B2B Sales

Sales Team Management: Everything You Need to Know

A friendly commission plan is never enough to drive a sales team forward. The team needs a good manager. 

That manager has to do more than dictate action and measure performance. A sales manager is a coach, a confidant, and a leader. They have their employees’ backs, teach them new skills, and motivate them through hard times. 

So, as a sales manager, you have your work cut out for you. But don’t worry. Leading a team can be one of the most gratifying and exciting periods of your career. 

Because of your efforts, you get to watch your team, filled with sales reps who remind you of your scrappier self, grow and bond into an effective unit. 

Here, you will learn everything you need to know about managing a sales team, from training your team members to motivating them, so that you can effectively nurture the next superstars of your organization. 

Hiring and Training

If you hire people who aren’t right for the job, you are setting yourself up for failure. And even if you hire the best sales reps out there, you still need to enact a well-crafted training program. 

New and veteran reps alike have a lot to learn, and you need to facilitate that learning throughout their career with you.

Hire Coachable People

First off, it is critical to find sales reps who have an improvement mindset. They should want to learn from their peers and superiors and be open to both criticism and advice. 

This coachability is especially important in sales since your reps will be spending a lot of time with you and more experienced members of the company in training sessions, mock calls, and call reviews. 

In those events, you want the advice to permeate, not shatter against a rock-hard ego. 

Other traits to look for when interviewing sales reps include:  

Curiosity: A curious sales rep will spend long hours studying the subjects necessary for success. They will become experts in the product, the customer, the industry, and your company’s sales processes and strategies. 

How to spot it: A curious rep will have plenty of questions ready for you at the end of their interview. You can also test their curiosity by asking what they know about the company or the industry. Their answer will reveal how much research they did before the meeting. 

Resiliency: Your reps constantly face failure. They get shut down on cold calls. They fail to close deals. You need a sales rep who will be able to take these failures in stride, learning from them and trying again tomorrow. 

How to spot it: Look for sales reps with a history of work where they faced failure. Also, ask them questions like, “What would you do if you did not get this job?” or “Tell me about one time you failed at something.” Their reactions and stories should help you gauge if they have a resilient spirit. 

Active Listening: Sales reps spend most of their time trying to understand the problems and goals of their prospects. So, they need to have good listening skills. 

How to spot it: Well, if they interrupt you repeatedly, you know they have weak listening skills. Hire sales reps who make you feel heard in the interview. Another sign of listening skills is asking relevant questions during the conversation. 

The four traits above are the most indicative of sales success, but there are other important characteristics such as competitiveness, empathy, and quickness on their feet. 

Prioritize Training and Onboarding

Your new hires have a lot to learn if they want to be experts in the position and industry. So, you need to facilitate that learning with a training and onboarding plan. 

Start With a Great First Impression

On their first day, try not to leave your sales rep at their desk, wondering what to do with their time. Instead, introduce them to the team, handle the HR paperwork, and take them to lunch. 

Also, schedule some informational meetings between them and the other department heads, so they can learn the broad strokes of the company and start to feel comfortable. 

Start Training Them (Here’s How)

Then, it’s time to begin the training period, which should cover the following: 

  1. Product Knowledge: In-depth product knowledge allows them to find creative ways for the product to serve specific client needs.  
  1. Industry Knowledge: People are more likely to buy from an expert, so industry knowledge helps reps build rapport with prospects. This is crucial, especially when 75 percent of buyers say sales reps fail to demonstrate knowledge of their industry structure.
  1. Sales Skills: Teach them how to overcome objections and make effective cold calls
  1. Sales Process: A standardized sales process enables you to spot common holdups. To maintain consistency, new reps should follow the same steps as the rest of the team. 
  1. Prospect Qualification: You want them to know how to spot a qualified prospect and avoid wasting time talking to low-chance buyers. So, make sure they understand your Ideal Customer Profile
  1. Technology: Assign them a buddy who will help them navigate the new sales tools. 
  1. Competitive Landscape: They need to be familiar with the competitors that might come up in conversation with a prospect. They also need to know what makes your solution better. 

They can learn all of this through attending shadow sessions, reading through the company material (white papers, case studies, sales enablement), and attending presentations with you or other members of the team. 

Pro Tip: Have them sign up for popular industry newsletters—this will provide material for conversations with prospects. 

Of course, the learning process has to extend beyond their first month. You should continue teaching and motivating them to learn. Also, remember to check in on each sales rep throughout their training. No two sales reps are the same. 

Specialize Early

When you segment your sales team into specialized roles, you take advantage of each rep’s unique talent. Specialization also allows sales reps to master one particular skill

For example, an inbound qualification rep will become exceptional at qualifying and booking meetings with already interested buyers. On the other hand, your prospecting rep will master generating interest from ice-cold prospects. 

To create this specialization, you can either hire specialists or develop them by recognizing the strengths of each individual. 

Let’s look at an example of hiring a specialist.

Imagine you take on a rep who has experience as a Sales Development Representative (SDR) and excels at chatting with strangers. Since they have already mastered the necessary prospecting skills, they would be great in the same role at your company.

Now, here’s an example of developing a specialist

Perhaps that same SDR shows a knack for relationship building after their first six months. Realizing they would thrive in longer sales cycles and grow bored in shorter ones, you reason that they would make a great Enterprise Account Executive. Then, you ensure the rep gets proper training for their future position. 

Have Your Team Read Sales Books 

After the formal training process ends, it is important to continue educating your reps. Even better, you can inspire them to educate themselves. 

Books are a great way for them to do that. To start, here are some of the best sales books out there. 

“New Sales Simplified” by Mike Weinberg

Every sales rep involved in prospecting should read this book. It lays out a very effective cold calling strategy that helps you instantly come across as a problem solver when talking to new prospects. 

“How to Win Friends and Influence People” by Dale Carnegie

This classic would benefit anyone in today’s society. In it, Dale Carnegie unabashedly teaches you how to make people like you, which is a very important skill for salespeople. Dale also embellishes each chapter with stories of how successful people like Abraham Lincoln or Theodore Roosevelt used these habits to reach their lofty goals.  

“ Spin Selling” by Neil Rackham

Reps who work high-priced enterprise deals should give this book a read. The book teaches you about SPIN selling, a consultant-like approach to sales that relies on asking these 4 types of questions.

spin selling book

These three books make a good starting batch, but to further satisfy your reps’ hunger for knowledge, check out this list of best sales books

Team Structure and Processes

Even if they are not designed around the needs of your reps, team structure and processes make up the environment in which they work and are a factor in their success. 

Build a Sales Team Based on Your Needs

When it comes to building your sales team, there is no one-size-fits-all approach. Different companies have different goals, budgets, scalability, and sizes.

Therefore, they need different sales team members that agree with these particular attributes. For example, a small ten-person company that only has a potential market size of about 1000 enterprise accounts probably doesn’t need to hire 10 prospecting sales reps.

The reps would burn through the list of 1000 within the first week. Instead, the company should focus on acquiring relationship-building sellers who know how to work enterprise deals. 

For simplicity’s sake, we can say that most companies fall into one of two camps.

They are either established companies that have standardized their processes or newer companies (usually startups) that may still be working out their internal processes.

Each type of company needs different sales reps. 

Older, process-driven companies need growers: sales reps who do well with sticking to a defined process.

Newer companies need builders: sales reps with an entrepreneurial spirit who can help build processes and strategy. These reps should be leaders who are comfortable working cross-departmentally to create processes that can be passed down to new reps. 

Set up Your Sales Model and Team Structure

There are plenty of sales structures to choose from. The right one depends on your company’s needs. So, here are the two most popular structures and when to use them. 

The Island Model 

This model has salespeople report directly to the founder or CEO of the company, without a manager in between. 

The island model works well for smaller companies that don’t have the resources to hire a manager just yet. These reps will usually also be growers and contribute to the formation of the company’s pipeline and process. 

The sales reps need a higher level of experience since they will be juggling every sales task, from prospecting to closing.

The one drawback of this model is the lack of specialization. 

The Assembly Line Model

In this model, salespeople have very specialized roles. Here is how it works. 

One rep might prospect for new leads. Another might answer inbound marketing requests. 

They both will pass the qualified prospects onto another rep, usually an Account Executive (AE). The AE will then take the prospect through the rest of the sales cycle until they close the deal and pass them to the Account Manager, who will manage the account. 

A lot of B2B SaaS brands use this model. The assembly line works well for managers who want to easily spot roadblocks in each part of the sales process. It also creates a clear line of promotion for the reps. 

A drawback is that your less experienced reps doing the prospecting might grow bored if they aren’t promoted within a year. 

Strategically Assign Roles, Responsibilities, and Territories

You want your sales reps to have complete clarity on their role in the sales team. This clarity of purpose prevents anyone from stepping on any toes or spending time on a task that has no benefits for the team. 

To cultivate this comprehension, it is best to strictly outline the responsibilities and territories of each sales rep. 

Responsibilities

Each rep should know how far they are supposed to take the prospect. A Business Development Representative, for example, should not be demoing the solution to a prospect if that is the job of the Account Executive. 

Also, let your sales reps know who is in charge of upsells, and who gets the commission. Is it the Account Manager or the AE? When questions like these pop-up, make sure to consult upper management to come up with a fair rule, and then stay consistent. 

Territories

You want each sales rep to understand which prospects they are authorized to contact. Without this segmentation, one rep might call on another rep’s prospect whom they were about to close. This can lead to animosity between team members, which hurts morale. 

Some ways to split up territories are by: 

  • Location: Split it up by city or region. 
  • Size: Split it up by company size or revenue.
  • Hybrid: If you have a lot of leads and reps, you can segment by a combination of location and size. 

Make sure to talk to your sales reps before making the split. Better yet, go through the segmentation process in a meeting room together. That way, no one feels like they were unfairly handed the bad accounts. 

Develop a Scalable Sales System

A scalable sales process is one that can easily handle increases in sales staff or leads without breaking. 

Scalability has its benefits: 

It Encourages Growth: When you are certain of the ability of your sales processes to handle more leads, you can instruct marketing to ramp up their lead generation efforts. 

It Increases Market Share: If your product is highly desirable, and the only thing stopping you from putting it in every one of your prospects’ hands is a lack of manpower, you can easily change that. You can just hire more reps without your sales system falling apart. 

If you have an inside sales team, you are already primed for scalability. And, you can improve your ability to take over the world with a few techniques.  

  • Speed up your sales cycles – allows you to spend less time on each prospect. 
  • Identify your Ideal Customer Profile – helps you focus your effort on the customers who are most likely to buy. 
  • Create a repeatable process – When each sales rep follows the same process, they become familiar with it, and therefore do it more efficiently. 

By implementing these techniques, you will facilitate the process of scaling your business.

Operations Management

So, you have created your sales structure and training program. Now that you have the systems in place, it’s time to operate within them. Here is how to excel at the day-to-day management of your sales team. 

Make Your Goals and Quotas High but Realistic

Extensive research shows that goal-setting increases work performance by 10-25 percent. However, not all goals are created equal. 

When creating quotas for your sales team, it is best to set high, yet attainable quotas. 

If the quotas are too low, your team will achieve them with little effort and relax through the rest of the month or quarter.

If the goals are too high, your team might decide to give up one-third of the way into the time-period because they feel their effort won’t yield success. 

The diversity of goals matters too. Try to include different types of goals in your mix other than revenue closed/won or meetings booked. 

If you throw some others in there, such as daily goals like conversations held or dials made, you give your sales reps more chances to hit their marks. These small wins help them keep up motivation. 

You should also include learning goals so that your team keeps improving. An example of this type is attending a certain number of shadow sessions each month. 

When you give your reps mini-quests along their march to the ultimate goal – the quota – the game of selling becomes more addicting. 

Never Miss a One-on-One

One-on-ones are the best times to learn about your employees. Here are some topics you should focus on:

  • What are their career goals?
  • What are they struggling with?
  • What skills do they want to learn?

Familiarity with the needs and desires of your team members will enable you to provide them with personalized management and support, thereby strengthening your relationship and their dedication to the company.

Here are some tips for hosting effective 1:1 meetings. 

  • Try to schedule 60-minute blocks for1:1s that will last 45 minutes. That way, if your sales rep needs extra help, you can provide it. 
  • Be present. If you aren’t going over metrics, shut your laptop, put away your phone, and focus your attention on your employee. They will respect you for it, and this active listening fosters a stronger bond. 
  • Ask some personal questions. How is everything going? What is something I might be able to help with? What are your long-term dreams and goals? 
  • Never cancel. Instead, reschedule. This way, your rep knows they are a priority. 

Such 1:1 meetings can also help you spot roadblocks in your sales process that are preventing closes, so go into them with a genuine interest in your employees’ work. 

Give Your Reps Detailed Feedback

As many as 75% of employees think feedback is valuable. Still, they usually don’t get enough of it. 

Feedback only during mid-year reviews isn’t enough. Consistent feedback is more effective, and with it, your employees can make adjustments to their tactics each week and grow as salespeople. 

However, not all feedback is created equal. Vague feedback is ineffective and confusing. Good feedback is clear and actionable. Your reps need to know what they need to improve and how. 

For example, if you think your sales rep needs to work on igniting interest earlier in the call with cold prospects, tell them that clearly, and maybe give them a copy of the book, “New Sales Simplified.” 

Also, how you phrase your feedback is important. Start with a compliment and follow with an “and statement” about how they can improve to dispense sweet, easily digestible feedback. 

Example of Amazing Feedback 

Here’s a great example of how to phrase feedback to make it effective.

“{Name, you have a real knack for getting strangers to like you during your cold calls. I don’t know how you do it. And I think, if you could get them as interested in seeing the product as they are in talking sports with you, you would be unstoppable.”

Then, you would provide real actionable tips on how to improve in this area. 

That way, your sales rep leaves the meeting feeling confident and excited instead of embarrassed and hopeless. 

Empower Your Reps With Tools and Resources

A survey of 700 sales reps has found that salespeople spend just 35.2% of their time actually selling—i.e., interacting with prospects. 

Unfortunately, sales reps can become bogged down in more administrative work such as researching prospects, looking for companies, and updating their CRMs. 

But, thanks to the explosion of the sales technology industry, there are hundreds of tools to help automate these repetitive, low-value tasks so that reps can spend more time directly affecting revenue. 

2 Easy-to-Implement Sales Tools That Give Impressive Results


Here are two great examples of such tools to get started.

  1. Soleadify: This lead generation tool helps your reps prospect smarter by filling their pipeline with companies that match your ideal customer profile. This way, your reps can focus on dialing instead of searching for and vetting potential leads. 
  1. Salesloft: This sales engagement software helps your reps send out more emails by helping you templatize common email sequences. So, all your reps have to do is personalize a few parts of each email template, then click send, instead of writing the entire email from scratch. 

Pro Tip: Align with marketing and ask them for sales enablement content that will help push prospects through the pipeline. For example, maybe you need case studies to convince interested buyers that you can truly produce results.  

With the right tools, your sales reps will work smarter and faster. Not to mention, they will find greater satisfaction in their work, since they spend less time on boring tasks.  

Motivation and Culture

Selling is hard work, especially when you aren’t doing so well. So, it is your job as a manager to keep that fire burning even in the rainiest of times. For that, you need to build a strong base (culture) and provide heavy kindling (motivation).  

Don’t Neglect Motivation and Morale

Sales is a tough job—one with pretty high turnover rates. This means that to avoid losing key players to burnout, sales managers need to keep up morale

To do so, they need to create a stimulating environment. How? Try these out. 

Encourage Healthy Competition 

Sales reps are competitive by nature. One way to capitalize on this trait to increase motivation is by using sales leaderboards. 

These boards display side by side comparisons of sales reps’ performances in different categories, from deals closed to revenue won. 

It is best to highlight more than one category so that your reps have higher chances of winning a category. A winning rep is a happier rep, even if they just hold the title in cold calls made this week. 

Have Their Backs

A sales manager who takes the blame for the failures of their sales reps is rewarded with loyalty and respect

For instance, let’s say your Business Development Representative set a few unqualified meetings for their Account Executive. And the AE is pretty annoyed about the time they wasted giving these demos. 

Instead of letting your rep take the fall, try talking with the AE and assuming responsibility for not teaching the qualification requisites clearly enough. Then, take it upon yourself to make sure the rep doesn’t make the same mistake again. 

Yes, throwing yourself under the bus might hurt, but it’s a great way to earn the admiration of your troops. And, if you have influence and high status in the company, why not use it to shield those who don’t? 

Prevent SDR Burnout

SDRs cold call and email nonstop, day after day, and face rejection far more than success. This can lead to burnout.

One way to prevent SDR burnout is to give your SDRs other responsibilities. Let them hold a few demos with smaller prospects. Give them a chance to try their hand at writing marketing content. These deviations from the routine can keep them from throwing in the towel.

Second, always give them a clear timeline to promotion, so they remember what they are working towards. 

Lastly, sales development can often be a thankless job, so make your representatives feel important. 

Management Tip: Lead by example. Every once in a while, make some cold calls of your own. Reps love to see their manager on the front lines. 

Celebrate Individual and Team Wins

Never underestimate the power of praise. On Maslow’s hierarchy of needs, which ranks what motivates human behavior, the feeling of accomplishment is 4th on the list, after the basics like food, shelter, and love. 

So, always be on the lookout for moments when your reps are deserving of appreciation. A few kind words from you can be enough to power them through the rest of the week. 

For instance, if you overheard the rep sitting behind you absolutely killing it on a cold call, give them a shout-out in front of the team. 

If your rep has increased their outreach over the last week, take notice, and tell them you are proud of them. 

This ability to spot little wins is harder than it seems. It may require you to keep your headphones out or dive into your sales metrics more often than you’d like. But, the reward of a fulfilled, hard-working team will be well worth it. 

When your reps work together to achieve a goal and root for each other, they form a more cohesive unit

To facilitate this, set a monthly team goal and attach a reward to it. The reward could be a pizza party or a trip to a baseball game. Then, follow-through, and treat them to a great time. 

Promote Transparency and Have Clear Compensation Structures

Transparency yields trust, a feeling that is as necessary for management as it is for sales. 

First things first, you need transparency in your fee structure. Your sales reps should be completely certain of how much commission they earn on each sale. They should also be aware of the monetary incentives, such as cash bonuses, and the benchmarks to attain them.

To create this transparency around pay, always start your quarter off with a meeting to go over the commission plan changes and updates. 

Good sales managers also need to develop an overall transparency culture. To do this, be candid with your reps about the following: 

  • The sales strategy: Let them know what role they play in the overall strategy. Reps will be more driven if they understand how their part matters. 
  • The mission: Inform them of the why behind the strategy. They should have a sense of the grander company mission. 
  • The state of the company: Host monthly meetings to go over the financials. This alleviates worries that upper management is hiding something. 

Even if you know your team isn’t going to like the truth, you need to be open with them. 

In return, your reps will be honest with you about what’s not working, what they are struggling with, or the problems in the sales process. Armed with this intel, you will be able to fix any burning issues. 

Evaluate and Adapt 

Numbers often measure your success as a sales manager. But if you always look at it that way, your sales reps might start looking like inputs into a machine.

Instead, take time to enjoy the other qualitative metrics of success, like how your new SDR has more confidence in their voice or how your most improved rep just got promoted to a management position. 

Along your journey as a manager, form an undying self-awareness. This will help you spot ways to adapt your management style to better serve your team, enabling them to reach your challenging yet fair expectations.