Is the sales manager responsible for poor sales, or is it the sales person's fault? Without question, it is the responsibility and duty of the sales manager to set and maintain quotas for the sales force based on the company goals, and to energize the sales force and to conduct training exercises when necessary to bring sales up to expectations.

Now, before I get nine thousand irate e-mails from sales managers telling me, "It's the economy," or "My employer just doesn't give me the tools I need," or any other excuse ... let me tell all you sales managers out there that you and you only are responsible for meeting sales goals regardless of how outrageous they may seem to you. Period.With that said, let's look at what makes up a successful manager and what you must do if you intend to perform according to management's expectations:

Basic charge of a sales manager: It's simple. Your task is to meet the quotas set by management. Take those quotas, set team sales goals, define the individual goals of the sales force and set up a method of evaluation.

Set a standard of production excellence, then establish an evaluation system that defines where the sales person shines and where they could use additional help. I suggest dividing these help areas into six parts: attitude, basic product knowledge, prospecting skills, presentations, closing and servicing:

- Attitude: There's not much you can do about attitude. If it's good, reinforce it; if it's bad, point that deficiency out to the sales person, suggest they read some Positive Mental Attitude (PMA) books, and give them a deadline to improve performance. (You didn't hire the person for attitude, just sales performance, so you cannot fire for attitude).

- Basic product knowledge: If you are lucky enough to have product knowledge education class, send the offender back through the system, not as a student but as an "instructor's helper." This suggestion not only assures you the sales person will learn, it also helps the newcomers by exposing them to an experienced salesperson who knows the ropes.

Another great way to increase product knowledge is to hold a contest at each sales meeting where you ask pre-written questions, and reward the person with the best answer with cash. It works every time. Also, record the best answers and publish them in the form of helper materials for all sales persons.

- Prospecting skills: Team the weak person with one of your best for a week. Insist the weak sales person write a complete report that includes a step-by-step solution that will work for them. Make that report part of the next evaluation, and make sure the sales person knows that fact.

- Presentation skills: The secret here is enthusiasm! With it, the poorest sales presentation can work. Without it, the slickest presentation can fail. You can only build enthusiasm if the sales person has a personal goal that is big enough to reach, and he or she feels that only money can make it happen, and that your company is the way to go. This is another inner personal goal, but you can make it work by finding then reinforcing the dream. It is one of your tasks as a manager to make this happen.

- Closing skills: Again, the secret is enthusiasm. It matters not which type of close your sales force uses; if the presentation and close are given enthusiastically, the prospect will catch fire and you have a customer.

- Servicing skills: One of the more difficult tasks of a sales manager is to find a very good reason for servicing a customer once the sale has been made. Most sales people are motivated by money, so if you can tie renumeration into service, you may have a winner.

- Wrap: As a sales manager, you have a tough job. You are on probation from your management, and you are the designated whipping post for the sales staff. It is your task to balance the work in your mind, keep them separate for the sales force, and make it all work. I would suggest you read Dale Carnegie's book, "How To Win Friends and Influence People."