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Seven Deadly Sales Manager Sins

Snake and apple metaphor for sales manager sins
Reading Time: 3 minutes

These are seven deadly sales manager sins that decay sales performance and leave a lasting problem for companies.

For the past three decades, I have worked to turn around many struggling sales forces. When first approached by CEOs, the conversation starts with the sales team’s performance. Their sights are set firmly on those people in the field. Although they are often considered the problem, they are often poorly managed as the sales manager is poorly tooled with little to no sales enablement or sales operations, and neither the manager nor the CEO realise it.

There are some misnomers about how to manage teams that have developed over the years through great tales, poor advice, and just plain lack of common sense. The most often seen sins that I see causing the most problems are as follows:

Sales Manager Sins #1 – Showing favouritism

Fairness in sales management, or any management, is vital. Each team member must feel they are being treated fairly and equally to others in the team and have a good chance of succeeding. They do not like seeing others get off with things; they are reprimanded. Alternatively, others are gifted good accounts while they struggle to gain traction in a hard market.

Sales Manager Sins #2 – Meeting with customers unannounced

The CEO and/or sales manager decided to visit with a customer and didn’t let the salesperson know. They find out when the customer tells them they had a good visit, and the salesperson has no idea what transpired. It undermines their confidence and credibility with the customer/s

Sales Manager Sins #3 – Breaking promises

Announcements are made, promises are made, and time transpires, and nothing is done. The team has expectations that they are reliant on for their role, and they just don’t come to fruition. Even worse, when those promises are related to a customer situation and the management does not follow through. Keeping promises, even the little ones, is important.

Sales Manager Sins #4 – Poorly designed territories with wandering boundaries

The sales territories are based on lines on a geographical map with no thought as to the value of the territory. Some territories are rich in opportunities, and others are just on the wrong side of town for your products and services. The decision-makers for some accounts are located interstate, and salespeople have no input in what is happening in their territory. There are perceived relationships with customers that have other salespeople visiting their territory, often to prime accounts, as the relationship is considered important.

Good sales managers design territories with equal opportunities and manage the transition of old incumbents of accounts to new salespeople. They account to manage multiple site accounts, so all salespeople have input and are engaged in the process. The fairness of territories is one of the most important requirements of a sales manager.

Sales Manager Sins #5 – Changing or cancelling compensation plans

This would be the most deadly sin of all. Change compensation plans mid-year or just not pay at all. Often, this follows when a company believes salespeople are earning too much or have cash flow issues. The team may be delivering, but the company elects not to pay them. This sin is inexcusable.

Sales Manager Sins #6 – Poor lead management

Marketing has generated leads, and the salespeople are excited at the prospect of receiving them. Sales management decides to divvy up the leads based on whom they believe is best suited to the lead, rather than using a disciplined approach to a fair distribution of the leads. Those salespeople missing out are demotivated, and it ties back to sin number one.

Sales Manager Sins #7 – The ghost manager

The sales manager is missing in action but is often seen around the building. He or she is there but often more like a ghost. There is no leadership of the team, no coaching, no guidance, no provision of good support materials, no sales meetings, or a combination of some of these points. The sales manager believes that people should be left to do their own thing, and they will either sink or swim. This style of management is the deadliest of all, as they add no value to the company or the team.

If you want to immediately improve the sales team’s performance, consider whether you are engaging in one or more of the seven deadly sins.

A good sales manager operates with fairness and professionalism and adds value to the team by coaching, guiding, and ensuring they have the tools and territory to excel in their role.

Coaching is one of, if not the most important, skill for sales managers. Sales coaching based on a proven playbook can be the difference between a high-performing team and a low-performer. Sales Focus coaches sales managers and sales leaders to improve their teams’ productivity and effectiveness. We provide them with the tools to excel in their role. Please contact us to learn more about how we can assist.

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© Y2024 Sales Focus Advisory  All Rights Reserved. First posted 02.04.2015 Amended 2024.

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About the Author: Adele Crane

A leader in Implementation Consulting.
CEOs and Managing Directors have relied on Adele Crane to solve challenges with the performance of their sales and marketing since 1990. Her consulting experience in delivering results in 90-120 days is unprecedented by any other known sales and marketing consulting professional in the world. As an author of 3 acclaimed books, appearances on major media, and publications in USA, NZ and Australia, Adele’s experience brings fresh thinking and contemporary practices to business.