Your Sales Manager is Why Your Sales Team is Failing

Does your sales team need someone to:

  1. Monitor every minute activity in the sales office?
  2. Be every salesperson’s best friend?
  3. Close the deal for every team member?
  4. Set sales goals designed to simply make them and their team look good?

The vast majority fall into one of these four types:

The Hall Monitor

The Hall Monitor sees their job as one of chronicling activity, taking names, dispensing discipline, focusing on procedures, thinking those are the keys to generating results—or at least to keeping their job.

Hall monitors tend to be oriented to process, are organized, and have a strong sense of discipline. All admirable characteristics—but they’re misguided. The Hall Monitor makes a great bureaucrat, a lousy sales manager. He’ll make sure everyone knows their place and that procedure is followed—at the cost of morale and sales.

Although the Hall Monitor is focused on enforcing procedure on subordinates, she feels justified in fudging (lying) to upper management when completing reports. She has no intent of letting her subordinates hold her down or put her job in jeopardy. If numbers aren’t met, margins aren’t being held, or sales calls aren’t being made, she is fully capable of showing management why it isn’t her fault.

The Visitor

The Visitor is going places—fast. Their current assignment of managing the sales team is temporary—and the more temporary, the better. Their key to moving is getting some numbers to catch the eye of management.

The Visitor cares about no one other than himself and that translates into demanding sales at all costs. Price is never an obstacle—sell it no matter what. His message to his team members is get out and get orders and don’t come back until you got ‘em. His implied message to the sales team is “the quicker you get the numbers, the quicker you get rid of me.”

Need help? Need advice? Need coaching? Don’t ask The Visitor because frankly, he doesn’t give a damn. If it isn’t something that’s going to help him get the next promotion and get it NOW, forget it.

Have a suggestion or advice to give? Don’t bother because The Visitor doesn’t care—doesn’t plan on being around long enough to implement it anyway.

The one thing you can count on from The Visitor is a sales goal he is sure he can easily obliterate. Oh, yeah, management will see those numbers destroyed, guaranteed.

The Good Buddy

The Good Buddy is everyone’s friend. Managing is a popularity contest that he intends to win. He’ll be a great drinking buddy, a top notch shoulder to cry on, a guy you can trust to cover for you. He’ll make sure the office atmosphere is loose, that everyone feels welcome, that the office is a fun place to be.

Discipline? Well, that’s not something you’ll find in his office. An insistence on hitting quota? Something else that isn’t a priority. Coaching? Nope. Lots of back slapping and high fiving, but no coaching. Decisions? Don’t expect The Good Buddy to make the hard decisions because he might hurt someone’s feelings.

The Good Buddy is weak and lets his team members run the office. Ultimately, most everyone in his office ends up unhappy.

The Super Closer

We all know the Super Closer—the guy or gal who believes they can close anyone, anytime. They generally have a massive ego, more than likely a strong sales history, an A type personality, and little respect for the others on their sales team. The Super Closer sees their charges as grunts who know nothing about sales and whose only job is to go out, work through the chaff to find the prospect, then call in The Super Closer and watch the master work.

The Super Closer is concerned with one thing and one thing only—today. Get today’s numbers, Numbers, numbers, numbers. By gosh she’s never missed a quota and she’s not going to start now. If you suckers can’t get the business—and God knows you can’t, she’ll close it for you. Her sales team doesn’t have to worry about anything except getting her in front of a prospect.

Planning? Who needs it? Reports to management? All they care about are quotas being met and exceeded, so she’ll tell them what they want to hear and then worry about making it true.

Don’t Blame the “Manager,” the Problem Starts with the Company

The managers above have developed their own definition of what a manager is because:

They misunderstand the nature of their position. Most companies don’t train their new sales managers. The assumption is that good salespeople will know what needs to be done. Consequently, most companies simply instruct new sales managers to call their manager if they have questions, and maybe give them a day or two introduction to the reports and paperwork they’ll need to complete.
They believe that today is more important than future days. Get today’s numbers today and worry about tomorrow, tomorrow. This often comes from a demand by management—stated or unstated—that numbers be met NOW. Many senior managers mouth a long-term growth philosophy while demanding numbers be made today so they get their bonus–and to hell with tomorrow (Wall Street anyone?).
They aren’t manager material to begin with. A great salesperson will not necessarily be a great manager. Very often, if not most often, great salespeople make terrible managers. They know what they are good at and want to continue being the sales superstar but with a management title. Converting to be a real manager is impossible for some of these sales stars.
They can’t make the adjustment from being one of the group to being the leader of the group. They want the new position but they don’t want their relationships to change.
Sales Teams Don’t Need Managers, They Need Leaders

Fortunately, there is a fifth type of sales manager—the real deal.

Currently it is common for sales managers at all levels to be called ‘Sales Leaders.’ Nice title that really doesn’t fit most managers. A true sales leader is very different from the more typical managers we saw above.

The true sales leader:

  1. Isn’t focused on today but rather is looking into and planning for the future with the intent of molding the future instead of being molded by it.
  2. Is looking to coach his or her team members to stardom, not to be The Star themselves.
  3. Manages through demonstration and inspiration, not intimidation and fear.
  4. Is a student, open to suggestion, criticism, advice, and continual education.
  5. Leads by being trustworthy and demonstrating integrity and honesty. His/her team members may not like The Sales Leader’s decisions, but know the decisions are honest and based on what the Sales Leader believes is best for the team.
  6. Is a decision maker, not afraid to make the hard decisions and to live with the consequences.


The Making of a Sales Leader

A Sales Leader doesn’t just happen, they are created, they’re formed, they’re developed.

The development starts with the selection of the new manager. Traditionally companies have selected top producers to become the new frontline sales manager. Sales management is viewed more as a reward for production than as a critical job in its own right.

What makes a great manager isn’t what makes a great salesperson. The activities are very different. The relationship building needs are different, the communication, planning, and organizational needs are different. Unless a company is seeking a Super Closer or a Visitor, promoting a top producer may not be a wise idea.

Although the management problems start with the selection of the new manager, more important is the “training” most new managers undergo—none.

One of the most common training formats companies have is upon promoting the new manager, the new manager is given a day or two training on hiring and firing procedures, how to handle sexual harassment issues, and how fill out payroll paperwork. From there, the new manager is told to call his or her manager if they have questions or need guidance. After the first few questions directed to their manager, they begin to notice their phone calls aren’t returned as promptly as before, their manager’s tone of voice is a little sharper, the answers and guidance more and more abrupt.

Soon they realize they’re on their own to sink or swim as they can.

No wonder they have no idea how to be a leader.

To create a Sales Leader, companies must invest in their new manager—investing both time and money. They must either create a multi-disciplinary in-house management program or hire an outside company. In addition, each new manager needs a coach—either an in-house coach or an outside professional manager coach.

Each new manager must be schooled in the skills of management, but more importantly must be guided in the roll of and skills of leadership. Filling out paperwork, creating a sales plan, assigning territories, and resolving issues with shipping are all important, no doubt.

But far more important to the success of the company and the sales team is getting the most out of team members, developing team members who have the desire to succeed, who are willing to invest the time and effort to be the best. These aren’t instilled by a manager, they’re brought out by a leader.

The last thing your sales team needs is a manager. You need Sales Leaders.

If you want Sales Leaders, do the things necessary to develop them—investing in them is investing in your company’s future success. Refusing to invest in them is an investment in your company’s failure.