, in this context, is all about finding, developing, and properly motivating your salespeople.
The sales team is the backbone of your company, so, no pressure. Just tackle the logistical, structural, and practical challenges of building a solid sales team head-on, and you’ll be fine.
What sales operations involves:
- Recruiting and onboarding new hires: You’ll need to attract, assess, qualify—and then, retain—quality sales talent.
- Defining the sales team structure: How will you segment your sales roles, and how will they relate to each other? Implement the sales team structure that works best for your industry, team, and customers.
- Mentoring and motivating team members: Foster an open, connected, and growth-friendly sales environment.
- Providing incentives: Determine bonuses—monetary or otherwise—that incentivize exceptional (and consistent) performance in your team.
- Setting up sales enablement: Sales enablement is about equipping your sales team with the resources, tools, and info they need to effectively engage with prospects and close deals. So, you get them the necessary scripts, templates, onboarding materials, software apps—and more.
Phew, that’s quite a list. Where do you start?
How to get started with sales operations in three steps:
- Establish weekly sales meetings. Regular team-wide meetings are central to creating a collaborative environment and a growth-focused team. Consider a weekly Pipeline meeting (we do one here at Close), to discuss won and lost deals from the week. It’s a great learning—and coaching—opportunity.
- Design an effective onboarding process. Recruiting top talent only works if they stay. So, build an onboarding process that gets new hires selling (without drowning). Have them shadow you and other reps. Create a training manual that covers product information and common customer objections. And practice with roleplay, coaching them through sales scenarios.
- Choose (and implement) the right sales tools. The right sales tools can save your small business a world of hurt (and cash). Take a hard look at your team's and company's needs—and select accordingly. A team of two won’t require the same tools as a team of 50, but they might both benefit from a CRM or outreach app. (Check out our favorite sales tools here.)
Sales Strategy: Planning and Executing Sales Goals
Sales strategy covers the planning and execution of sales goals. Who will you sell to, how will your team engage with them, and what does the buying process look like? Answer these questions, and you’ll have a clear sales strategy.
What sales strategy involves:
- Creating clear ICPs: Ideal customer profiles represent the customers who are the happiest and most successful with your product. Crystal-clear ICPs help you target your efforts and refine your sales methods.
- Developing sales goals: Sales goals keep your team focused on relevant, growth-driving sales activities. They also help you better allocate resources—while boosting team motivation.
- Setting up lead generation: Setting up and iterating lead generation strategies will optimize your sales efforts while building relationships with potential customers.
- Building a strategy + pipeline stages: The sales pipeline guides rep actions and drives conversions. Strategize the pipeline stages to make it function properly—and effectively.
- Including automation, when possible: Automation, when used well, leads to higher productivity and increased efficiency, so utilize your existing tools—or select new ones—to save time and close more deals.
How to get started with sales strategy in three steps:
- Develop your ideal customer profile. If you don’t know who you’re selling to, how well will you sell to them? Consider the attributes (demographics, company sizes, pain points, goals, etc.) of your best customers—and focus on those attributes.
- Review tried-and-true sales strategies. Some things, like the wheel, just work. Certain sales strategies have been developed with small business challenges and pain points in mind. So, review those before wasting time building your strategy (or pipeline, lead gen process, whatever) from the ground up.
- Build one or two lead generation streams (to start). Get active on social media. Optimize your website for SEO. Build your cold outreach strategy. Pick one or two lead generation strategies to start, and dive in. Analyze your market (and competitors), and test what works (and what doesn’t). You need the leads—and analysis paralysis will not help. Just go for it!
Sales Analysis: Measuring Your Metrics to Increase Your Bottom Line
Sales analysis is about reviewing past sales data so you can make better decisions going forward. It helps you optimize your sales organization—and accelerate sales success.
What sales analysis involves:
- Tracking metrics + sales KPIs: You’ll first need to determine which key performance indicators matter to your sales team, based on your goals. Then, implement methods to track and report (ideally using a CRM).
- Gauging sales activity + performance: Track sales activity—individual and team, real-time and accumulated—and both individual and team performance.
- Forecasting sales: Using those metrics, KPIs, and performance data, you’ll need to predict future revenue and anticipate market changes that might affect existing and new products.
- Setting quotas: Quota setting ties closely to your sales goals (a part of sales strategy). You’ll need to set and communicate relevant quotas to properly motivate reps and drive growth.
How to get started with sales analysis in three steps:
- Determine what KPIs to track. To determine which KPIs to track, consider 1. your sales goals, 2. industry, and 3. team. There are many KPIs and metrics available—but tracking too many, or the wrong ones, complicates reports and forecasting accuracy. (This article covers 22 essential sales KPIs, and who they’re for.)
- Decide on—and stick to—regular reporting intervals. Based on goal timelines or the nature of the metrics themselves (e.g., MRR), you need to set—and consistently execute— reporting frequencies. If performance is struggling, or outreach activities slumping, you might want to reevaluate weekly, or at least monthly. Don’t wait for end-of-year reviews.
- Select the right sales analysis tool. Again, what are your needs (and budget)? You might choose a spreadsheet for sales analysis, a specific app, or a CRM (like Close) that can track your most important metrics and activities—while streamlining other areas of your sales process.
Now you know the three key aspects of sales management, what they involve, and how to get started. Let’s discuss eight best practices for successful sales management, guaranteed to bolster your efforts.
Sales Management Strategies: 8 Tips and Best Practices for Successful Sales
Now you know "what" sales management involves. How do you put that into action? How do you optimize sales performance, streamline the sales cycle, and properly motivate your sales team members?
That’s easy. (just kidding, it’s not.) You can follow these eight tips to take your sales management efforts from “meh” to “wow”—just be diligent and apply them consistently.
The success of your sales department depends on it.
1. Record and Document Everything (Yes, Everything!)
Run your sales team like you are going to be audited by the IRS. But not just the financials—everything. Every call. Every email. Every SMS message. Every workflow. Every part of your process. Every (fill in the blank).
Documenting things from the get-go will help you see where improvements need to be made. It gives you a "history" to look back on, so you can build on your mistakes—not repeat them. It even helps with onboarding new sales reps, as you can quickly bring them up to speed on your successful (and unsuccessful) sales steps.
Don’t worry, you won’t need a full-time note-taker to do this job. Just build consistent, user-friendly recording processes into your everyday sales workflows.
The top choice (obviously) is a CRM. CRMs provide key sales support as they store, organize, and update customer interactions—logging emails, calls, notes, and other outreach—and lifting the note-taking pressure off your sales representatives.
Close offers built-in generative AI that will even transcribe and summarize your sales calls via the Call Assistant feature. Pretty neat, huh? Let the CRM record and analyze your calls—and extract the qualitative data. Then, use those insights to take action.
If you aren’t "team CRM," find another easy way to record and document everything. You can use a transcription tool to make it easier. Or, get smart with your Google Workspace.
Whatever the tool, set up guidelines for your reps as they document activities, objections, everything—so the data is uniform and easy to digest.
The main point—if you missed it—is to document everything. Hoard the info and insights, analyze them regularly, and adjust accordingly.
2. Create Clear, SMART Sales Goals for Your Team
Wishful thinking and sales don’t mix. The best sales goals—the ones that actually move the needle—are SMART.
- Specific: Specific goals define what needs to be accomplished, who’s responsible for it, and any relevant steps to achieve it.
- Measurable: Measurable goals are quantifiable. You must be able to track progress (via KPIs or metrics) and report it regularly.
- Achievable: Achievable goals are realistic, and consider your own limitations. Stretch your team—but don’t make them snap.
- Relevant: Relevant goals fit your sales strategy and current situation. In other words, relevant goals matter to you.
- Time-based: Time-based goals have deadlines. And in sales, quarterly or annual markers often make the most sense.
But how do you develop a SMART sales goal?
First, figure out what areas need improvement (i.e., what areas need a SMART goal). Do this by:
- Reviewing key performance indicators (KPIs)
- Identifying leaks in your sales funnel
- Analyzing the gap between bottom and top performers (plus the gap between current and desired team performance)
Then, you can set up SMART goals to fill the gaps and boost team performance quickly.
Second, you’ll need to determine a reasonable sales target. Think about target numbers (e.g., increase sales by $25k), along with a sustainable timeline (e.g., six months).
Always consider your current position in light of your desired position. You may need to set the bar low at first. Aiming too high and destroying morale will set you back—way back.
Once you’ve worked out these details? Time to develop the SMART plan of action that will get you to the target.
Third, and finally, write out your SMART goal. Be clear and concise. Make sure you include all the relevant details, including how you’ll measure progress to keep everything on track. You can start with this sales goal template:
Boost [KPI] by [number or percent] within [deadline] via [strategy or action plan you’ll use to get it done].
Solid, SMART sales goals require lots of careful planning. You need to balance the stretch—pushing your reps and resources—without sending everything over the edge.
Just be "smart" about it. 😉
3. Set Up Clear Guidelines for Using Your CRM
The CRM is the single source of truth for prospect and customer data. It keeps everything online, in line, and on time with customer outreach and your sales pipeline.
Your salespeople should be living out of this tool. It’s your responsibility to set the CRM up to support and complement—not disrupt—their daily sales activities.
First off, choose a CRM that is built for high-performing sales teams (like Close). If you’re still deciding which CRM is best for you, include your team in the selection process. This creates buy-in and ensures that the CRM matches their needs, and even, working terminology.
Then, communicate to your team that the new CRM is the standard, not an option, and show the advantages the technology brings. Demonstrate how it simplifies their outreach, note-taking, and data input, and highlight the tools that will make their workdays easier.
And then, back up your stance with consistent CRM training and best practices—during onboarding and beyond. Encourage productive CRM habits—write out best practices on updating contacts, using Custom Activities and labels, creating lead lists, and other tools.
The good news is that most modern CRMs have mastered their centralizing role in everyday sales efforts. They pull in data and output insights automatically—when used correctly.
4. Provide Sales Training and Mentorship for Your Team
Attracting, developing, and retaining top sales talent doesn’t happen by accident. And top talent seeks out roles that help them grow.
Your sales training program might include sales coaching, mentoring, group and individual training, practice, field evaluations, and a training manual (with scripts, objections, etc.).
But that’s just the jumping-off point of sales training.
Nick Persico, Director of Sales and Marketing here at Close, swears by the weekly Pipeline Meeting. In that meeting, he pulls up the Pipeline view (via the CRM) and asks each team member to talk about three deals that they lost and three that they’re working on. This allows reps to commiserate with and learn from each other. And it also gives you (the sales manager) insights into any bottlenecks in your pipeline.
Next, set up 1:1 meetings with each rep. Remember that active listening and empathy are key skills for any successful sales leader. So, during those one-on-ones, ask open-ended questions—then shut up. Are they hoping to grow in X area of sales? Do they keep tripping over Y spot in your pipeline?
Listen actively, then follow through with educational resources or additional skills training.
What about in the day-to-day? Build coaching (and shadowing) straight into your workflow. Use leaderboards to motivate your team and build friendly competition. Just get your reps involved—and learning—constantly.
As the sales leader, you get to create the no-BS environment that will foster healthy work dynamics—and ultimately, a functioning sales organization. So, if you want to boost rep retention and build deal-closing machines? Invest in their training. You won’t regret it.
5. Find the Right Sales Management Tools to Make Your Job Easier
Don’t worry—you aren’t alone in this fight. The right tools and sales management software will provide clear insights into the sales pipeline, streamline team activity, boost performance—and help you get the data you need to do your job.
In short, they’ll make life easier.
The obvious, foundational tool you’ll need? A customer relationship management system, CRM for short. (And we aren’t just saying that because we sell one.)
When selecting a CRM, look for the option that is built with your team size, sales plan, and company needs in mind.
You’ll also want to consider:
- Customization capabilities: Does it have the requisite flexibility to shape to your unique sales process and goals?
- Must-have features: Does it offer your top three to five must-haves, such as follow-up automation or advanced calling features?
- Pricing options: Does the pricing tier match your budget? And can you access a free trial?
- Integration opportunities: Will it integrate with your other must-use sales tools?
- Quality customer support: When things go wrong, can you rely on the company for help?
Close was designed for SMBs and startups. Our CRM streamlines the sales process and rep workflows, boasts killer communication features, and offers stellar customer support—all with a user-friendly interface.
But we’ve got some good competition, if you’re not an SMB or startup. Pipedrive services very small teams—very well. And you’ve got HubSpot—the medium-to-large business icon. (Plus a few others, you can check them out here.)
There are other types of sales management software—like social networking tools—but the CRM needs to be your foundation. Get that in place, set up those guidelines, and you’ll see a productivity boost—and a lift from your workload—guaranteed.
6. Implement Frequent Sales Reporting
Sales reports. Some love ‘em. Some love to hate ‘em (or at least, love to hate creating ‘em). Whatever your stance, sales reporting is absolutely necessary for successful sales operations and accurate sales forecasting.
As a sales manager, it’s your responsibility to execute frequent sales reporting.
How frequent? That depends on the sales metrics you need to track, overall performance, and the type of report. Your SMART sales goals can also impact frequency.
But generally, overarching metrics like net sales and deal size deserve monthly tracking (at a minimum). And more specific activities, like calls made or emails sent, should be measured more often (daily or weekly).
How do you make reporting as pain-free as possible? Use the CRM system (and make sure your reps use it, too). A robust CRM will have sales dashboards that provide real-time, visual representations of your most important sales data. (And you can/should create one catered to your sales team.)
Your CRM might even offer more comprehensive reports that dig below the dashboard’s top lines, like via a sales funnel report.
But, of course, you can also write out your own sales reports. Use a template, and compile your data—with the audience in mind—then represent it visually. Be sure to explain the report so it makes sense, and ideally, provide direction for the next steps.
7. Practice Effective Sales Pipeline Management and Cleanup
An effective sales pipeline turns leads into customers at a consistent clip. How? It allows your reps to track and manage sales opportunities as they move through the sales process.
Manage that pipeline by keeping it organized, and clear of debris.
To note, it’s a lot easier to manage the sales pipeline with a robust CRM, like Close. But regardless of the tool you use, follow these four steps—your pipeline will thank you for it:
- Build (and maintain) a clear sales process. Define the repeatable steps your team can use to push leads through the pipeline. A well-defined process shows reps exactly what actions to take at each stage, in order to convert customers and avoid bottlenecks.
- Focus on relevant metrics. Review the goals you’ve set for each stage in your sales pipeline, and implement methods to track progress. This data-backed approach is key to optimization—and accurate forecasting. Monitor metrics like pipeline value, average deal size, sales pipeline velocity, conversion rate per stage, and rep performance.
- Unblock the blockages. Stagnation sucks the life out of your sales pipeline. Cull those stuck leads—and implement best practices to prevent them in the first place. Take a hard look at your qualification and lead gen approaches, and get reps on the same page about follow-up frequency.
- Review and report on your sales pipeline. How many leads did you lose last month? Which stage has the most leaks? How many cold leads are blocking the pipeline? Capture the data and communicate the results to your sales team and leadership. That way, you can discuss obstacles and brainstorm the next steps—together.
Strategic, consistent pipeline management (+ cleanup) will keep things running smoothly—while reducing the “I can’t close enough deals” complaints from your team.
8. When You’re Ready, Hire Your First Sales Manager
Hiring the wrong person (or the right person) at the wrong time can kill momentum and throw the entire operation off balance. Founders and small business owners want—and need—to avoid that.
So, when are you ready to take on a sales manager?
I’m a big advocate of the Founder-led sales process. Sales is essential to growth—and if you (or one of your co-founders) doesn’t understand the market, the customer, and the sales process? Your product isn’t going anywhere.
Before even hiring your first sales rep, you need to have repeatable, semi-successful sales steps in place. You can’t outsource this part—either externally or internally. Just get it done, with the help of this guide.
You’ll also want to have SMART goals in place, and a productive team structure that’s delivering results. Why? You need to know where you’re going (generally)—and how—before you bring on additional leadership.
Then ideally, only hire the Sales Manager (or Head of Sales) when, either:
- You’ve hired and onboarded two or more profitable salespeople
- You’ve hit $1M ARR
These two checkpoints ensure that you’re only hiring a sales manager when a sales manager can generate significant growth, and direct your sales team through an already functioning sales process.
Here, I won’t dive deeply into who you should hire, but keep in mind that quality candidates will have strong sales track records, solid leadership skills, and a deep understanding of customer behavior—and the sales process.
For more, check out how to create the job description—and set qualification standards.
Final Thoughts: The Benefits of Successful Sales Management for Your Business
Have you noticed something? Managing a sales team has nothing to do with the title "sales manager." Odds are, if you own or lead a small business, you already assume several of these roles and responsibilities for your sales team!
So, why not keep going?
Anyone can be an effective sales manager with the right tools, strategies, and persistence. You just better commit—and do it well—because effective sales management is key to your rise (or fall) in sales.Here’s how effective sales management will affect your business (beyond your revenue numbers):
- Rewards hard workers and top performers. Successful sales management provides incentives (hint: impressive bonuses and commission checks), plus praise and encouragement, to reward exceptional performance. This improves employee retention.
- Inspires the sales department. Beyond the bonus $$$, your team will take note of your work to make their work more streamlined and efficient. Morale boost, check! ✅
- Makes it easier to hit sales targets and quotas. Your sales team is working harder, and sales management helps them work smarter. Persistent improvement will help you reach your goals.
- Prepares and grooms future leaders. As your company grows, you’ll need people to step up and coach others and improve the sales system—and who better than your own built-in-house top performers?
- Improves customer relationships. Effective sales management supports strong customer relationships in myriad ways. From effective follow-ups, to enthusiastically engaged reps—and beyond—which leads to more referrals and upsells.
So, really, sales management matters. And now? You’re prepared to do it yourself—or bring on the right person to do it for you. Win-win, really.
But every super sales manager needs his or her toolkit, so, grab yours. Download the action-oriented Sales Management Toolkit—where you can find an onboarding schedule, call review checklist, sales scripts, templates, and more—for free.