Undertrained sales managers often make common mistakes


Editor’s note: This is part two of a three-part series.

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 is often the most undertrained 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 studying 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 long-time consultant and educator of salespeople and sales managers, I frequently see these three most common maladies suffered by sales managers.

2. Lack of regular and systematic direction and feedback for the salespeople

The relentless attraction of the urgent and the demanding shouts of the transaction, like the pleading of a toddler, tend to overwhelm the time and attention of most sales managers.

Sales managers often have the best of intentions. For example, they may need to do a set of performance reviews by the end of the year. But there is a big presentation for one account that they need to attend. Another account wants to complain about some issue with the sales manager. Yet another needs the manager’s touch to smooth some feathers, etc. And they really do need to spend some time in the field with the new salesperson. And, and, and … the demands of the urgent once again force regular face-to-face discussions about expectations and results to the bottom of the “to do” list.

As a result, most salespeople are left directionless and provided with little feedback on how they are doing. Of course, we publish sales numbers, but there are lots of reasons why a set of numbers can be up, down or sideways above and beyond the impact of the salesperson.

What do you expect of this particular salesperson? And how well is he/she doing? 

In most surveys of what salespeople really want from their managers, “direction and feedback” are often at the very top of the list. It’s one thing to talk about some account or some deal, it’s quite another to speak to the core issues of “my performance.”

Sales is an isolated job. It is not unusual for a salesperson to spend as much as 70% of the workweek by himself or herself. All that isolation often leads to anxiety and self-doubt, which often expresses itself through complaints and finding fault with the company.

All this negative energy can be prevented by providing the salesperson with regular direction, specific expectations and regular feedback.

The old saying, “Out of sight, out of mind,” is too often the operational description of the typical sales manager. The salespeople are out there somewhere doing their thing, while the tyranny of the urgent often occupies the manager’s time.

As a result, salespeople are not nearly as focused as they could be, they default to unhealthy thoughts, and they spend too much time expressing negative energy.

Part 1 of this series can be seen at https://www.grbj.com/articles/95206-undertrained-sales-managers-often-make-common-mistakes


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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