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May 4, 2020

Selling Success Requires 2 Things… a Good Sales Rep and a Better Sales Manager

8 Keys for Effective Sales Management

I was chatting with an industry colleague this past week and he mentioned he had just repositioned two of his Project Managers into Business Development roles… one as an account manager and one to go after new business.

And then he said something that really surprised me and even made me smile. He said, “This process has made me realize that I’m no sales manager!”

Wow! He is literally the first person in Market Research I have met who has said that. Out loud. Don’t get me wrong… there are a ton of really bad sales managers in our industry – he’s just the first one to admit it.

In most cases, in our industry, getting senior management to accept that ‘sales’ is important – and even getting them to use the word ‘sales’ – is the first big hurdle. But once they get past that, they get in a hurry to grow revenue – so they hire (or assign someone internally) for the position, though they really don’t know how to go about doing that effectively. In particular, since they don’t understand the full scope of the role, they don’t know the right interview questions to ask and they assume ‘research experience’ is the most important thing (which it isn’t).

Once the new ‘sales rep’ (or seller-doer) is in place, they set unrealistic expectations, then tell them to “go sell something!” After a couple of months, they fire the sales rep because he/she didn’t sell anything… conveniently forgetting that we work in an industry with notoriously long sales cycles.

It’s an utter failure. And it happens all the time.

Being in sales management in Market Research – or in any industry, for that matter – is about so much more than putting someone in the sales role. It’s about smartly managing the people in those roles and the process surrounding it. So, to help, here are 8 key concepts for being an effective sales manager:

  1. Create a sales culture at your firm. This is a difficult challenge for a firm in an industry driven by operations. But for ‘sales’ to work, the operations team needs to understand the value of the sales function. It starts by actually using the word, ‘sales.’
  2. Create the right structure for sales. There are so many ways to do this. Farmer vs. Hunter. Inside vs. Outside. How are ‘sales territories’ established? Are they generalists or specialists (in one methodology or one industry)?
  3. Hire smartly. Create the right job description. Then recruit and interview based on that. Once hired (or promoted from within), what’s your plan for onboarding, training and ramping up?
  4. Provide the necessary tools. This should include a laptop, cellphone, CRM system, a starting database of clients & prospects, a quiet place to work from, planned sales meetings, a capabilities deck, collateral, etc.
  5. 1-on-1 time. This should include reporting sessions (where you review the sales rep’s activities and results), coaching sessions (to help with problem solving and their professional development), role playing (to help improve selling skills), and traveling together (to show them how to best interact with buyers and for you and the rep to bond).
  6. Goal setting and compensation. Are you setting reasonable & realistic sales goals? Was the rep involved in the process? Is there a commission plan in place? Is it easy to understand and tied to the goals? Remember, sales goals are not meant to reward outcomes, but to drive the behavior you want.
  7. Marketing support. A sales rep can’t grow revenue alone… they need marketing support. Marketing can help build awareness, help create the brand and perception in the marketplace, help generate and nurture sales leads and help provide the sales tools (collateral, business cards, trade show booth, etc.) that the sales rep needs.
  8. Development. No matter how good your sales rep/seller-doer is to begin with, you’ll want them to improve their skills and discipline over time. So, you’ll need to invest in their development. E.g. send them to a sales training program, have them attend conferences (to stay on top of trends in the industry and to generate sales leads) and work 1-on-1 with them to help them develop better proposals, deliver more compelling capabilities presentations and have improved sales conversations.


Being a sales manager in our industry is a big challenge for most business leaders. Many, themselves, don’t really know how to sell and virtually all have zero experience managing sales people. So, if you are going to commit to purposely enhancing your business development efforts, invest in yourself and learn how to be an effective sales manager. Read books and subscribe to magazines, attend sales management workshops or hire a coach/consultant. Your firm – and your sales team – will be glad you did.


Managing a team of seller-doers and looking for a sales training program? We can help…

This July, we will be hosting the third Cohort of the Seller-Doer Workshop™. It’s an online event developed specifically for researchers, project managers and business owners who have been tasked with the responsibility of growing revenue… but don’t have the knowledge, skills or tools necessary to be successful at it. Learn more at

Register by May 15th and SAVE 50% on the registration fee.

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