13 Sep 2017

5 Key Mistakes “Sales Managers” Make

Sales managers are a vital part of any modern sales organisation. The job is a complex and wide-ranging one—a bridging position between the exciting, fast-paced and often challenging day-to-day work of front-line sales teams, and the ambitious, ideology-driven strategic thinking of upper management. As such, it’s a high pressure role that sits at the heart of an organisation’s motivation strategies.

Despite being so pivotal it’s a chronically undertrained role. For many organisations, the natural progression from top performing sales rep to sales manager means that manager positions are generally filled internally. As a result, there is often no equivalent of onboarding or initial training, and no sharing of best practices or process management between teams.

The result is often fledgling managers left to fend for themselves, which can easily lead to mistakes. Inevitably certain aspects of the job suffer—coaching, overseeing reward allocation, ramping up new hires, or keeping an eye on key metrics—as managers spend their time trying to keep their heads above water. That can lead to badly managed teams, shortfalls in bottom line, morale at rock bottom and key talent jumping ship and joining the competition.

The key to being a successful manager who drives real results is to know the role’s potential pitfalls. So, without further ado, here are the top five most common mistakes that sales managers make.


1. Lack of Training Provision

This may be the result of constantly squeezed budgets, or of ongoing training simply not being a priority for an organisation as a whole. Some large organisations believe that the efforts of their enablement teams, even where those efforts amount to a couple of days of focused training in a working year, should be enough. The old theory goes that great sales reps don’t need training, and less gifted reps will learn from the talented ones. It doesn’t work that way. Training ensures that messaging, tools and competencies are current, but it also plays a massive role in making staff feel valued, engaged and invested in. That in turn leads to higher morale and a more driven workforce.


2. Lack of Individual Attention on Reps

This sounds basic, but it’s vital. Motivation and morale are two of the most important factors in a working sales team, and both rely heavily on individual recognition and encouragement. Spend time regularly with each member of your team. Use that time to review progress in complex sales, talk to them about any concerns they may have, learn about their individual strengths and weaknesses. You’ll find yourself better positioned to get value from your team, and they’ll feel involved and valued themselves.


3. Not Recognising and Rewarding Excellence and Ambition

If your organisation is making the right decisions at hire stage, the chances are that you’ve got more than a few driven, ambitious sales reps on your team. Too many sales managers take that motivation and drive for granted, but in fact it needs to be recognised and nurtured. Results should be monitored and excellence should be appropriately rewarded. Ambition should be recognised and encouraged, with gamified results structures, clear routes to progression and open discussion about how to get there.


4. Ignoring Sales Platforms or Processes

A lot of sales managers, particularly those who have climbed the ranks as sales people, tend to respect individual qualities—charm, presence, the ability to persuade—over scalable, integrated and proven sales processes. To an extent it’s understandable—the advent of complex CRM systems and metric watching hasn’t sat comfortably with everyone—but without a clearly defined, repeatable sales process your reps will each find the path of least resistance in their own way, leading to a disparate and disconnected sales team. That undermines morale, and it makes measuring, monitoring and rewarding performance difficult.


5. Having an Inadequate or Unsuitable Rewards Programme

Rewards programmes can—and should—be completely tailored to your team, your business objectives and your budget. The right rewards delivered in the right way can improve talent retention, boost morale across sales teams, encourage engagement with your organisation’s expectations and positioning and much more. A generic, out of date, or less considered rewards programme simply won’t cut it. Work with a trusted partner with a proven track record of creating and managing platforms that deliver budget justifying ROI and light a fire under your team.


Sales managers exist at the vital point where strategic management meets day-to-day sales operations. That means that they are in a position to make or break sales teams, to convert leadership’s ideas into real, working processes and related results, or to let it all fall apart. Being aware of the most common problems is the first step, addressing them is the second.

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