Two Experts on Sales Management vs. Sales Leadership

A few years ago I interviewed Jason Jordan (author of the best-selling sales management book “Cracking the Sales Management Code“) and Ken Thoreson (of Acumen Sales Management Group, Ltd – author of “40 Critical Sales Management Activities that Drive Results“).

Here I gleaned their thought son sales management and asked Ken Thoreson to chime in on how that is different from sales leadership.


  • Jason Jordan on Sales Management: (link)
    • “The role of the sales manager is to improve the sales performance of his or her team. Sales managers primarily exist to get better performances out of the salespeople that work for them. For sales managers and sales teams to “hit the number”:  ” …what I would say in the near-term, which is much more powerful than just making more calls, is to make sure the sales force is going after the best opportunities. In the long-term, it’s all about building sales force capability, and we think that comes best by building sales management capability. Generally speaking, if you want to have a consistent sales force, frontline sales managers have to be A-grade. Sales management has been operating under the assumption that if you take successful sellers and put them in sales management roles, then they’ll replicate that success in the people reporting to them. We think over the long haul salespeople come and go, but having top-shelf management in place is the ultimate answer to make sure they’re performing and executing as you want them to.”
  • Ken Thoreson on Sales Management and Sales Leadership: (link)
    • Firstly, sales leadership is strategic and is about setting the vision, direction and the tone as a catalyst in the organization.
    • Secondly, sales management is different: it is about defining a repeatable process and documenting it. It’s about developing the sales playbook and tracking and measuring this process, improving its efficiency over time. Importantly, sales management requires improving people through training and one on one coaching, monitoring and tracking monthly sales metrics vs. goals by salesperson. It is much more tactical than sales leadership. A sales manager is someone who is responsible for building predictable revenue by building a high-performance sales organization. He or she must hire people well, create a new hire on-boarding process, train and develop new salespeople effectively, and provide coaching and insights to those who need to improve. They must track the effectiveness of each new salesperson closely with metrics. Then they need to work to improve the skills of their sales people. At a high level, the top objective of sales management is to drive sales revenue. Sales manager’s key objective is not about making the sales quota however, but about hiring the right people who make quota – making sure they are properly trained, and ensuring they increase their skill level by coaching them effectively on an ongoing basis. It is the salesperson’s job to exceed quota.