Jim Peduto, sales specialist from KnowledgeWorx

Do you ever wonder what separates elite sales managers from the rest of the pack? We measure 21 sales manager core competencies, but in addition to being strong across the core competencies, elite managers share three habits.  

1. Create the Right Environment 

The best sales managers create an environment conducive to coaching and personal development. The importance of this is emphasized in a recent study that found that professional skill development and proactive feedback were the top two factors in retaining key sales talent.  

Creating a supportive environment is also the foundation for successful coaching.  

A positive sales environment exists when: 
• Salespeople have good business relationships with their managers. 
• Salespeople and managers trust each other's intentions. 
• Salespeople believe in their manager's advice. 
• Salespeople respect their expertise. 
• Salespeople are open to change.
• Sales managers are rep-focused rather than self-focused. 

Even the most well-intentioned sales managers will have difficulty if they have not created an environment that supports productive and effective sales coaching.  

2. Coach…Don't Cheerlead  

The best sales managers understand they need to be coaches, not cheerleaders. There is a direct correlation between the strength of a sales manager's coaching skills and sales effectiveness. Elite managers are great coaches. They also make coaching a priority.  

Sales managers with great coaching skills and who spend more than half of their time coaching have 49 percent more effective salespeople than reps reporting to managers with weak coaching skills and who spend very little time coaching. Effective coaching requires a communication cadence that includes daily, weekly and monthly interactions with each salesperson. Most managers can improve their effectiveness by spending more time coaching their salespeople.  

3. Focus on the Numbers  

The best sales managers are laser-focused on their numbers. They understand the importance of relying on data rather than on gut instinct. They mine their CRM to identify where salespeople could improve.  

Wondering what that might look like? Here is one example: 

Track pipeline stage conversion metrics every month. If you see deal velocity increasing but close rates decreasing, you should dig into your reps' email-to-meeting, meeting-to-demo, and demo-to-close rates. It may be a sign that salespeople are moving through the sales process too quickly. For example, they may skip the discovery call and jump straight to the demo, which saves time but leads to generic, low-value presentations…therefore decreasing win rates. 

Focusing on the numbers limits subjectivity, ensuring everyone is accountable and the team consistently hits its goals. 

These are just three of the many habits of effective sales managers. To be a more effective leader, start by developing these habits. Remember, the best sales managers are always learning, so try new things and experiment with different techniques. Focus on the habits that lead to success. As James Clear, the author of Atomic Habits, said, "Every action you take is a vote for the type of person you wish to become." 

Jim Peduto is the Managing Partner and co-founder of Knowledgeworx, LLC. Owners and CEOs rely on Jim's strategic thinking and transformational growth expertise to win market share and achieve performance gains.