I’m coaching a Pop Warner football team this year. And like many coaches, I’m eager to improve the performance of our players. How to accomplish that goal is a big question.

Many Pop Warner head coaches focus on improving the performance of individual players, but I think that approach may be wrong. You see, my challenge in coaching football is similar to the challenge faced by many security companies. Many want improved performance from their salespeople. To get better performance, most focus on improving the performance of individual sellers.

Think about this though: who is the one person that has the ability to substantially and permanently influence the sales performance of the entire organization? If you said “the sales manager,” you’d be right. Just as the assistant coaches on a Pop Warner football team influence player behaviors, sales managers influence salespeople.

Mike Schultz, co-president of sales training company RAIN Group, says, “The fundamental leverage point in many sales organizations to improve sales performance is the sales manager.”

Unfortunately, most salespeople don’t view their sales managers as being effective. According to a study by the RAIN Group, only one in three salespeople believes their managers to be good enough to properly manage them. That’s not good folks. If you want better performance from your sales team, you may want to focus on developing the skills of sales managers.

To me, these are the critical things a sales manager must do each day:

1 – Teach  Imparting knowledge is one of the most fundamental aspects of the sales manager’s job.  Whether in group or individual settings, it is the responsibility of sales management to share skills and knowledge relevant to top performance. Teaching doesn’t need to be complex or time consuming. Many effective sales managers simply reinforce key concepts, models and practices on a regular basis.

2 – Coach  This is a critical function of a sales manager. Coaching is different from teaching. It’s also an area in which most sales managers fall way short of top performance. Effective coaching is all about the salesperson. In order to coach someone, you first need to teach them something, then observe them in action, and then provide feedback. Great coaching is all about observation and feedback. That’s why sales managers should make sales calls with their salespeople. Managers can observe performance in real situations and provide feedback designed to improve results.

3 – Encourage  Sales is a hard way to earn a living. It’s full of rejection, disappointments, liars and failures. Sales leaders that belittle, scream, degrade and embarrass their salespeople do little in the way of improving performance. Sales managers would be better suited to encourage their salespeople. Researchers at the University of Notre Dame showed that encouraging others resulted in higher overall team performance.

4 – Lead  Too many sales managers act like sheep in a flock, especially sales managers in large organizations. They don’t set the tone of their teams; rather, they react to the tone set by others. Effective sales leaders have a clear vision. They regularly communicate that vision with enthusiasm to their team members.

5 – Execute  Effective sales leaders are masters at executing strategy in a profitable and timely way that achieves company sales goals and market objectives. 

When effective sales leaders set a priority, the priority gets done. They focus on the most important things, the high impact things their sales team must accomplish to achieve the goal. Finally, they consistently hold team members accountable, for accountability keeps the objective alive instead of disappearing like a lost sock in a dryer.

Despite what others may tell you, there is no single magic bullet that will improve sales results. What is true is this: if you want better sales performance, focus on developing better sales leadership.