How to manage sales teams and be a good leader

By 26/11/2019 September 23rd, 2021 No Comments

How to grow and become a successful sales team manager

In order to maximise team results, it is important to keep in mind the attributes of the sales managers. According to a study published in the Harvard Business Review, 69% of the sellers who achieved and exceeded their initial targets stated that their managers were “excellent” or “above the average”. 

What are the attributes that make sales managers to be good leaders? Broadly speaking, good sales managers are charismatic people, with leadership skills, capable of inspiring team members to become their best version, individually and as a team. They have to be positive, and they must be able to face complex situations boldly and bluntly. Besides, their decisions have to be made based on data and not emotions. Their openness to the exchange of ideas and adaptability are two other vital features, as well as assertiveness and good manners. Sales managers are also team members who make each individual feel important and, at the same time, understand the needs of the group and encourage sales teams to strive for success. 

Not all good sales leaders are born with innate talent: there are those who become good leaders with tenacity and effort. In order to achieve this, it is necessary to identify the aspects that distinguish good sales managers, recognize their own qualities and work to overcome weaknesses.


Aspects that distinguish good sales leaders

Knowledge and sales experience

The knowledge of the leaders about the market and the sellers’ tasks is the cornerstone on which sales teams build their relationship with their leaders. Therefore, it is essential that leaders know their market. Whether from their own professional experience or from their documentation work, they need to show teams with facts, and not just with words, that they know what they do. Only this way employees will trust managers’ leadership.

Strategic collective and individual thinking

Managers must define targets for the team that allow each seller to demonstrate their individual success and abilities. Managers must create dynamics in which the effort and personal results are visible and publicly recognized and, at the same time, perceived as a collective success. In this context, gamification can be a very useful tool Strategic collective and individual thinking. Managers must define targets for the team that allow each seller to demonstrate their individual success and abilities. Managers must create dynamics in which the effort and personal results are visible and publicly recognized and, at the same time, perceived as a collective success. In this context, gamification can be a very useful tool.

Creativity and mental flexibility

The ability to think innovatively and adapt to circumstances will allow managers to solve the problems of their sellers instead of being part of these problems. This will make employees respect managers’ criteria.

Active listening and interest in the people in charge

In order to keep team members motivated, managers need to know them well. They have to ask employees about their interests, preferences and concerns; they need to listen to them without judging, and remember what they have said. This way, it will be possible to diagnose the real needs of the sales teams and, at the same time, to show them that their opinion matters.

Leadership adaptability

A leader cannot act unilaterally or delegate everything. The best leaders are those who take responsibility for making decisions independently and quickly when the situation requires it and, at the same time, those who are not afraid to encourage the participation of the team in the decisions that directly affect them.

Empathy and coaching skills

Sales managers are like coaches: they must perceive the specific skills of each member of their sales team and enhance them without trying to transform them. Good leaders do not force their sellers to be like them or to do their job in the same way as they would do. Better results will be achieved if the way of working of the teams is respected, as long as they are aligned with the ethics of the company and effective in achieving the established goals.

Authenticity and sincerity

Team members can only identify themselves with their managers if they feel that they know who they are, so it is important that managers allow their employees to know them. That does not mean that managers have to share their intimacy with their employees or become best friends. Showing their way of thinking and outlook on life in an honest way is more than enough. Employees will be grateful if they know who they work with. 

Ethics and optimism

The best leaders inspire and, therefore, achieve respect that goes beyond the hierarchy. Managers must have the ability to spread a positive attitude towards adversities, but also to manage conflicts in a fair and respectful way. Only then employees will respect and trust their managers.

The biggest challenges for commercial directors

The capabilities of sales managers are not the only factors contributing to their success. These are the three biggest challenges that any commercial director must face.

– Recruitment and employment

The ability to look for talent and retain it is essential to create good sales teams. It is not about hiring the most competitive sellers and making them fight against each other. It is about combining characters, knowledge and experience in order to form a cohesive ecosystem in which all employees can find their own place. When the dynamics and personalities fit together, work flows and employees receive positive feedback form each other. When the opposite situation happens, sellers can boycott each other and that will have negative impact in the results. Once a good team has been created, retaining talent becomes a paramount necessity and that is only achieved by making employees feel properly valued.

– Companies culture

The culture of the company affects very much in the work of the sellers. Having a work motivation plan that contemplates specific actions to encourage the maximum emotional involvement of employees can be key in this regard. In addition, companies must do the following so that the leadership of the sales teams is carried out in the best conditions:

  • Promoting equality among employees while avoiding favouritisms.
  • Rewarding instead of punishing. Threats emotionally exclude individuals from any team;
  • Planning business goals realistically and taking into account the needs of the sellers;
  • Do not tell employees that they have to do something “because I said so”. Basing decisions on logical reasons reinforces the motivation of those who must make them.
  • Encouraging business ethics, and stimulating the “sell well” concept over the “sell more” strategy. Only this way, trust relationships with customers can be built in order to facilitate the work of long-term sellers.

If you are interested in team work motivation and you want to know how a motivation plan is made, do not miss our article: “How to develop a successful employee motivation strategy“.

– Compensation and benefits

45% of the fastest growing companies invest more than 6% of their sales budget to the achievement of the long-term goals of their sellers. That implies developing bonus systems – sales commissions or productivity rewards – which make employees feel rewarded for their efforts. Recent data show that quarterly bonuses are more effective than annual bonuses, so the implementation of these types of strategies can decisively affect the success of the sales managers.­ 

Técnicas para liderar un equipo de ventas | Playmotiv


Gamification for sales: compensation and benefits

According to a research carried out by the Harvard Business School, productivity bonuses in the remuneration system of employees make sales increase 18% more than in those where sellers only receive commissions. This is due to the fact that productivity bonuses turn work into challenge, so the intrinsic motivation of the teams is encouraged.

Gamification is a useful motivational tool that can turn ordinary work into a space full of fun and healthy competition, where sellers have the opportunity to win awards and feel publicly recognized for their well-done work. It is also an original solution that allows sales managers to keep their teams’ motivation high in a sustainable, fair and objective way.

These are some of the advantages that gamification offers as a compensation and benefit tool:

  • It transforms unclear and long-term goals such as “sell more” or “achieve better results” into defined, measurable and short-term goals, so sellers can focus on their tasks, visualize their success and obtain direct awards for achieving their goals.
  • It rewards the obtained results but also the effort made to achieve them. The public display of performance rankings throughout the sales process increase the value of each sale and not just the final figures.
  • It provides direct, objective, public and measurable feedback to sellers, which also works as a system of acknowledgement and emotional bonus. Besides, it gives employees some perspective of their results and avoids them the uncertainty of having to wait until the end of a sales cycle to compare results.
  • It allows companies to modify the pace of the games to suddenly improve motivation thanks to temporary challenges and their associated awards. This tool, with the help of storytelling, adds an extra dose of urgency and emotion to these temporary goals, so they seem even more interesting and attractive.


This is what we do in Paymotiv

In Playmotiv, we combine storytelling and technology to boost the motivation of sales teams and we help them to achieve their goals in the most simple and funniest way. Thanks to our smartphone app, players have permanent access to their performance results easily and conveniently through their phone. This way, they can not only compare themselves with the rest of participants and know what is going on with the competition in any moment, but they can also manage their own rewards directly and quickly. All this takes place in the context of a narrative plot capable of adding a playful dimension to ordinary work, so that daily work becomes an exciting adventure.

If you found this article interesting, please check “How does Playmotiv organise motivational dynamics?