How can mid-market companies drive high performing sales teams?

Business success depends on selling. At its latest Commercial Exchange, Inflexion invited its portfolio to hear about the crucial role of the sales manager in business today, as part of a series on effective sales management.

Sales managers play a critical role in driving revenue growth and ultimately a company’s value creation plan. While their impact is clear, their responsibilities are manifold, from steering the performance of a team of sales representatives to achieve their sales targets and meet the company's revenue goals to coaching, training and motivating their team members. They are also responsible for acting as a link between sales and the rest of an organisation to provide valuable insights into customer needs and market trends.

There is huge value in being systematic in how you train sales managers and sales representatives, according to Ada Pham, Assistant Director in Inflexion’s Value Acceleration team focused on commercial strategy.

Despite their importance, the managers can get left out of structured training programmes as firms prioritise investment for the largest number of people. But this misses a trick, especially as it’s easier to influence the behaviours of five to ten managers rather than 25 to 100 reps. “The first-level managers in sales teams have a disproportionate influence on execution of a go-to market plan,” explains Peter Bancroft, an independent consultant working in commercial value creation for private equity backed businesses.

Lay out the formula for a successful sales approach

Chambers and Partners is a leading legal ranking and insights business which was backed by Inflexion in 2018 to build on its strong brand, focus on accelerating its growth and transition the business towards a ‘digital-first’ proposition.

At the time of the buyout there was limited commercial application with a sales team of just five. “Chambers’ high growth meant it had to build a strong sales foundation to create consistent and predictable execution with key in the middle being the sales managers”,  Felipe Poveda, Chief Commercial Officer. The team worked closely with Inflexion to grow this to 55 by the end of 2022 and over 70 now.

A crucial aspect of this process involved the development of sales managers, equipping them with a structured sales methodology and approach, which included implementing a coaching model called GROW. Their progression as sales leaders was carefully cultivated through a phased approach, starting with hybrid roles that involved managing a small team of representatives while simultaneously being accountable for meeting quotas, Chambers also introduced a structured sales leadership training and coaching programme.

The work has paid off: at the end of 2022, bookings and EBITDA were both growing at c. 20% per annum, with notable successes in aligning pricing with value, the introduction of a new product proposition and significant improvements in retention.

Give them the data and KPIs to drive performance of their teams

Inflexion de-listed Infront from the Oslo Stock Exchange in 2021. The firm provides data and software to financial institutions. At Infront, a metrics-driven culture was instilled to boost sales effectiveness. Key data and KPIs were built for sales managers, helping them with the weekly coaching of reps, keeping track of activities such as meetings and calls, visibility over pipeline and progress, and capturing key customer information systematically to help with qualification of bids and therefore make effective use of the sales reps’ time.

"Having a more numbers and metrics driven sales culture led to a more pro-active and forward looking management of pipeline as well as better collaboration across commercial functions”, stressed Berry Clemens, Chief Revenue Officer. 

Free up time to focus on value-adding activities

Rosemont Pharmaceuticals, the UK’s leading liquid pharmaceuticals business was carved out of listed parent company Perrigo by Inflexion in 2020. It has made changes to boost efficient time management through technology and dedicated resource . Eric Vick, Chief Commercial Officer of Rosemont since 2021, shared the firm’s experience with the portfolio.

“We found that during the pandemic, our sales people were spending about 40% of their time just finding people who would meet with them and scheduling meetings. This isn’t efficient, so we’ve recently introduced a system that can better target and prioritise leads as well as dedicate a rep on scheduling meetings. By freeing up 40% of their time to refocus on what they should be doing – selling – it effectively doubled our sales force.”

This focus on time management is ongoing at Rosemont. Eric continues, “We want to see managers coach and train their teams, with the former an effective way to get the best out of the reps through one-to-one time, whereas training sees everyone learn about market and product information.”

5 tips to set your sales managers up for success


  1. Define the key characteristics that make a sales manager great at driving success for your business and set these out in the competency framework.
  2. Make it easy for them – define the sales approach and the methodology to diagnose skills and coach their teams.
  3. Give them the data and KPIs for visibility on performance aligned to your financial goals.
  4. Build a wrapper of support and tech stack that fosters collaboration and maximises the time spent on coaching, less selling.
  5. Invest in developing your sales managers into future leaders, with career progression plans and continuous leadership training.

All Inflexion portfolio companies, regardless of size or ownership stake, have full access to our value acceleration resources covering digital enhancement, international expansion, M&A, ESG, commercial strategy and talent management.