The Ideal Sales Manager

It has long been noted that good salespeople do not automatically make good sales managers. Most sales managers do have a sales background. Some don’t.

Last week, we looked at the characteristics that make up the ideal salesperson. This week, we’ll build the ideal sales manager.

A couple years ago, I was in Vancouver sitting with my friend Andre when he asked me to define the difference between a sales manager and a sales coach. I had never before thought about that question. After a few minutes, I told him that I believed the chief difference is that a manager asks a sales rep, “What did you sell today?” whereas a coach asks, “What did you learn today?”

Based on that answer—which I stand by—I believe the first component of the ideal sales manager is that he/she be a teacher, not a task master.

With the benefit of time, as I reconsider Andre’s question I would add that a good manager focuses not on results, but on the activities that lead to the results—especially with new salespeople in the herd.

The third quality I would point to is a bit more esoteric. I believe the ideal sales manager makes the salesperson feel safe. On my wall sits a phrase thumb-tacked to my corkboard. It reads: “Real communication happens when people feel safe.”

Sales reps have their ups and downs. Their jobs are easy when the orders are rolling in. They are upbeat and effervescent. But, when the doldrums set in, it is extremely important that the sales rep feel that the sales manager is available, accessible and encouraging. This only occurs when that manager has built a reputation for being a mentor.

The overwhelming majority of printers do not have a sales manager. The sale rep, myself included, must rely on the face in the mirror to be that person. If that describes your situation, you now know what you are looking for—to find that person in your life who can perform those tasks and fill that role.

Bill Farquharson can be reached by calling 781�� or e-mailing

As a 30 year sales veteran, Bill has the perspective of a been-there, done-that sales rep in the commercial print arena. Following sales fundamentals and giving unapologetically "old school" advice, he writes and speaks in an entertaining fashion to make his points to sales people and owners who sell. "Bill Farquharson will drive your sales momentum."
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  • the senator

    The one question to ask your sales staff is simple…"With whom do you have a lunch,a dinner or a social function scheduled this week?" If you aren’t sitting next to a client or a prospect outside of the office there is no relationship developing….none.

  • Chelsey

    I appreciate this post. As a sales manager I sometimes second guess if I am leading my team properly. I don’t micro manage and I give them the freedom to sale in their own way. But I lead them in the direction they need to go and help them focus on the right types of sales.