Sales managers’ most common mistakes

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In most organizations, sales managers are the essential bridge between the company’s sales goals and the realization of those goals. The gritty day-to-day interactions between the salespeople and their customers are frequently filtered through the perspective of the sales manager on their way up the ladder. The aspirations and strategies of the company’s management must be imprinted by the realism of the sales manager as they come down from above. Sales managers are the conductors who carefully orchestrate the tentative entanglement of the salespeople with their management.

It’s an incredibly important and difficult job. Unfortunately, it often is the most under-trained job in the entire organization. Instead of providing information on the best practices and processes of the job, most companies hope their sales managers will have learned enough during their days as a field salesperson to provide some roadmap as to how to do this job well.

Alas, only a small percentage of untrained sales managers ever really figure it out, arriving by trial and error and after hours of study at the best practices of an effective sales manager. The overwhelming majority find themselves caught up in the urgencies of the moment, the tempting details of all the transactions and the continuing onslaught of crises, and are never able to set in place a systematic blueprint for their success.

The net result? Few salespeople are effectively managed. All parties — executive management, sales manager and salespeople — bounce from one frustration to another. Company objectives are met frequently by happenstance, salespeople are not developed to their fullest potential and sales managers lurch from one crisis to another.

Certain common mistakes often arise out of this unhealthy situation. As a longtime consultant and educator of salespeople and sales managers, I frequently see these three most common maladies suffered by sales managers.

3. Lack of an organized training and development system.

No profession in the world expects the serious practitioners of that profession to figure it out by themselves. Quite the contrary. Every profession has determined some minimal acceptable course of study, and typically has some event that signals the entry into that profession. It is for this reason that teachers, emergency medical technicians and ministers are licensed; and why attorneys must pass the bar exam, accountants must pass their certification exam, etc.

Unfortunately, that is rarely true of salespeople. In only the leading companies is there some required course of study for entry level salespeople, and some event that signifies the successful completion of that study and their entry into the profession.

To even think this way is so outside of the reality of most sales managers that I can almost hear half of the readers of this article snickering over their coffee. “Some standard for allowing people into the job?” Incredible thought. But if you don’t insist on it, you’ll continue to labor with a hit-or-miss sales force where every hire is ultimately a shot in the dark.

No profession in the world expects that once someone has become qualified to enter the profession they then no longer need to invest in their own development. And every profession has expectations of the practitioners’ regular need to systematically improve himself or herself. Can you imagine a teacher who never attends an in-service training? A nurse who never invests in continuing development? A minister who never goes back to school? A doctor who never attends a conference?

Even if such lackadaisical professionals could keep their jobs, you would not want them to have anything to do with your family. You would never put your health in the hands of a doctor who hadn’t updated himself since med school. You would not want your children taught by the teacher who hadn’t learned anything since graduation. You would never put your lawsuit in the hands of an attorney who had never bothered to keep current.

The examples can go on and on. But you get the idea. The professional who doesn’t regularly invest in his own continuous development is relegated to the dregs of the market.

So, why is it that the overwhelming majority of sales managers do not require regular and systematic involvement in continuous development events for their charges? It may be that they don’t see their salespeople (or themselves) as professionals. Or, it may be that they have never thought about it that way.

Regardless of the reason, the reality of this malady is that the quality of the sales force is not nearly what it could be, if only the sales managers required some minimum standard for their entry level people, and then regular and continuous development of those who were on the inside. The wise sales manager will assemble a system for the education and development of his salespeople.

Grand Rapids-based Dave Kahle is one of the world’s leading sales authorities. He’s written 12 books, presented in 47 states and 11 countries, and has helped enrich tens of thousands of salespeople and transform hundreds of sales organizations. His book, “How to Sell Anything to Anyone Anytime,” has been recognized by three international entities as “one of the five best English language business books.” Check out his latest book, “The Good Book on Business.” This article originally appeared at davekahle.com

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