Sales management can be as simple or complicated as you want it to be. Over the years, I have seen both management styles succeed. Since there is a significant variance in the way in which sales managers operate, it stands to reason that there are misconceptions both by observers and managers themselves. I would like to list the 5 fallacies of sales management that tend to surfaces often in the workplace:
Must be the best sales person in the group. How often have you heard this? How often have you seen this implemented? Many times! Well, this concept is simply not true. So often though, the best sales people in a group surfaces as the front runner and eventual winner of the promotion to a sales management post. I equate this to sports. Was Vince Lombardi the best football player at his position prior to revolutionizing his sport? Scotty Bowman won 9 Stanley Cups as a coach but never performed above the minor league level in his sport. There are countless examples of my point. Placing the best sales person in the management position will often demoralize the candidate and rob the company of an important sales asset on the front lines. High level sales people tend towards tactics were as this talent is only a portion of the sales management role.
Needs to be the “Closer-in-Chief”. This could be one of the most important of the 5 fallacies of sales management. We have all heard sales managers remind us to “bring me in when you are ready to close the deal”. I am sure that there are many managers who excel in this area and their talents should be leveraged when appropriate. The truth is that closing, just like every other stage of the selling process, should be lead by whatever resource gives the team the best chance to win. Presuming that you, as sales manager, is the go to person for one specific aspect of the sales plan is a mistake.
Adopts the Cheerleading Principle. Motivation is crucial to any organization but is particularly true of a sales team. Given the high level of rejection they experience, plus the importance of many of their sales projects to the health of their company, maintaining a positive state of mind is important. Although I agree, that the leadership of the group must take some responsibility for this, I hold that as a professional, each sales person must take ownership of their own state of mind. Some of our motivation must come from within. The confidence to succeed ultimately can not be totally reliant on the sales manager’s pep rallies or performance related rewards. Sustained confidence and determination to win eventually must come from within each of us.
Must approve all tactical sales plans. This may surprise some of you. It is a considerable responsibility to become the gate for all sales plans. Now, I’m not saying that a sales manager shouldn’t participate in the sales plan development of the team. In fact, sales management absolutely must oversee the planning stage of any significant sales project. But do all strategic/tactical aspects of a plan require the sales manager’s approval? I would argue that some leeway should be given the lead sales professional in terms of plan ownership. It would be very easy for a rep to relegate the responsibility for success to a sales manager who insists on approving every aspect of a sales process. Let the account managers have some ability to “make the call” on how the sales team should proceed in a given situation since they generally have a more intimate view of the details at work as well as the players involved. Delegate but checks, check, check as the Marines are famous for saying!
Fix only what is broken. No. No. No. This strategy turns a sales manager into a fire extinguisher, moving from problem to disaster. Before long, major aspects of a manger’s responsibility suffer for lack of attention and become problems in the making. Sure, when things go wrong, we are expected to step in and guide the team to a solution. The visionary sales manager, though, is looking to expand on the positives. This manager takes a winning process and considers how it can be bettered or replicated. Authorship is unimportant whereas leveraging proven processes regardless of where they came from can be the key to consistent success.
Do not let these fallacies define your management experience. Know your strengths, get out of the way when it makes sense, and leverage the positives that can be reproduced. Do this and you will have side stepped the 5 fallacies of sales management.