10 Traits of a Great Sales Manager

Traits of a Great Sales Manager

If you’ve ever worked on a sales team, you know that your manager is the most important factor in helping (or hindering) how effectively work gets done and quotas are met. Sales managers can make or break team morale, they shape almost entirely your work environment–including how leads and territories are assigned–and ultimately influence your decision to stay or leave for greener, less micromanaging pastures. 

A study conducted by the Harvard Business Review proved that high-performing sales leaders were such a positive influence on their teams that they reported “an overall average annual quota attainment of 105% compared to 54% for underperforming sales managers”.

Yes, you read that right. The impact of a skilled and effective sales manager can actually be quantified, and with the right leader, your sales team could be overachieving your lowest performers by 51%. 

That is not exactly a surprise when you factor in everything that excellent sales managers are responsible for: 

  • They provide clear guidance, motivation, and direction, ensuring the alignment of individual and team efforts with the company’s sales goals; 
  • They contribute to the development of effective sales strategies;
  • They monitor KPIs, optimize budget allocations, and set realistic quotas; 
  • They facilitate communication between departments and actively participate in client interactions or important presentations;
  • They identify areas for improvement and implement targeted training programs to enhance the skills of their team members;
  • They are problem-solvers, overcoming obstacles, adapting to changes, and providing constructive feedback.

In this blog, we have identified the top 10 traits that truly exceptional sales managers have in common–consider it your roadmap to success whether you are trying to rise through the ranks, or scouting for your next superstar.

Driving Results and Strategic Thinking

1. Data-Driven Decision-Making

Data-Driven Decision-Making

We often hear of the importance of data-driven decision-making, in sales management as well as other business functions. One fundamental thing to keep in mind is that we now have more data than ever before, but we are often not using it well.

In a study published in the Journal of Marketing Analytics, researchers pointed out that “We’re drowning in data. Structured data, unstructured data, ‘Big Data,’ in an increasingly digital world, we create even more data.” So the problem is not sourcing more information, but rather making sense of it–and that’s where great sales managers truly shine. 

While the numbers from past quarters can show us how the company has performed, only an experienced and insightful sales manager has the ability to foresee how the company will perform in the future.    

This is not to knock down the importance of data gathered from sales-related metrics. Let’s consider, as an example, the average sales pipeline velocity. This metric is vital in understanding the daily flow of revenue through the sales pipeline, which can help in making informed decisions to enhance sales efficiency.

When you’re ready to harness the power of data to drive your sales strategy you might want to consider trying Maptive–a comprehensive mapping software designed to help sales managers leverage data to make smarter decisions and achieve better results. 

With Maptive, you can visualize your data, uncover actionable insights, and optimize your sales efforts with confidence. Take your sales management to the next level with Maptive today.

2. Strategic Thinking

Strategic Thinking

At its core, to be “strategic” means to be able to make plans that will get you what you want. When we apply that filter in observing the best-performing sales managers, we can see that they are often proactive in how they approach future challenges.

They position products effectively–analyzing market dynamics and taking a closer look at what their competitors are doing–create sustainable growth plans, and use data to make informed decisions and predictions. They do everything in their power to set everybody up for success.

According to Hubspot, a sales leader who can craft a cohesive strategy can give your team direction and focus: “Strategic clarity can help your sales reps and managers understand which goals and activities to prioritize. This can lead to improved productivity and outcomes.”

It’s also important to remember that while data-driven insights are crucial to crafting an effective strategy, intuition in sales management can be considered another form of filtering and analysis that is based on “an amalgamation of our experiences, knowledge, and emotional intelligence”. This suggests that combining data-driven insights with intuitive understanding is key to formulating the most informed sales strategies.

True all-star sales leaders are as proficient in interpreting data as they are in trusting their own gut intuition.

3. Goal Setting

Goal Setting

Focused on achieving sales quotas, all great sales managers set clear goals for their teams, break them down into actionable steps, and regularly track progress to keep their teams motivated and aligned.

You have probably heard of SMART goals–Specific, Measurable, Achievable, Relevant, and Time-Bound. These are exactly the types of goals that truly exceptional sales leaders set for their teams. 

Naturally, every company and product is different, so sales goals vary across industries and organizations, but whatever metrics your company uses, make sure that the goals you set are realistic and attainable.

What’s even more interesting, a fascinating 2022 study into the interaction effects of goal orientation found that employees who learned to be goal-oriented showed higher enthusiasm and a more positive and proactive approach toward achieving goals or facing challenges. Essentially a long-winded way of saying that people who are goal-oriented are better at figuring out if they are making progress, correcting their own mistakes, and coming up with new strategies–which in turn triggers a behavior of continuous innovation.

Soft Skills 

4. Adaptability


The ability to adapt to changing market conditions and overcome obstacles is a hallmark of exceptional sales managers. Whether faced with industry shifts, evolving customer preferences, or unexpected challenges, adaptability is key. By fostering a culture of adaptability, sales managers empower their teams to tackle challenges head-on, turning obstacles into stepping stones toward continued success.

In 2023, 72% of sales managers reported facing new challenges, such as rapidly evolving technologies and unpredictable market demands. Instead of letting this state of flux overwhelm them, outstanding sales managers welcome unpredictability and they easily adapt their strategies to stay one step ahead of the competition. 

Leading by example, they instill resilience in their teams, motivating them to rebound from setbacks and learn valuable lessons from any failure. Fostering a positive attitude toward change and adversity lays the foundation for a team that excels under any market condition.

Championing this attitude is especially important as technologies continue to evolve. Whether sales teams will need to adopt a new sales platform, try new sales methods, or learn the ins and outs of a new product, teams led by sales managers who can easily problem-solve and adapt will continue to excel.

5. Passion and Drive

Passion and Drive

If you don’t believe in the product you are selling, why should your customers? The sales teams that come out on top are led by managers with a genuine passion for the product or service they are selling.

Not only is their passion contagious in the best of ways, but it can also lead their teams to attain a deeper product knowledge–which in turn can help instill more confidence throughout the team and fuel a shared excitement that resonates with customers. This enthusiasm becomes a driving force, fostering a culture where each sale is not just a transaction but a shared belief in the value being delivered.

This is not just conjecture, by the way, there is solid evidence supporting this phenomenon. Research conducted by Dr. Valerie Good at Michigan State University shows that intrinsic motivation, specifically a sense of purpose, greatly influences sales performance. Dr. Good discovered that while financial compensation remains a powerful motivator for sales teams, enduring and effective sales outcomes can stem from a sense of purpose and the belief that their contributions extend beyond personal gain. This holds true even in challenging economic conditions.

Her findings are reinforced by a Gallup study that found that highly engaged employees can lead to a 20% increase in sales and a 21% increase in profitability. That same study concluded that an organizational culture where employees feel motivated and invested in the company’s mission can be a huge competitive advantage when it comes to building and sustaining customer relationships as well as in talent acquisition and retention–with Gallup revealing that “a strong, infectious culture” attracts the top 20% of talent in a given pool. Employees who resonate strongly with their organization’s culture consistently surpass performance benchmarks, highlighting the integral role culture plays in both attracting top talent and achieving exceptional results.

6. Integrity and Trustworthiness

Integrity and Trustworthiness

Trust is the cornerstone of any successful team, and in sales, it’s no different. High-performing teams operating with a high level of trust often create a culture of psychological safety–in these environments, leaders must lead by example, showcasing vulnerability, fostering open communication, and framing mistakes as chances for growth rather than assigning blame.

For all sales managers, here’s an important tip: when you start at a new company, prioritize building trust with your sales team from day one. Demonstrate that you’re fair and honest, that’ll set you up as an approachable and credible leader, and it will make it so much easier to create a positive and productive work environment.

A sales team that operates from a place of trust is more likely to foster strong relationships with clients, and in turn, drive better results. In fact, according to a Dale Carnegie study, 73% of respondents said that trust is “very” or “extremely” important to them for building relationships with salespeople, and 71% of respondents said they would rather buy from a salesperson they trusted over one who gave them the lowest price.

That makes even more sense when you factor in the cliche of the sleazy salesperson who will say anything to make the sale. The most effective approach to dispelling this stereotype is by leading your sales team with integrity, ensuring they prioritize their client’s best interests and desired outcomes in every interaction.

Overall, integrity and trustworthiness are not just desirable traits in sales management; they are essential for driving results and for building a cohesive and high-performing sales team.

Building and Leading the Team

7. Coaching Mentality

Coaching Mentality

Effective sales managers understand that coaching their team is not just about managing their performance and correcting mistakes–it’s about building the most effective sales team and enabling each salesperson to be the best they can be.

Here’s the data to back that up. A recent study by Objective Management Group found that:

  • Salespeople who are coached weekly have a +9% higher Sales Percentile than those who are never coached. 
  • When coaching occurs several times per week, Sales Percentile increases by +17%.
  • In terms of tactical skills, there is a +50% greater proficiency in using Sales Technology and a +28% improvement in Sales Process for those receiving consistent coaching.

When great sales managers invest time and effort in helping their team and coaching them through their daily tasks, they are rewarded with salespeople who are much better at their jobs and bring in more revenue.

Everyone who’s ever worked on a sales team knows that managers, especially the good ones, often have too many direct reports, so if you are trying to bring this coaching mentality to your organization, it’s normal for the process to feel daunting. The most important thing to keep in mind is that you must teach your team to solve their problems by increasing their selling skills and knowledge. 

If you do this consistently, you’ll have a highly empowered sales team, providing a leverage boost ranging from 3X to 10X, depending on team size. Plus, you’ll free up your own time to focus on focus on strategic initiatives rather than getting bogged down in day-to-day problem-solving.

Also, keep in mind that training and coaching are not the same thing. In fact, a study found that while training increased productivity by 22.4%, when training was combined with coaching, productivity rose by a whopping 88%. So in the end, coaching has been proven to be the single most powerful tool for improving employee performance and company results.

8. Effective Communication and Collaboration

Effective Communication and Collaboration

Ever heard the quote “Great leaders communicate and great communicators lead?” It’s a wonderful way to sum up how crucial effective communication is for all business leaders. Great sales managers are no exception.

According to The State of Business Communication in 2023 report conducted by Grammarly, 72% of business leaders credit effective communication with enhancing their team’s productivity, a sentiment echoed by 52% of knowledge workers.

With numbers like that, honing communication strategies is becoming not just a priority, but a strategic advantage. Literally. According to a study by Towers Watson, companies with good communication practices are three and a half times more likely to outperform their competitors.

Let’s also think about how organizations have switched up their communication since the COVID-19 pandemic hit. According to a study published in the journal Nature Human Behaviour, two main trends surfaced as remote work became the norm: on one side employees ended up spending roughly 25% less time collaborating cross-functionally compared to before the pandemic; on the other, within their immediate circles, workers communicated more frequently, nurturing deeper connections within their inner networks. 

As you navigate the post-pandemic reality of a more distributed workforce, keep in mind that effective communication is the key to getting your team to collaborate organically. As chats and other async communication tools are rising in popularity, collaboration across sales teams might look a bit different. A Salesforce report uncovered three crucial ways that collaboration is shifting:

  • 75% of workers prefer to interact with colleagues as they would a friend. 
  • 76% of workers stated that a company’s collaboration style is a direct reflection of work culture.
  • 80% of workers want to choose which tools they use to collaborate. 

In the end, while technology continues to evolve, effective and open communication still lies at the heart of every thriving sales team. Great sales managers need to cultivate an environment where team members are encouraged to freely share ideas, voice concerns, and seamlessly collaborate. 

9. Delegation and Empowerment

Delegation and Empowerment

Often, people view delegation as simply offloading their own workload onto others, with bosses dodging their own responsibilities. But that’s not the whole story. When delegation is done right, it’s not just about lightening the load—it’s a chance to empower your team, foster growth, and boost overall effectiveness and happiness.

Whether delegation hits the mark hinges on whether employees feel heard and engaged–and 70% of the variance in team engagement is determined solely by the manager, according to a report by Gallup. Exceptional sales managers recognize fostering employee engagement as central to their role. This includes guiding employees through tasks, advocating for their needs, and highlighting how their efforts propel organizational success.

So yes, on one side, delegation is an effective way to save time at the leadership level. However, it also is a clear signal of a manager’s trust in team members, and let’s face it, we all want to feel valued and appreciated. So, by delegating responsibilities across the team, great sales managers nurture greater engagement and commitment toward shared objectives.

Higher engagement leads sales teams to feel like they’re being set up for success. In turn, empowered teams have the autonomy to leverage their knowledge and insights, enabling quicker decision-making and greater adaptability. Researchers at SHRM refer to this ideal situation as being “loose-tight,” which essentially means that the boundaries for decision-making are carefully defined to provide individuals with the space they need to make their own choices.

Effective delegation by sales managers cultivates trust and confidence among team members. This practice not only speeds up problem-solving but also elevates morale by making team members feel valued and trusted–the result is improved performance and team cohesion.

The Multiplier Effect: The Impact of a Great Sales Manager

10. Cultivating Excellence

Cultivating Excellence

We’ve explored how exceptional sales managers blend their interpersonal finesse with strategic, data-driven leadership. When these qualities converge, they create a multiplier effect within sales organizations, amplifying performance and driving revenue growth.

According to research conducted by Wilson Learning, sales managers with advanced skills achieved 29% higher revenue performance and 16% greater customer satisfaction compared to managers with lower skill ratings. Interestingly, these results held true regardless of the solution-selling skills of their teams.

Great sales managers wield a transformative influence by seamlessly blending the elements of fostering collaboration within the team and building enduring customer relationships. Acting as catalysts for collaborative synergy, these managers break down silos and encourage cross-functional teamwork.

According to a Salerforce State of Sales Report, collaboration is crucial to streamlining the sales process and ensuring customer success. Across all performance levels, 73% say collaborating across departments is absolutely critical or very important to their overall sales process.

This collaborative excellence not only strengthens internal bonds but also extends outward, creating a ripple effect of positive customer interactions that transcend mere transactions. If you need further proof of the multiplier effect that collaboration enables better sales results, a study from the Aberdeen research team found that companies that align service, sales, and marketing programs, with an emphasis on their customers, report:

  • A 55% greater annual increase in customer satisfaction rates.
  • 7.6 times greater annual increase in customer retention rates.
  • 2.8 times greater annual increase in company revenue
  • 41% annual growth in their sales quota attainment.


To recap: exceptional sales managers share a few common traits that ensure their success. They set the pace and tone for their teams to excel and make sure that everything runs smoothly. They don’t just oversee operations; they shape the entire work environment, from lead distribution to team dynamics.

The 10 key traits we’ve identified set great sales management apart. From strategic acumen to unwavering integrity, these traits form the bedrock of their success. And it’s not just about hitting targets; it’s about fostering a culture of empowerment and trust. It’s about leading with integrity, building relationships, and fostering open communication. Because when your team feels valued and respected, they’re motivated to give their all.

If you are looking to enhance your sales management skills, you might want to start by considering new tools to help your team and to refine your strategic focus. Maptive is a powerful tool designed to help sales managers optimize their strategies, streamline operations, and drive results. With Maptive, you can map out your sales territories, visualize data, and uncover valuable insights to supercharge your sales efforts. Start your journey to sales management success with Maptive today!

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