The role of a sales manager may be the hardest job in sales. From day one, you’re in the spotlight, ensuring every salesperson on your team hits their target. While coaching your team to sales success, your responsibilities include recruiting new talent and meeting the needs of key customers, all while collaborating with internal stakeholders such as marketing, product management and executives. No other job in an organization—besides maybe the CEO—holds such an accountable measure of success.

The highest-performing sellers often end up on a fast track to becoming sales managers. Although this promotion path might seem logical, there are different skill sets required for each role.  For example, fewer than 22 percent of organizations say that their sales managers consistently coach sellers to higher performance, according to CSO Insights’ 2018 Sales Talent Study. Sellers are responsible for only their own results; sales managers are responsible for the performance of the entire team. This difference calls attention to the importance of your development as a coach to motivate and guide your team to success. Let’s explore three key skill differences that distinguish sellers from sales managers.

  1. Sellers Make Sales—Managers Assess and Coach

Many sales managers develop a sixth sense for when their reps need help moving an opportunity forward. But you must resist the urge to take over the deal. As a sales manager, you are no longer judged on attaining your individual sales quota. Now, you measure success on the collective results of your entire team. If you’re like most sellers, one of your biggest challenges is you did not receive training in coaching or performance assessments when you were an individual contributor. You may not have even received effective coaching. As a result, you must shift gears from seller to sales leader to assess the needs of each member of your team with your sales management system. Even more, you need to coach the performance of each individual without stepping in and doing the work yourself. You must view sales coaching as a skill that requires ongoing development to win the confidence of your team and maximize their performance potential.

  1. Sellers Input Data—Managers Analyze Data

Sellers upload their sales data into CRM platforms. Sellers who become sales managers also need to know how to analyze the data to use these insights to coach their sales team, and may lack experience in this area. In fact, they may not even know the leading indicators of their organization’s sales processes.

Sales managers need to know how to analyze vast CRM data sets to accurately decipher the speed at which sellers move opportunities through the pipeline, where in the pipeline opportunities get stuck and what’s happening at each stage of the sales process. Consider a predictive analytics platform, such as Scout by Miller Heiman Group, to scale coaching seller opportunities and more easily key in on the move that moves the deal.

  1. Sellers Provide Insights to Buyers—Managers Drive Seller Performance

As buyers become more savvy at buying, they engage salespeople later in their path, after a buyer clarifies their needs. Still, many buyers want to connect with sellers who bring value and add insights to their situation. You may have been trained in this type of consultative selling approach. Now, you need to coach your team on how to conduct these valuable conversations with buyers earlier in the process. In addition, you need to model these skills to show your reps how to apply these techniques to different points in the sales process. This sales management coaching technique gives greater context to the salesperson, helps make these skills more tangible and teaches individual sellers how to adopt the behavior so they can become more effective.


Sellers and sales managers need a radically different set of skills to achieve success in their respective role. On the one hand sellers provide insights to their buyers, input data into CRM and focus on closing individual deals. On the other hand, sales managers assess the needs of their sellers, coach them to maximize their potential, analyze data to understand deal status and problem areas and set the processes that drive performance. Recognizing these different skills ensures that sales managers understand the impact of assessment and coaching on the long-term success of your team.

Miller Heiman Group specializes in helping sellers and sales managers maximize their success. With our Sales Coaching programs, we improve sales leaders’ ability to hold productive conversations with internal team members, creating a dynamic, collaborative environment where sellers feel supported. By improving coaching effectiveness with internal players and leveraging advanced sales technology, we help organizations build and develop the sales management strategies they need to produce high-performing sales teams.

Contact us to learn more about how Miller Heiman Group can help your organization.

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