by | Jul 6, 2021

Running The Ship: Sales Management 101 For Digital Marketing Agency Sales Teams

Let’s face it. Agency’s make a shipwreck of their sales operation.

**Joey turns on “Coming in Hot” as this blog’s theme song**

Don’t get mad at me. I’m just making a scientific observation… and you can’t argue science.

But seriously, statistically speaking agencies really can’t get their sales shit together.

It’s why I get paid a lot of money and will always have a job. Book a call here.  😂

Here’s the reality. 

Running a smooth sales operation for an agency is hard as hell. It’s a blend of sales process, sales personnel, and sales enablement (technology, content, knowledge base, and all the goodies).

My argument will always be that process takes first priority over people/personnel when you’re building this machine that is going to drive the majority of your revenue.

That said, if you want to have a healthy sales op you WILL need to have “rowers on the ship” and they’ll need to be aligned, happy, and performing or else you’ll be stuck with process and nobody to run said process.

Which leads me to my next point…

In order to make sure your sales person or people are aligned, happy, and performing there needs to be a sales leader.

Maybe that’s you (agency owner)…

There must be someone running the sales ship in order for it to flourish.

Otherwise… shipwrecked.

So, whether it’s you as the agency owner or it’s somebody else, what makes for a good sales leader?

What makes a good sales leader?

Sales leadership is not as elementary as sitting behind your keyboard, monitoring your CRM, analyzing pipelines and dashboards, and telling your reps “good job” or “you need to get better.”

That’s called being a lazy piece of…. manager. 

No. A sales leader is a really challenging and dynamic role that is comprised of 3 main elements.

This vital role must be a leader, a manager, and a coach.

All in one.

All three are vastly different skill sets. 

Yet all three are important in order to be an effective sales leader.

So let me give you an analogy to help paint the picture of the differences — I’ll keep using the “ship” as an example.

Back in the day when ships were powered by people rowing in unison it was pivotal that all rowers (sales people) knew where they were going, why they were going there, and how to do the job of rowing to ensure they got there.

There’s the Captain of the ship that has his fancy monocular golden telescope looking into the distance, thinking for the journey and mapping it out, getting the crew on the same page and even getting them excited about the destination, and so on. This is leading.

Then there is the Quartermaster. The quartermaster is the individual who was 2nd in command. They would take orders from the Captain and ensure that the crew was rowing in unison, at the right pace, and in the right direction. This is accountability… aka this is management.

Lastly, there is the Coxswain… you guys didn’t know you were getting a lesson on Shipery (not a real word… pretty sure). A Coxswain is an individual that sat with the rowers, talked the rowers through rowing motions, gave tips and best practices, etc. This is coaching.

Now, in your agency you do not have the ability (or need) to have 3 people in order to make the sales ship run smoothly. This can realistically be one person.


One person with the ability to showcase each of these skill sets: leading, managing, and coaching.

Sure, you’re naturally going to be better at one of these three than the others but you need to have the infrastructure in place to at least be halfway decent at all three.

Myself? I’m a great leader, a pretty good coach, and a capable (mediocre) manager. I have systems in place that enable me to manage sufficiently despite it being my least competent of the three.

I digress.

I think you understand the analogy/picture I gave you, but what does this look like in practicality in your agency?

Leading Your Salespeople

As I so beautifully painted the picture above… the leader is the captain of the “sales ship.” Your inner captain shows itself in the way that you guide the sales team (whether that be one person or a dozen). 

When you have your captain hat on you are thinking about the bigger picture AND you’re ensuring that the team is in alignment with that bigger picture. 

Goals, forecasting, culture, teamwork, excitement, and communicating the “why” behind each individual player’s job — that’s the leader.

If you are nothing else, become a sufficient leader. 

It is often underestimated how truly powerful being able to excite and mobilize people towards a common objective is. I’d argue… the MOST important.

Even a poorly coached and managed sales team can still produce (albeit, not optimally) when they are at least energized in unison towards a common goal.

Sharpen your ability to lead and you’ll see an improvement in your salespeople.

But don’t stop there.

Managing Your Salespeople

Oh, the manager. This skillset is often one of the more difficult tools to add to your tool belt for a visionary-type agency owner.

It is for me…

However, I want you to think about the analogy I used earlier. The manager, or Quartermaster, is the one who carries out the orders of the captain and keeps the crew accountable to the destination/goal.

When you take off your leader hat and you put the manager hat on you’re looking at the sales operation a bit more objectively… analyzing the numbers, asking the hard questions, calling people out for holding up their end of the “deal,” and also encouraging and edifying those who are doing a good job being accountable to the goal set before them.

This requires hard conversations around the data. 

What’s working, or not…

Who’s working, or not…

Why is this working, or not…

If you set up your operation the right way, measuring the right things, and knowing how to take that information and create the right actionable next steps then you can be a really successful manager of sales people. 

Note this: The data doesn’t lie.

And lastly…

Coaching Your Salespeople

Oftentimes the most overlooked of the three and usually seen as the most “optional”… is coaching.

Coaching is what coaching is. We all know what a coach is. It’s usually quite simple in theory, yet quite challenging in practice.

You should be the primary influencer in your salesperson’s life whether you want to or not… and if you’re not then they’re not going to stick around very long. 

I promise.

A coach is someone who is going to get in the weeds with you, help you sharpen your tools, challenge you to think differently, and ultimately shape you as a person and an employee. 

In the ship staff analogy above, the coach is the person who will sit next to the rower on their bench and ask them how they’re doing, show them a new technique, point out areas for vulnerability, and be their biggest advocate. 

When you put on that coach hat you transform into a servant of your salespeople.

The reason I pointed out that this is “quite challenging in practice” is because of that word I just said above… SERVANT.

As a coach, you keep the company’s goals and objectives in mind, of course… but more importantly, you elevate the individuals that make up your sales team. That requires a servant-heart.

In conclusion

A good sales leader is going to get the most out of their sales team when they lead, manage, and coach. All three.

It’s a tall ask, I get it.

But when you have massive growth goals and you want others to help you achieve them then this is what you will have to strive to become.

Let’s Talk

We help agencies get sales right. Through building out your sales processes, hiring & training your sales people, and enabling them through technology we help your agency add 7-figures of revenue or more through your sales operation. Worth a call?