a sales manager or anyone who is accountable for the results
of your sales team is one of the hardest jobs in the world.
It requires a thorough knowledge of marketing, sales
techniques, pricing and above all profit. In the end, the
manager or owner is ALWAYS to blame when results are poor
and never get credit for success.
Who would take this job? I thought it might be helpful to
provide some advice for sales managers that I have learned
in my travels.
Here is the list of the biggest mistakes that sales manager
make when trying to get and maintain good or great results
from their team:
MISTAKE #1: The Customer Is Always Right – This long
standing myth is completely untrue. I know the customer IS
important but can they always be right? A manager can
overlook when their employees are right to NOT take a job
from a customer when the situation is not favorable to the
After all, the employee is the contact with the customer and
is responsible for maintaining the customer relationship.
When customers learn they can bypass the employee and get
what they want by going to the manager, you will lose the
credibility of your pricing structure with your employees.
You can’t enter every negotiation starting from the point
that the customer always gets everything they want before
you even begin.
Managers must back up their team first. Never cut your
employee off at the knees when dealing with customers.
Remember that you must go to war with this employee after
the smoke clears.
MISTAKE #2 — Everyone Will Be Happy When Sales
Improve – A big mistake is the belief that increasing sales
will result in happier employees. Sales do not improve
morale. Instead, you must improve morale to increase sales.
What results is a classic “chicken or egg” situation where
everyone’s waiting for things to improve, with decreasing
hope that they actually will.
Your people will be happy when they believe in your company
and the value that it presents to your customers. To create
a happier team:
1.Present a clear vision of the future of the company and of
the sales team.
2.Make the vision work and show the benefit to each team
3.Create an action plan that everyone agrees with.
4.Chunk it down into small achievable behaviors that create
5.Have ownership endorse the action plan and vision or it
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The First Responsibility Is To Reach Goal – Okay, the
numbers are important, they never lie and they are an
indication of the past. However, trying to “work” on the
number as your first priority leads to favoritism,
manipulation of dates and statistics and in worst case to
just “cooking the books.”.
A managers first responsibility is to manage behaviors and
to “workout” the sales team. Ultimately a manager cannot
manage the numbers at all. The numbers are just a result of
activities, strategy and behaviors that have been executed
well. If your priority is on what the sales team is doing,
and measuring the effectiveness of your coaching and their
behaviors, each day the numbers being good will just happen
and do not need your attention.
MISTAKE #4: A Minimum Quota Sets the Bar – A Quota
defines the minimum performance an organization will accept
to stay employed at the company. Minimum performance of a
sales person should not be rewarded or congratulated. When
this minimum standard is used as an acceptable goal, we are
placing maximum emphasis on minimum performance. The results
will be completely predictable. The misguided sales team
aims at the minimum standard and seldom if ever does any
The minimum quota is simply what we need to achieve in order
to stay in business. These low grade goals do not produce a
profit and will not result in happy employees. In fact, it
will lead to employees mistakenly thinking they are doing
good and in turn expecting a raise when none is deserved.
MISTAKE #5: The Manager Should Have All the Answers —
Why should the manager answer an employee’s question? When
they do, they are hurting their sales team by denying them
the opportunity to think through the problem themselves.
This robs employees of the creative thought process
necessary to push through difficult challenges and
ultimately the opportunity to improve their mental growth.
While a manager’s knowledge has value, people don’t learn
when that wisdom is given too easily. Worse yet, is when
unwanted advice is thrust upon a struggling performer.
The right answer to tough questions is of course to ask the
right questions of your employees. The idea is to ask a
question to get your team to “discover” the answer to create
improvement. Great managers know the questions to ask that
help employees fix themselves.
MISTAKE #6: The Heavy Hitters Make Manager’s Look
Good – A Manager who point’s to their top performers success
and uses this as a measure of their effectiveness are just
fooling themselves. While the manager may have hired,
trained and managed that top performer, the success of that
person is more likely to reflect that person’s drive and
ability, rather than anything the manager did.
The truth is that the worst performers define a manager’s
ability. The worst performing sales person embodies what the
manager will accept at a minimum. Because that poor
performer remains employed, the manager is showing their
tolerance of bad behavior and drive.
What’s more, the poor performer kills the enthusiasm of the
rest of the team who are left to wonder what it actually
takes to get fired at this company. They also know that the
propping up of the poor performer is costing them money and
time as they work harder to cover the manager’s tolerance of
the poor performance.
MISTAKE #7: Management Is Waiting For Change – When
we view the solution to anything as waiting for something to
happen, we tend not to do much of anything and become
paralyzed. We think mistakenly that things will eventually
change if we jus have patience. The result is that the same
problems keep coming up day after day, month after month,
year after year, because managers are blaming trends, luck
or just about anything else other than the action they will
take to make something positive happen.
Good management takes action and shows leadership in tough
times. To get the best from your team you must know their
dreams, thoughts and goals. A great manager will apply
psychology, motivation and behavioral changes needed to
Managers must analyze the numbers, ask the questions and
coach their team to achieve maximum success. Do yourself a
favor and avoid the mistakes shown above and you will go a
long way to create a happy and profitable sales team.