The Sales Manager’s Dilemma


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Nobody should generalise about sales managers. There are so many different types of business, and so many different ways of making them work. There are so many different approaches a sales manager can take. But there’s one dilemma most sales managers confront constantly.

Stuck between the CEO’s need for revenue, sales guys complaints about product features, price and marketing, and challenging customers, the sales manager has to find a way of making the impossible possible.

Part of the job is coaching, of course. Few sales people have all the skills needed. Not many work just quite as hard as they could. They aren’t that good at accepting other people’s strategy. Worse they really don’t like sticking to the rules. Managers need to get over that problem, constantly grooming new kids on the block to replace the superstars competitors will recruit away.

The other, and more visible, part is making the numbers. That’s where the dilemma comes in. Whilst the sales manager can be the team’s goto man when deals get tough, doing the selling for them gets in the way of the real job.

Allowing sales people to learn from their mistakes requires them to make those mistakes, and that means losing deals. But the demand for performance dictates the sales manager can’t let this happen. Business has to be won, whatever.

Ultimately the sales manager has to step in and win the business for the rep. The sales guy gets recognition for the sale. The sales manager gets yet another problem. Now the reps know there’s no need to learn, because the boss will always step in and make it work for them.

Back in the day working for Nixdorf Computer, Richard was a perfectly pleasant but ineffectual rep. The company expected every sales person to be competent demonstrating our Comet software, but Richard wouldn’t learn how to do it.

When I demanded he should learn, Richard refused, point blank.

“There’s no point in me learning that stuff” he said, “because I’ll never be as good as you, and you’ll never let me do it on my own”.

And of course he was right. I needed to focus on the numbers, and that meant going along on sales calls to check the qualification, make sure the prospect understood our unique selling points, and agree the basis on which our two businesses could work together.

This is all standard stuff for the sales professional, but all too often reps stick to the smiley friendly stuff and bring in the manager to add the business dimension.

The bottom line was, I was too busy doing the selling for the sales team to have any time for improving what the sales team did.

Eventually Richard got fired, but not before I’d made him more money than his efforts deserved.

And eventually I figured out the role of super hero sales guru was flattering, which was enjoyable, and counter productive, which wasn’t.

Regardless of the pressure for numbers, sales managers need to buy time during which they can improve the process, and the sales team’s ability to implement it.

Republished with author's permission from original post.

Steven Reeves
Consultant, author, software entrepreneur, business development professional, aspiring saxophonist, busy publishing insight and ideas. Boomer turned Zoomer - thirty year sales professional with experience selling everything from debt collection to outsourcing and milking machines to mainframes. Blogger at Successful Sales Management. Head cook and bottle washer at Front Office Box.


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