The Sales Manager’s Other Dilemma


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Managing a sales team seems to involve a constant procession of dilemmas – decisions required on which interest to favor and which to disadvantage.

Three typical conundrums spring to mind. Whether to discount prices in order to increase revenues, but hurting margins as a result. Whether to increase this quarter’s number, by bringing deals forward, and creating a bigger problem in the next. Whether to do bad business, just to stop the competition getting it.

Those are business as usual for sales managers, but this article is about a different type of dilemma – about how to manage sales people.

The first conundrum is described in The Sales Manager’s Dilemma – the question is whether the manager should do sales reps job for them. When sales people can’t or won’t learn they often rely on their boss to do it for them. After all the sales manager is more likely to get fired for missing a number than the sales guys.

The second conundrum is whether, and if so, how to impose discipline on those lone wolf characters – the ones who just won’t go along with the program. It’s described, with a nice touch of humour and irony in a story told by an old war horse called Ian. He’d been in selling since they invented the printing press, or so it seemed. He’d lived a hard life too, so hopefully he’s still around, but probably isn’t.

Ian was called in to a software company to help coach the sales managers. Taking prisoners wasn’t his style. Too often he’d carried the can for choosing the wrong answer to his dilemmas. He wouldn’t have pulled any punches in his pitch, so the CEO who hired him would have known what he was buying.

One particular sales manager stood out as needing help. He made all the right noises, but not the right numbers. He could tick every box for his review, except for the part about staff retention. Staff turnover in his team was scary high, and recruiting replacements cost a lot.

In his usual direct style, Ian asked where the problem was.

The manager used an example to explain.

“I have a philosophy, and a strategy, and a process. Most of the team are on the same page, but this one guy gives me heartburn”.

“Every time I tell him to do something, he tells me to Go Play With Myself (or words to that effect you can work out for yourself”.

Ian empathised. “That’s tough” he said “sales people who won’t go along are like bad apples. They need to brought into line”.

“But before thinking about how we can bring him in to line, tell me how this difficult guy is doing against his numbers”.

“Oh” replied the manager “He’s always 115% of his target”.

Ian looked thoughtful for a moment. Then sighed and said:

“Well, I don’t know about you, but I would go play with myself”.

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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