Search Twitter Facebook Digital HFBusiness Magazine Pinterest Google

Get the latest industry scoop


Monthly Issue

From Home Furnishing Business

Coach's Corner: What Should My Sales Manager Be Doing?

By Tom Zollar,

One of the questions we get most often when discussing sales management is “what should my sales manager be doing?” The easy answer is, maximizing sales performance by making sure the store’s customers have the experience they desire in their search for the home furnishing solutions they seek. This is nice to know but does little to help us understand because it really only gives us the result their efforts should deliver, not what they can do to make it happen.

Obviously, there are a lot of moving parts involved in the process of managing a sales staff and delivering the best results possible for a store. For the most part, the sales manager must develop and lead a group of dedicated professionals to make this happen, much like a coach or team manager functions in a sports team. While they deal with athletes skilled in various aspects of their game, we direct the efforts of sales people that must fulfill the needs of our customers. Much different end processes perhaps, but as we have said before, how the two managers guide their charges to success is actually very similar.

Before we get down to the things our sales managers should be doing, lets get an understanding of what their role in the organizations is really focused on. Here is an interesting way to look at it.

Sales Manager’s Role

In its essence, the sales manager’s job is about performance and the salesperson’s job is about selling. To put it another way: The sales manager’s job is about salespeople and the salesperson’s job is about customers.

The sales manager’s job should not be focused on selling, but rather, on the outcomes in terms of salesperson performance and goal achievement. How the sales manager uses the process to train salespeople is their main connection to selling. They do not apply these methods themselves normally, because they are not there to serve customers on a regular basis. So, to be effective, they must take on the role of teacher and coach where the act of selling is concerned.

Serving the Right Customer

Basically, the manager’s customer is the salesperson, because the manager’s have things they want (and need) the salesperson to “buy” and even though they often don’t know it, the salespeople need the things the sales manager has to sell. Once sales managers get their product (i.e.: selling skills, product knowledge and design skills) into the salesperson’s hands and heads, it is necessary to provide continued service and support for these products. This is what we refer to as coaching or sales management. The salesperson’s job should be clear to anyone by simply reading the store’s mission statement.

Part of the challenge for owners and upper management is to develop ways to help the sales manager sell their products to the salespeople. This can be done through consistent coaching and support on the issues of adequate staffing, goal setting/management, plus continued performance improvement in all the other areas of the store.

Here are a few of the main things we see in stores that get in the way or hold back sales performance and the manager’s ability to positively impact it:

  • Staffing issues dominate most store problem lists. Until properly staffed, it is virtually impossible to maximize customer interaction and the resulting sales. Until the staff is almost forced to work each customer to the maximum extent, because there are so few to work with, most sales people do not feel the need to buy the sales manager’s products. Choosing instead to merely burn through Ups to make enough sales to hit their numbers. This is a great loss for both the store and its customers.
  • When critical Measurements and tracking/reporting systems are not in place or are not properly maintained, the entire coaching effort is at risk. If your numbers are not accurate and consistently reported in a way the coach can use to drive performance improvement, all the training and other efforts are wasted. Without discipline and accountability, it is just not possible to create a highly motivated and effective team in any sales (or sports) organization. Knowing how they are doing and believing in the numbers, is key to getting your people to buy into training and any other help offered to them by the sales manager.
  • When setting and achieving goals are not the most important thing to everyone nothing much happens in the way of feedback, one-on-one meetings or performance improvement. Most sales managers don’t know how important income goals are to their people, so turnover and mediocre performance continues. No one bursts out leading the pack to new heights and progress is snail-like. Goals drive growth and those that sales people buy into because they understand their direct link to resulting income increases, are key to driving sale performance improvement. They provide the answer to everyone’s all-important question: “What’s in it for ME?”
  • When one-on-one meetings don’t happen (because without goals in place there is little reason to have them) the forum for relationship building and positive challenge is not in place. Without this connection, managers have no power over salespeople and can’t get them to do things the right way. Setting goals that the sales people own, meeting regularly about them and providing daily feedback gets it done. Even if it is just a pat on the back or a brief comment, keeping them aware that the manager cares about their success is one of the best ways to add power to your goals process.
  • In-Home Sales are one of the biggest missed opportunities we see in many general furniture stores today. This is a service that they can provide to customers, which most of the big boxes, online retailers and other competitors do not. With a proper In-home selling process in place, the house call is the product initially being sold. The end result of “selling” this service to those that need or want it is of course that the customer will purchase products from the store. So, most stores have two kinds of businesses: In-store and In-home. Someone needs to drive both of them. Like any other selling effort in the store, the sales manager must direct it on a daily basis with training, tracking, goal setting and coaching. Often though, having an In-home design leader reporting to the sales manager to help this process is the best way to go.

Fixing these five issues would provide most of the sales improvement results owners seek and they are the first things we look at when trying to help a client grow their business. Obviously, your sales manager is the key person in all of this and having these ingredients in their effort will help make them successful.

Here is an overview of of the main things we think your sales manager should be doing for your organization followed by an example of a simple checklist of the tasks a typical store might hold them accountable for performing on a daily, weekly and monthly basis. The list will vary by store, but this should give you a starting point.

What The Sales Manager Should Be Doing

  • Change the focus of sales from things in the store to rooms in the customer’s home
  • Change the focus in the store from company goals to individual salespeople’s goals
  • Team up with each sales associate to help them achieve their goals
  • Make the goal the thing. Keep goals at the front-of-mind every day
  • Measure the key factors. Traffic, close ratio and average sale. Improve the average sale.
  • Keep score daily and give feedback to the salespeople
  • Meet at least monthly with each person to review performance versus goal for the month and year-to-date, plus to establish future performance agreements
  • Provide training and coaching when needed
  • Be accountable for the performance of each individual and of the team as a whole
  • Be accountable for building long-term customer relationships through the sales clientele development by the associates

Sample Task List


  • Walk the showroom to check for cleanliness, order, holes, etc. for any review with the sales team. Review merchandising issues with buyer.
    • 15-minute sales meeting huddle before opening - Use and follow agenda
  • Insure numbers from day before are properly entered into tracking system
  • Review sales and in-home results for yesterday and MTD
  • Schedule observations for those below goal or store averages
  • Be available on the floor for questions, sales and product assistance, closing sales
  • Give immediate feedback from observations
  • Review individual sales, Sketch Books and Client Records
  • Review and update store goal progress with the sales team members
  • Interview sales prospects (walk-ins)
  • Track and monitor the Ups log and that all are filling in the information properly
  • Review sales orders for clarity, two phone numbers, email address, delivery instructions, product numbers/descriptions and other necessary information
    • Review special orders with the sales person


  • Run the store goal report for review – MTD and YTD
  • Meet with Owner
    • Review goals of each salesperson and store goal
    • Create and/or discuss action plans
  • Create agenda for the week ‘s sales training meetings
  • Maintain ongoing recruiting process, including going out of the store to find people, carrying recruiting cards and interviewing prospects
  • Review time sheets or online attendance records (In/Out reports)
  • Anyone choosing to do contract sales set an agenda for them with goals and a written report turned in daily of their contacts


  • Formal one-on-one sales meetings scheduled third week of each month to review where each salesperson is to goal
    • Follow an agenda format
    • Schedule next month’s meeting date
  • Schedule vendor product training
  • Follow-up applications or résumé’s on file with a touch call
  • Competitive shopping schedule set
  • Create and post store monthly goal in break room
  • Run monthly store reports for owner
  • Set up and then rotate areas of responsibility for floor
  • Meet with owner to discuss store monthly results and improvement plan for next month

Hopefully this brief attempt to give you some idea of what a sales manager should be doing for their company will help you focus on this critical position in your organization to determine if your effort can be improved in any way. As stated, it is not intended to provide a complete “how to” document, merely some of the points we have found important over the many years we have helped clients improve their store’s sales performance.

Comments are closed.
Performance Groups
HFB Designer Weekly