The job of a sales manager is one of the toughest occupations in the world. Part strategic and part tactical, they must deliver tangible sales results using the intangible qualities of their sales team members. That is not an easy task.
Successful sales managers do well for many different reasons; likewise, unsuccessful sales managers fail for many different reasons. If you are a sales manager or VP, ask yourself if any of these issues have ever caused problems for you or others you know.
Failure #1: They were a great salesperson.
This may come as a surprise, but many sales managers are promoted from the ranks of the sales team because they were a great salesperson. The theory is if they were good at sales, they’ll be good at sales management. Not so.
Sales and sales management are two very different jobs.
Being good at sales means consistently delivering tangible sales results. Being a good sales manager means delivering the same sales results through other people.
This key distinction is where great salespeople many times fail to achieve their team goals. They intuitively know how to sell. However, they typically don’t know how to break down the sales process and communicate it in a way that makes sense to others.
Secondly, they typically don’t have the patience to coach. This means allowing their sales reps to make mistakes and continually work with them over time to develop their selling skills.
Failure #2: They fail to hold their salespeople accountable (the right way).
Too often I see sales managers shy away from holding their sales reps accountable. They typically fall into two categories:
- Avoidance – Either the sales manager avoids conducting accountability conversations all together or they fail to be direct enough with their rep. Either way, the conversation fails to achieve its goal – address the reps issue, get them to acknowledge the error/mistake and take corrective action.
- Overbearing – In this case, the sales manager is too aggressive. They come across as tyrannical and tend to make the issue personal rather than just sticking to the topic. This creates unnecessary tension and the goal of corrective action can get lost.
Instead, accountability conversations should be focused on the behaviors of the sales rep and how to change those behaviors to achieve a different result.
Failure #3: They fail to get the chance of becoming a sales manager.
Average performance in a sales role becomes a stumbling block for advancement. Unfortunately, many of the best sales managers were average salespeople. Consider some of the most successful NFL coaches. Many of them were very marginal players at best.
However, they had a greater capacity to coach, communicate their vision, and lead the team – rather than to participate on the field as a star player. Any sales organization that promotes a superstar sales rep largely on past sales performance might miss out on a great sales manager who finished in the middle of the pack.
Failure #4: They lack an effective sales management process.
Place anyone in any position and give them no training, and what do you have? You get an employee who stays in a constant state of frustration.
Some people don’t instinctively know how to fulfill the sales manager role. They must be given the training and resources to understand and recognize what each individual salesperson needs to help them be successful. Here are just a few of the sales manager activities that require a process:
- How to assess a sales rep’s performance accurately
- How to identify the priorities for coaching
- How to create a custom coaching plan
- How to create a motivating environment for the sales team
- How to ask good questions to develop the sales reps thinking skills
A sales manager who has very little dedicated training will significantly hamper the ability of the salespeople to do their jobs and reduce the organization’s competitive edge.
Failure #5: They lack an effective sales process.
Football teams don’t go out on the field without a clearly designed play to run. Without a selling system, the salespeople will make it up as they attempt to move through the sales process. There’s no repeatable formula for success. Sometimes they get the sale, sometimes they don’t. Unfortunately, there’s no way to determine why they did or didn’t get the sale, and then coaching becomes a difficult task.
Your sales reps need a process for:
- Prospecting/lead generation
- Building trust
- Qualifying the buyer
- Uncovering needs
- Presenting a solution
- Handling objections
- Negotiating terms and price
- Closing the sale
When the manager doesn’t provide the sales team with a clearly defined sales process, the players will squander opportunities your competitors will get.
Failure #6: They lack of an effective hiring process.
Gut feelings and speculation in the selection process will limit your ability to make the right choice. Just like having a selling system for your sales team to follow is important, so is utilizing an effective hiring system. Remember this…
Hiring is your attempt at predicting the future.
Therefore, you must acquire as much information about your candidate that you can – background check, phone screen, résumé review, multiple interviews, in-depth sales assessment, role plays, etc. Each one of these steps provides you with information that the others do not. Collectively, these will aid you in your decision making process.
Without a defined hiring process utilizing objective measurements, employment decisions can end up being a coin toss.
Failure #7: They believe they are coaching… but they’re not.
If a sales manager sees himself as strictly a manager, he can easily be driven by the administrative functions of the job: paperwork, meetings, customer issues, etc.
Successful sales coaches ask questions (instead of telling) to get their sales reps thinking.
They work with their salespeople to develop their selling skills in specific areas, strategize with them on difficult deals, hold them accountable for their results, provide feedback on performance issues, as well as course correct before the month is over to help them achieve their sales goal.
Sales management is a tough job. Invest the time and energy in the right tools for the job: effective sales management training, a proven and reliable hiring process, plus a powerful selling system, and you can reap the rewards of a successful sales team.