2 Ways Sales Operations Improve Sales Manager Effectiveness

Take advantage of the opportunity to simplify sales managers’ responsibilities by supporting them to address two everyday activities — data interpretation and seller communications.

While there’s no shortage of new and emerging technologies designed to support sales, sales leaders still rely on good old-fashioned sales manager execution to achieve results. But to improve productivity, there are two areas where sales operations can offer real value to their sales managers: interpreting data and communicating effectively

“Sales leaders consider developing frontline managers as the best way to improve seller productivity,” Craig Riley, Senior Principal Analyst, Gartner, told sales leaders at Gartner CSO & Sales Leader Conference 2019, in Las Vegas, NV. “Unfortunately, despite spending considerable resources to acquire, develop and support manager effectiveness, gaps still exist.”

Sales operations leaders can help to close these gaps by providing dashboards that directly help sales managers achieve strategic goals and arming managers with messages and tools that improve their ability to communicate effectively.

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Demystify data to drive behavior change

Sales managers have an average of 4.2 unique dashboards, but only 36% are satisfied with their dashboards’ ability to help them achieve their goals. 

Sales managers are sifting through a large quantity of data, but feel the quality is lacking,” said Steve Rietberg, Senior Director Analyst, Gartner.  “Precious time is spent evaluating and filtering out ineffective dashboards, leaving less time to interpret and take action on the information.”

To tame complexity and boost sales manager effectiveness:

  • Produce dashboards that get used 
  • Help managers interpret content consistently
  • Present metrics that easily translate into action

To ensure use, understand the value that dashboards provide in terms of the sales managers’ most important use cases. Simplify dashboards to showcase only metrics relevant to the use case. For easy understanding and to ensure consistency, define and use standardized metrics across dashboards. Arguably, and most important, select and combine metrics that make next steps clear. 

An effective manager-seller conversation improves commercial performance by explaining things in a way sellers understand and motivating them toward desired behaviors

“Commonly, dashboards highlight key performance indicators (KPIs) tied to manager success,” said Riley. “Unfortunately, if too many or the wrong KPIs are selected, the usefulness of the dashboard in achieving strategic goals is lessened.”

Improved dashboards offer managers three benefits:

  1. Clarity on what dashboards to use, and when metrics/KPIs will measure their team’s performance
  2. Consistency in metrics across use cases and audiences that enables all stakeholders to interpret the data in the same way
  3. Better metric design and visualization, which leads to more actionability 

“While solving for data and dashboards will greatly impact sales manager effectiveness, organizations also must consider how they support those managers with the necessary communication guidance and tools,” says Rietberg.

Enable effective manager-seller conversations

Managers exert a disproportionate influence on their reps’ willingness to exert discretionary effort. One-on-one conversations are one of the most effective ways for managers to motivate  their employees and ensure that their teams meet their goals. In a study of more than 32,000 B2B sellers, frontline sellers reported low levels of manager communication effectiveness. 

An effective manager-seller conversation improves commercial performance by explaining things in a way sellers understand and motivating them toward desired behaviors. 

Only 46% of managers feel prepared to discuss pay and 43% feel comfortable doing so

Sales managers struggle to balance conversations with a laundry list of other tasks they are expected to do, but conversations — such as those around compensation — have a large impact on seller motivation.

“Only 46% of managers feel prepared to discuss pay and 43% feel comfortable doing so,” said Riley. “This presents an opportunity for sales operations leaders to provide guidance to make these conversations more effective and personalized.”

To enable these conversations, sales operations leaders should provide prescriptive guidance on topic, timing and tools.

  • Topic. Provide managers with a set of principles to focus them on the right areas and promote course correction when superfluous topics arise. 
  • Timing. Provide managers guidelines on when to have conversations. This is especially important because when left to their own devices, managers tend to have conversations only when necessary or convenient. 
  • Tools. Provide managers with the information and tools necessary to personalize discussions to improve understanding and promote behavior change.

This article is based on insights that are part of an in-depth collection of research, tools, templates and advice available to Gartner clients.


Gartner for Sales Leaders clients can read the research reports Develop Key Performance Indicators to Align Sellers With Changing Sales Strategies and Enable Frontline Managers to Have More Effective Compensation Conversations.

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