Beware The 5 Biggest Sins of Sales Managers

There are probably a lot more than five sins of sales management, but here are the ones we see committed the most as we work with our clients. How many are you guilty of?

Sin #1

Hiring fast.

Or more importantly, hiring the wrong people. Many sales managers, either under press­ure or in desperation to fill a posi­tion, will plug in any warm body that can walk and talk at the same time and then despair when the person doesn’t work out.

Not everyone is suited for sales. In fact, some people shouldn’t be in sales, period. A recent study found that fifty-five percent of those people who earn their living from selling should be doing something else! When we inadvertently hire one of these people, it’s like taking a fish out of water and watch­ing it flop around until it finally goes to the great aquarium in the sky. There are two reasons this happens in business. One, we hire the wrong person off the street or two; we have the wrong person forced on us from above such as a relative of the boss.

Another scenario is when your company is downsizing, right sizing, or whatever, and your manager asks you to take Joe (or Josephine) from manufacturing (or even worse, accounting) and put him into sales. After all, he tells you, Joe has lots of product knowl­edge. Your manager also informs you that if you don’t “give him a chance,” Joe  will be laid off and his kids will starve, etc.

Despite their excellent product knowledge, there are a lot of Joes in the world who couldn’t sell their way out of a wet paper bag. You and I don’t do these Joes any favour by putting them into a position where they’ll fail.

Even people who have a natural flair for sales may not be suited for your type of selling situation. Mak­ing the proper match between the individual and the position is one of the sales manager’s most critical challenges.

If nothing else, hire for attitude and train for skill.

Sin #2

Failing to train.

It’s critical that new salespeople get started on the right foot. Just like a sale can be made or lost in the first four minutes, first impressions count with new employees. If those first four minutes (or four hours, days, or weeks) are spent wandering around in the corporate wilderness, the new person is likely to become discouraged. Remember, these people may still have resumes floating around the marketplace and if they’re not happy with where they are, they’ll jump ship at the first convenient port that looks better.

It’s up to the sales manager to provide proper training. There are three key training areas: policies and proce­dures, product knowledge, and sales training. Breaking in a new salesperson is like breaking in a new car engine. The more care you take, the longer it will last and the fewer problems it will give you.

So make sure you “break in” your people with the proper training.


Sin #3

Failing to manage the sales process.

A lot of people think sales just happen. Not so. There’s a start, middle, and hopefully, a happy finish to the sales process. Many sales man­agers don’t take the time to map out their particular sales process. It’s like planning a trip. If you don’t know where you’re going, it’s hard to get there (except by accident and frankly, too many sales are made by accident).

Take the time to define each step of your sales process (usually 5-9) and then establish pre and post criteria. Determine what has to happen before a step can occur and what is supposed to happen after a step done. A well‑thought‑out sales process be­comes your road map to sales suc­cess.

Understanding your sales process gives you the edge in manag­ing your sales team by assisting you to help them close more sales.

Sin #4

Failing to lead your people.

Not all managers are good leaders and not all leaders are good managers. Over the years we’ve come to believe that the major difference between managers and leaders is people skills. A manager becomes a leader when he or she has earned the right to have followers.

Leadership is particularly important in tough times. People need someone they can look up to, not hide from. There are certainly times when the KITA (kick-in-the-you-know-what) approach to management has merit but, in our experience, the carrot and stick approach works best, particularly if you’re using the stick to dangle the carrot, not beat people.

How are your interper­sonal skills?

Sin #5

Fire slowly

As sales manager, you’re responsible for the revenue‑producing portion of the business and your salespeople are the tools you use to produce that revenue. If one of those tools isn’t (or never was) productive, you have to either repair or replace it. The longer you delay, the worse your numbers will become. Unless you’re Atilla the Hun and enjoy destroying people, one of the hardest things any man­ager has to do is fire someone ‑ which is probably why we don’t do it soon enough.

Next to hiring the wrong person, failing to fire the wrong person for the job is one of our greatest sins. Hanging on to sales deadwood is bad for morale, bad for sales, and bad for business.

Are you spending too much time managing the wrong people?

Sin No More!

The first step to getting better is to find out what is standing in the way. If any of these sins are standing in the way of you becoming even more successful, then sin no more. Or, if you can’t sin no more, at least sin a lot less.

This post was originally written by SalesForce Training founder, Brian Jeffrey.

SalesForce Training & Consulting is a professional services firm and training firm based in Toronto, with training centers in Boston and Chicago, providing sales leaders with the direction and support to ensure that they sin no more.

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