Three Disciplines of Sales Management (A Note to the Sales Manager)

There are dozens of tasks and activities that dominate a sales manager’s day. There is no doubt that the sales manager’s job is one of the most difficult in business and there are hours of work each week just serving the sales organization. But there are three disciplines a sales manager absolutely must keep to succeed.

These three disciplines should take precedence over other work, and they should be treated as the sales manager’s real priorities.

Discipline 1: Ensuring a Healthy Pipeline

Activity management is crucial to a salesperson’s or sales organization’s success. But activity for activity’s sake doesn’t do anything to produce sales results. Activity has to produce outcomes, and the major outcomes that need measured are opportunities created and opportunities advanced. You can see the outcomes in the sales pipeline.

One of the three primary disciplines of a sales manager is to ensure that they have a healthy pipeline. That means that the pipeline has to be inspected and managed with a fervor that borders on religious.

Without enough opportunities, you cannot make your number. Without the right opportunities, you also can’t make your number. Poor deal velocity (slow moving opportunities) will also derail your ability to make your number. A healthy pipeline is critical and it will inoculate you from many risks.

Ensuring that the pipeline is healthy and that it will produce the results you need is a discipline. You have to continually inspect the pipeline to ensure that your sales team is producing and managing the opportunities you need to succeed.

Discipline 2: Coaching Opportunities

It would be wonderful if opportunities moved smoothly from target to close, but they don’t. Along the way, they get stuck, they stall, and they sometimes die. There are literally countless reasons why opportunities don’t make it smoothly from the top of the funnel to the small opening that some deals flow through.

Coaching these opportunities is a primary discipline of a sales manager. Coaching opportunities is a discipline that must be done continuously.

Sometimes the salesperson’s own actions—or lack thereof—are an obstacle to winning an opportunity. Sometimes the salesperson’s dream client produces obstacles that must be overcome, like unique and complex needs that require new ideas. And sometimes the salesperson’s company can get in the way of winning an opportunity.

A sales manager has to spend time coaching their team, building their capacity to move opportunities through their funnel on their own, and helping to remove the obstacles that stall or kill opportunities.

Coaching opportunities is on the shortest short list of sales manager disciplines.

Discipline 3: Developing Your Sales Team

As a sales manager, the better your sales team, the easier your job. The inverse of this is true, too: the worse your sales team, the more difficult your job. The reason coaching is so important to sales is that the more you develop your sales team, the better your sales team becomes. You improve your sales results by developing the only real asset you have producing sales results: your salespeople.

Time spent coaching, teaching, training, and developing your salespeople produces outsized results. Investing time in helping your sales team learn to make the best decisions themselves improves their ability to sell well on their own. Time spent teaching and training your salespeople, providing them with the tools and the ideas to create an advance opportunities pays dividends deep into the future.

It’s easy to get caught up in trying to get caught up. But without investing the time in developing your sales team, you will never create enough margin to catch up. Instead, you will create a set of dependents that need you to help them with challenges they could have been trained and developed to handle on their own.

One of the most critical disciplines of the sales manager is building salespeople. Notch them up.


Which of these three disciplines would most improve your sales results?

What is the difference between a goal and a discipline?

How do you make time to keep these three disciplines? Which one do you never give enough time or energy to?

If you could make it four disciplines, what would you add?

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  • Elise

    While it is extremely important to support and coach sales staff, without a healthy pipeline – all is lost. Maintaining a healthy pipeline in today’s economy can be difficult, but I feel integration of mobile will help salesmen to be more efficient. Use of a mobile CRM can help to bring the sales staff into the 21st century, allow for additional customer interaction, and enhance the transparency of the sales staff’s activities to the sales manager.

    We have to be careful about how we spend our resources these days, and mobile is an efficient use of resources and productivity.

  • Amber King

    The 3 of them are important and should work together. It is pointless to keep developing your sales team when your pipeline is disorganized. These 3 should work hand in hand to maximize sales results and ROI.

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  • radiojaja

    I love this! As you know, I am a big fan anyway, but this is one of my favourites posts ever!
    Let me share a thought I have on the first point on activity?
    I hear a lot about ensuring the activity is effective and appropriate, which of course makes lots of sense.
    But in reality I find this results in sales managers and staff, using quality as an argument against quantity – dragging the sales effort down and negatively impacting on the pipeline they are trying to build
    However, if I insist on quantity ONLY – the sales persons inherent ability to provided quality as well as quantity is reflected in the conversion ratio.
    So a low conversion, when required activity rates are met, indicates low skill levels (or time wasting)
    But you’ll see that level rise over time – the best sales training, is after all, delivered out on the street!
    As skill increases and the sales persons tolerance to time wasting decreases, usually as they makes more money, I achieve my required level of quality
    Conversely, focusing on quality hasn’t ever got me to where I need to be.
    Thanks again for this, I’ll be using the inspiration for my own post on my own blog!

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