What are Your Sales Managers Doing?

From the keyboard of Doug Cowan  |  August, 2013.

Most executives would agree that their sales managers have a greater influence on sales rep performance than almost any other factor. A good sales manager can raise a sales team to top performance, while a bad one can make life miserable for all, with predictable results.

It is true that training and coaching from senior managers can develop people into capable sales managers. Yet, without a directed performance plan, many sales managers spend time on activities that bring too few results.

Here are seven activities sales managers spend too much time at, and four activities that should be at the top of their ‘to-do’ list at all times:

Sales Managers spend too much time:

1.      Being a ‘super sales rep’ - saving sales and / or closing difficult business.

This isn’t necessarily a bad thing, unless you consider the fact that you really pay your sales reps to do this job. If a sales manager does this all the time, his / her reps will never learn and grow. You end up with a perpetual super-star and lots of runners-up. Everyone on your sales team needs to be a super-star or be in the process of becoming one.

2.      Cleaning up after the sales force’s mistakes and sloppy performance.

Sales managers who do this regularly and don’t see it as a sales rep performance problem, are not doing their jobs. If processes and procedures aren’t being followed, or if mistakes are regularly being made, then instruction, motivation, and discipline are the answers. Cleaning up a sales rep’s mess is the least organizationally beneficial thing a sales manager can do.

3.      Hosting and / or attending meetings.

This perennial time-waster is hard to kill. Some meetings are necessary but many sales managers love their weekly / monthly / impromptu meetings and conference calls. They forget that their sales force hates these meetings for the same reason that the sales manager hates the mandatory meetings he / she has to attend. (Way too much time spent  for far too little benefit received).

4.      Dealing with (fighting) internal processes to get orders handled.

If your sales managers are constantly fighting with your organization to get orders handled properly and with priority, there is something wrong with your internal processes. Far too many sales people agree with the statement, “The real selling starts when the customer order is received.”

5.      Solving customer satisfaction problems.

There should be no concern with this activity in small doses. However, if your sales managers are regularly involved with customer satisfaction issues, something may be seriously flawed in the business. This insidious activity looks like useful work. In reality, it can consume large amounts of sales manager time and generate little or no customer good-will and additional revenue.

6.      Completing needlessly complex HR forms and processes.

Employee development and welfare should start at the manager level. HR has an important role, as well, but is usually disconnected from the realities of the business. Sales managers need to be protected from time-intensive processes that can have uncertain value.

7.      Working with Poor Performers.

Under-performing employees consume a disproportionate amount of a sales manager’s time. Usually the result of poor hiring, performance problems need to be acted on swiftly. Otherwise, they become chronic problems stealing valuable time away from areas where it is needed.  


What should your Sales Managers be doing?

Sales Managers have many critical duties to perform. Here are four ‘most important duties’ for almost all sales managers:

1.      Coaching members of their sales team to sell better and more successfully.

This is arguably the single most important task a sales manager has. As the manager, he or she does not find, develop, and close business. The reps on the team do these actions, and it is the manager’s job to develop their abilities to the maximum. It is almost impossible for a sales manager to spend too much time at this function.

Sales managers need to have the appropriate training, skills and the temperament for this role. It is not sufficient to be a top sales performer only. The ability and interest in teaching people, and inspiring them to develop and change are mandatory key characteristics.

2.      Creating and grooming a list of candidates from which to hire in the event someone leaves or is terminated.

The loss of a key sales team member can be devastating for a sales manager. It can take months to find and recruit a suitable replacement, and all the while, sales results are hurting. It is vital that a sales manager prepare in advance for this eventuality by having a list of partially screened individuals always on the go.

3.      Pruning the sales team for maximum performance.

Poor performers that are not dealt with, invariably hurt both the organization and the individual, as well. Action is the key performance measure for the sales manager. If a sales manager is doing point #2 well, then they are more confident in resolving their performance issues.

4.      Communicating outside of the sales team about the business and how to do it better.

Sales manager are the nexus for communication between all stakeholders in the business. As a result, they need to be highly visible to the whole organization, not just names on an org chart. In addition to direct reports, he / she needs to speak to internal support providers, company executives, other department heads, suppliers, and other unnamed key individuals.

Sales managers have a leadership role to play in representing their customer’s best interest within the company. This activity is vital to ensure that the organization is focused on identifying and meeting customer needs in the most effective and efficient manner possible.


Help you sales mangers to perform better by being sure they spend their time doing the most valuable functions.


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