One Trait That Top-Performing Sales Managers Share

To achieve top sales performance, you don’t need a sales team dominated by business degrees from Harvard or resumes full of eye-popping company logos. Those attributes are all well and good, but they’re not requirements for top performance.

Instead, look to your sales managers. Are they prepared to provide the leadership and coaching their sales teams need to maximize selling potential?

In our Top-Performing Sales Manager research, we found that sales managers of top-performing teams are 67% more likely to be extremely or very confident in their ability to help their sellers achieve strong sales performance.

This confidence comes through to their teams because the best sellers are 83% more likely to say their sales managers are effective in helping them achieve top performance.

The good news for sales organizations is that sales manager confidence can be developed, even in situations where it seems to be inherently missing.  As Adam Grant, author of “Think Again: The Power of Knowing What You Don’t Know,” has written, “A lack of confidence is a reminder that you have something to learn.” As you read on, you’ll learn how sales managers can cultivate the confidence needed to build sales teams that meet goals in the face of challenging conditions.

Who Are the Top Performers?

If consistently hitting sales goals were easy, everyone would do it. But they decidedly don’t. In our recent global research of 1,004 sellers and sales managers, only 18.7% of respondents belong to the Top Performer group, defined as:

  • 75% or more of sellers on their teams met extremely or very challenging annual goals
  • Win rate on proposed sales is greater than 50%
  • Achieve premium pricing

What Is Confidence?

Confidence is the belief that you or someone else can do something well or succeed at something. This belief in oneself and one’s team is critical to sales success.


Because when you’re providing advice and guidance – whether to sellers or prospects – people can sense doubt. They aren’t going to risk taking advice from someone who isn’t confident. In an environment where nobody wins 100% of the time, no team can afford to lose ground due to confidence issues.

How to Help Your Sales Managers Develop Confidence

Writing for Harvard Business Review, Amy Gallo suggests several ways to build confidence: Preparation, of course, is key (remember the phrase practice makes perfect?). As is getting feedback, when necessary. All of which can be achieved through a training initiative that allows managers to acquire and practice specific skills.

Specifically, for sales managers, our research goes further by identifying the seven skills and behaviors that are key drivers contributing to higher levels of confidence. They are:

  • Coaching sellers to lead masterful sales conversations
  • Coaching sellers to build selling skills
  • Helping sellers build meaningful and achievable goals and action plans
  • Motivating sellers for high productivity
  • Holding sellers accountable for their action and outcome commitments
  • Hiring sellers who become top performers
  • Proactivity providing deal coaching to maximize wins

Note that the first two skills pertain to how sales managers coach their sellers. Top Performers are more likely to have managers who motivate them for high productivity and performance. Plus, sellers with the combination of an effective manager, a regular ongoing rhythm of coaching, and effective training are 63% more likely to be Top Performers.

The next three skills are all about helping sellers become more productive. We’ve done extensive research on the link between productivity and performance. The research shows that the Extremely Productive are more likely to be Top Performers, as well as more likely to be satisfied with their job.

Unfortunately, few sales organizations explicitly link the development of their sellers and sales managers with developing behaviors for increased productivity. This is an untapped opportunity for learning and development teams in many organizations.

Build Confidence, Refine Sales Management and Coaching Skills, and Win

These seven skills are the key drivers to developing a sales manager’s confidence, however, 13 out of 15 sales management and coaching skills studied correlate significantly with sales team top performance. All have a place in sales training initiatives, depending on existing capabilities and the development needs of the team.

Ultimately, developing sales managers’ confidence in their capabilities results in effectively managing and coaching sales teams. And that translates into stronger sales performance.


Get our newsletter and digital focus reports

Stay current on learning and development trends, best practices, research, new products and technologies, case studies and much more.