There are many differing opinions on the qualities and techniques a Sales Manager or a Sales Leader should exude. Should sales managers simply serve as mentors, or should they go above and beyond to become micromanagers? Should sales leaders go out into the field with their sales reps or should they focus on high-level strategies? There is no general consensus because each organization in each industry has different needs and tactics that are suitable for them.

While it is acceptable for there to be varying opinions on what works for each organization, there is still a glaring discrepancy that remains: many people are not aware of the difference between a Sales Manager and a Sales Leader.

To truly understand what separates them, we must first dive into what makes each of them unique.

Sales Leaders

Definition – those who inspire a group of people to be motivated and complete the strategies and tactics you have created because they believe in your vision

Leadership is interchangeable with innovation, motivation, idea origination, and trust.

Sales Leaders are strategic in their thinking. They analyze the “bigger picture” while also paying attention to both numbers and sales reps. They are tasked with the responsibility to both define and communicate the sales processes and the drivers behind these processes that make them effective. They are the authors of the Sales Playbook, which dictates the visions, strategies, processes, and tactics of the sales teams. They use metrics and data to drive these strategies and implement plans for the future.

Sales Leaders are empowering. They empower their managers and reps to succeed. They derive total commitment from all the members of their sales team and elevate their reps to the highest levels of performance.

The end result is the vision and culture of the entire sales organization.

Sales Managers

Definition – the person responsible for leading and guiding a team of salespeople

Managing is interchangeable with directing, overseeing, supervising, and executing.

Management occurs at the everyday, tactical level. It requires effectively directing resources to achieve set goals and coaching their teams to sell. Their tasks often include setting quotas, mentoring members of the sales teams, and assigning sales training. They use data to analyze the performance of their sales reps and to make changes based on the incongruencies they see. They optimize sales moving forward.


There are as many differences between sales management and sales leadership as there are similarities.

While both Sales Leaders and Sales Managers are effective at communication, they execute it differently. Leaders make use of two-way communication and feedback. They pose questions to the members of their team and find value and insights in the answers they provide. Managers however, are focused on meeting their daily targets and maintaining a standard level of performance. They achieve these set goals by constantly telling their employees different ways to meet these specific targets.

There is also a disparity between which role is entrusted with the long-term growth of the company and the role that directs reps to that end. While Sales Leaders are focused on developing challenges and opportunities for its staff members that will evolve into future success, it is the responsibility of the Sales Managers to administer their reps to deliver these results and drive the business.

Although it may seem more apparent at this point, it is important to also point out that with the amount of day-to-day decisions and supervision a Sales Manager is in charge of, they have little time to experiment and strategize. Sales Leaders on the other hand, encourage this innovation and empower all members of the team to think outside the box.

The last major difference is that of vision and mission. Leaders are charged with the responsibility of creating a vision for others to pursue. This vision will align the members of the teams around a common goal and purpose and inspires creativity. Managers regulate the routine that enables this vision to be realized.


There is a difference between leadership and management that is apparent after drilling down to the basic values and responsibilities of each role. Leaders are willing to take more risks and provoke others to do the same. Managers direct resources and implement the vision of leader. While leadership is derived from passion, management stems from order.

However, it does not go without saying – you can develop the leadership skills within you.  Leaders are not born; they are individuals who learn what it takes to inspire others. It takes both knowledge and hard work in order to gain the proficiency necessary to succeed. Most importantly, they learn from inspiring leaders that came before them.

So what are you, a sales manager…or a sales leader?

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