Is your sales manager a firefighter?

What is a sales manager’s role, really?


Christoffer Hansen


Is your sales manager a firefighter?

What is a sales manager’s role, really?


Christoffer Hansen

”Okay, let’s do it like this. Next week you should do the following…”, interrupts the Sales Manager to his sales rep. Many Sales Managers are impatient and think they have all the answers. What will happen is that you will have a sales team being reactive and will wait for your commands. Companies spend thousands of dollars on new CRM systems, sales training programs, commercial excellence programs, and motivational speakers with one single purpose: growing the top-line. Investing in the frontline is great but do you have to overspend to achieve great results?

The sales manager is always on demand by the sales reps who want them to solve their problems, sales reps’ customers who want to shake hands with someone more senior, the organization who wants updates about the department’s forecast, access to reps and data. Sales managers look like firefighters, always putting out fires all day long instead of being with their team.

Always being on-demand and doing administrational work means that they have no time to do their real job which is to spend time with their sales team coaching and helping them win more deals. The sales manager needs to plan their time and resist the urge to answer every phone call and e-mail. If a person knows they have a set time with you, they tend to email and call less frequently. Silence the fire truck, plan for thinking, managing, and coaching.

The sales managers shouldn’t be fulltime firefighters, they should be full-time managers and coaches.


The key to success is to avoid over-complicating sales tools and processes, and to identify and focus on just a couple of behavioral changes that could help speed up your sales. Do you have the ambition to improve your top-line? Then, you are not alone. Many spend a lot of time and resources contemplating and trying to find reasonable ways to achieve this goal. This results in countless initiatives with no real results. While these initiatives may provide some benefits to the commercial frontline, they are often short-lived. Another month or two later, new initiatives are introduced – and the cycle starts all over.

No matter the industry, sales method, or CRM system, there is one thing that works every time:

Changing the behavior of the sales leadership team. If you want to change behavior within the organization, you need to change the conversation that you are having.


  1. Ask yourself what you want to change. This is often one of the four elements:
    • Increase the number of opportunities
    • Improve your win rate
    • Increase the average order size
    • Decrease your sales cycle time
  2. Work with your sales leadership team
    to change the communication between sales leaders and sales reps to help define the guiding/coaching elements that a sales leader should provide.
  3. Formalize the dialogues and ensure that they take place in an organized way.
  4. Support your sales leaders in being comfortable with the new dialogue, giving them room to improve and share their experience.
  5. Stick to the new way of working.

In addition to generating strong business results, focusing on your sales leaders and following the five steps is advantageous in other ways:

  • It allows sales leaders to become true leaders of sales. To guide and coach their team to success.
  • Sales become less of a one-man show and more of a team effort which increase employee engagement.
  • The process itself ensure ownership in the sales force as it is based on cocreation and utilizing practices that already exist within the organization.

Focusing on your sales leaders is not the only way to improve top-line performance, but it is an effective way to generate rapid top-line impact.


A sales manager at a publicly traded media company was presented with the difficult challenge to manage a new team with people that were underperforming, coming in late to the office, and not respecting the organization’s “ways of working”. The team had the highest sick leave compared to other sales teams.

The sales manager’s challenge was to resolve the issues in the team and create a team culture that was sustainable. While at the same time have the pressure from the organization to increase sales. The sales manager had to get to know each person in the team and learn what motivates them individually, what were their goals? Why did they underperform?

The first task was to get to know each member of the team to establish what each person needed in order to perform each day and guide them so that they could reach their individual- and team goals. Adapt to each of her team members and ask a lot of questions so that they could voice their opinion, which then was used to coach the members. As a sales manager, she needed to find out why a sales representative was underperforming and had an open dialogue about what the issue was, make an agreement with the person and follow up to check if the agreement was being fulfilled.

The sales manager was also tasked with being a role model for the team, showing them that she was a good sales representative herself by picking up the phone and showing them how it should be done. Displaying that she knew what she was talking about. When the sales manager got to know her team, they were also getting to know her, building their trust for her as a leader. At the same time, she had to manage the team, making sure that they reach their daily targets.

Building up a team takes time, and the end goal was to have a team with honest people who respect each other. Because every team member affects each other, i.e. if one team member is sick everyone else must work even harder to reach the daily goal. This resulted in the organization’s lowest sick leave because the people respected each other and the team culture and a double-digit sales growth. If a person didn’t respect the culture by being negative towards the
team, gossiping, or mistreating someone they would be removed from the team.  This way the sales manager ended up with a strong team that respected and worked harder for each other and themselves.


  • Motivate your sales representatives
  • Know your budgets, goals, and your own criteria for being successful. Put in a strategy to reach the goal
  • Be a role model- Pick up the phone and show them how to do it
  • Challenge the team to competitions. Build on a good team through teambuilding exercises


      • Get rid of sales representatives who destroy the team. People who blame others, gossip and criticize everything, can be damaging to the team. Make sure to get the right candidates in your team, so you can create the culture that you want
      • Don’t lead with fear. Don’t forget that you are managing people
      • Don’t hide results from salespeople, it is their job. This is their focus and goal. Be transparent
      • Don’t give salespeople too much administration. They like to connect and have interaction


It is a problem when the sales manager finds themselves always being on demand for the entire organization instead of focusing on coaching and managing their team and making sure that their sales representatives can do their job independently. A good sales manager knows how to adapt to different types of people and find what motivates them. At the same time, you need to be objective and set a framework that need to be followed. You must communicate clear goals that needs to be reached.

A lot of companies are interested in growing their top-line but fail because they launch too many initiatives or fail to communicate clearly to the people that need to change their ways of working. If you want to get results that last, you need to change the conversation you are having about the change.

Ask yourself what you want to change. Work with your team to change the communication and develop clear guidelines for what the sales leaders need to communicate to the sales representatives. Formalize the dialogue and support your sales leaders in the new dialogue. And make sure to stick to the new way of working.

If you want to learn more about Sales Management, feel free to reach out to us at Hanei Consulting Group.

If you want to learn more about Sales Management, feel free to reach out to us at Hanei Consulting Group.

About us

We are a team of independent professionals from diverse backgrounds who want to make consulting simple. We have extensive experience from strategy- and technology consulting firms, start-ups, and corporations, where we have solved problems in 50+ countries – from start-ups to Fortune 500 companies. We are the architects of your growth.