How Your Sales Leaders Are Keeping You From Having the Business You Deserve

by Cheryl Powers

Sales Leaders play a pivotal role in a company’s ability to reach targets and to satisfy the needs of their customers and their shareholders. That means their primary job is to put your products and services in the hands of more of the people who will use them to solve their biggest problems, while creating profits for the people who own the company. That’s a problem when most sales managers don’t qualify for the job.

Here are the statistics:
1 out of 5 sales managers don’t meet the criteria to effectively manage a sales team.

1 out of 3 sales managers are not able to be trained or coached to perform more effectively.

Only 1 sales manager out of 15 is considered elite.

4 out of 5 sales managers are ineffective at coaching.

But the statistics only point to the real issues. The real issues are about what is getting missed and what missing means for your revenues and profits. So, how are your sales managers keeping you from having the business you deserve?

Coaching and Mentoring
Let’s start with the role of the sales leader as a coach. A full 50% of a sales manager’s time should be spent coaching and mentoring the sales team. Most CEOs and business owners are surprised by that number.

The most common reason most sales managers spend considerably less time developing their salespeople, other than lack of skills, is because they’re too busy closing their own deals or closing deals for their salespeople. 10% of sales managers spend more than 40% of their time selling instead of developing their people to sell more. Is it any wonder why more salespeople aren't over achieving?

Some sales managers are mired in management meetings and administrative tasks, which have little to no direct impact on actual sales performance. But the biggest reason coaching is not getting done is that most sales managers simply do not possess the coaching competency. Some sales managers do try to coach their people but often end up simply telling them what to do or offering them solutions to their problems, instead of providing real development. This keeps salespeople dependent on the sales manager and keeps the sales manager from utilizing their time more effectively. It’s also bad for morale.

More than once, I have witnessed coaching sessions turn into demoralizing lectures, which can seriously impact a sales team’s motivation as well as erode the performance culture of an organization. The flip side of this is the sales manager who gives a pep talk instead of a coaching session. Their team may be happier but they will consistently underperform if they are not developed in ernest. How many times have you listened to so called coaching sessions in your organization where the salesperson simply told their manager what their next steps were going to be with a prospect, instead of how the call ended, how it got there and why? And now that you know it isn’t getting the job done, what can you do to fix it?

One important thing you can do is make sure the sales leaders you hire have the skills and competencies to do the job. In terms of coaching and mentoring, that means finding sales managers with the skills to ask great questions and the ability to have Socratic discussions. It means hiring sales managers with the right mix of hands-on, roll-up-their-sleeves-and-show-‘em grit and gentle guiding presence a mentor has. They need to know when to role play, when to stimulate critical thinking in an individual, and when to intervene. And they need to be so good at keeping the team focused on generating new opportunities they’re not afraid when their salespeople fail.

Knowing what motivates their salespeople is the first step to helping them get to their goals. Too many sales managers fail to discover what will genuinely impel each of their salespeople to put all of their effort into reaching their personal goals. Knowledge is power and the knowledge to tap the motivators of each individual contributor is the power of breakthrough performance.

If a sales manager lacks desire and commitment or has weak goals and no plan to reach them, how can they be expected to coach and mentor their individual contributors to discover and reach theirs?

Nearly 30% of sales managers spend less than 10% of their time on motivation and only 10% of sales managers spend 25% or more of their time on motivation.

The ability to effectively hold salespeople accountable to the right tasks, metrics, and mindset requires a certain combination of skills, strengths and beliefs. Effective sales management is as much about enjoying the process of selling as it is about enjoying making the sale. Sales managers who love selling and enjoy managing people, value the lessons of each and every outcome. Because they understand and value each step and milestone of the selling process, they have the ability to become masters at spotting patterns and performance gaps and problems. And they care deeply about their team. They care enough to hold the team to the highest possible performance expectations. And they care enough to make tough changes when those expectations aren’t met.

30% of sales managers spend less than 10% of their time on accountability and fewer than 5% of sales managers spend more than 25% of their time on accountability.

Too often, sales managers accept less than they should and certainly less than their people are capable of achieving. This happens because sales managers often lack a clear understanding of the skills, strengths, weaknesses, and beliefs of their people; and sales managers lack the desire and the commitment to be the best they can be in their sales management role.

Hiring the right salespeople is the first step in developing an effective and dynamic sales force. To hire well, you must have a comprehensive recruiting process that will allow you to routinely seek out top performers. Most sales organizations lack an effective sales hiring system. Instead they use traditional hiring methods that simply don’t work for sales hiring.

Sales managers should ALWAYS be looking for stronger people but 50% of sales managers are spending less than 5% of their time on recruiting activities. Fewer than 1% spend more than 25% of their time on recruiting. If you don’t have a strong bench of salespeople, you can’t put the required measures in place for consequences when your salespeople aren’t meeting expectations. That means you end up keep poor performers too long.

How many times have your sales managers given sales people a second or third or fourth chance when it’s clear that a salesperson isn’t going to make it? In my experience, that means you either don’t know how to or you don’t want to go through the difficulty of bringing new salespeople on because you’re sure they won’t be any more effective than what you have today. And besides, recruiting takes time and effort and will take too much time away from the sales manager’s own sales activities, which you are relying too heavily on to get you to goal.

Add to that the fact that the traditional hiring process is broken and doesn’t bring in top sales performers. Consider that 90% of hiring decisions are made from the first interview, yet traditional interviewing is only 14% accurate. That means your sales manager is going to be wrong 86% of the time but you won’t know why they’re wrong so you’ll spend precious resources and waste more time trying to train salespeople who probably won’t get much better and your sales manager will keep second guessing and hold onto them because they’ve convinced themselves there are no better salespeople out there. And besides, the sales manager can sell so, instead of recruiting, they’ll just fill in the sales gaps by closing deals for the weaker players and by maintaining their own accounts. Sounds like the definition of insanity, doesn’t it?

The average cost of a bad hire is about 3X the expected compensation of the salesperson. Believe me when I tell you, you will make more money (a lot more) and have more fun when you take the time to get sales recruitment right.

Why Don’t Sales Managers Manage Effectively?
There are many reasons for these types of sales management failures, all of which can be traced back to skills, specific sales and management weaknesses, and core beliefs around selling and management. Most sales managers got to where they are by being great salespeople with leadership traits. Unfortunately, leadership traits are not the same as management skills and sales is quite a different job from sales management.

Why You Absolutely Must Care About This Problem
Because you deserve better, your customers deserve better, your shareholders deserve better, and your sales team deserves better. You have the business you deserve. Caring enough to truly address these problems will make you deserving of the business you truly want.

Here’s what’s at stake:

When your sales managers are not effective at accountability, your future revenue is at stake. Every time a sales manager allows a salesperson to slide, you are giving away future dollars. Don’t you and your shareholders deserve those dollars?

New Opportunities
When you sales managers fail to understand what motivates each salesperson, they lose power to help the salespeople to do the things that they won’t do on their own to get results. If a salesperson is not making enough calls what, beyond fear, will motivate them to do what’s uncomfortable?

Closing New Business
When sales managers are not effective at understanding the sales process or aren’t effective at coaching the team through the steps and events and milestones, you will experience delayed closings and stalled sales. 90% of companies we evaluate don’t even have a real sales process so this is a big one to care about. You deserve a sales process that gets you to goal.

Forecasting New Business
When sales managers don’t follow a proven sales process, with stages and steps for each stage, then the pipeline report will be incorrect. You already know this because you discount your forecast report by a certain percentage. Your sales manager must be able to hold salespeople accountable to a process that qualifies opportunities correctly. You need to care about this the same way you care about the P&L your accountant gives you. You’re not discounting that too, are you?

Brand Message

One of the things you lose control over with a weak or ineffective sales manager is your value proposition. Part of the job of the sales leader is to make sure the sales team tells the brand story consistently. You have spent time and money getting this right so make sure your sales leader doesn’t let the team get off message. It’s much harder to win business with an ineffective message and often the business you end up getting is at a much lower price. Don’t you deserve the right customers at the right price point?

Customer Satisfaction
Most customers don’t like to be sold but they do like to buy solutions to their business problems. When your sales managers lack coaching skills or don’t feel coaching is important, the very happiness of your customers is at stake. Salespeople need help from sales managers to learn how to have great sales conversations. These are the kinds of conversations that differentiate you from the competition, are of value to your customers, and that keep your salespeople away from giving away the farm to get the business. Happy customers are a byproduct of an effective, customer-centric sales process managed by an effective sales leader.

What Can You Do to Create the Business You Deserve?
The easiest first step is to evaluate the sales force. It’s a good starting point because it allows you to get some important business questions answered about the performance potential of your sales force. You already know how they are performing to goal and how they are performing to expectations.

But that plan isn’t static.

- it calls for growth
- it calls for increased revenue
- it calls for increased profit.

So the single most important question that needs to be answered is:

1) Can the sales organization you have in place right now execute that growth plan?

Beyond that, you need to know the answers to the following questions:

2) How much more revenue can you expect this group to generate?

You have both performers and non-performers on the team.

3) Can the non-performers be saved?

4) And, if they can be saved, what specifically do you need to do with them in order to save them and get them performing like your performers?

5) And, of those who can’t be saved, what do you do with them? Replace, redeploy?

6) And, if you need to replace salespeople, is your existing selection criteria effective or do you need to change it?

7) If you need to change your selection criteria, how specifically does it need to change?

8) Can your current salesforce bring in new business?

9) Which of them can learn to differentiate by selling more consultatively?

10) Can they be better at selling value and what will that take?

11) Can you shorten your sales cycle?

12) What impact are your sales managers having on your sales force?

13) How effective are they at coaching?

14) How good are they at motivating?

15) How effective are they at holding the sales team accountable to the metrics and behaviors that matter most?

16) What’s the quality of your pipeline?

17) What would your pipeline look like if it were restaged?

18) How much more margin could you keep if you had a more effective sales process?

By evaluating the salesforce you can answer all of these questions and many more. You can transition your sales organization away from ineffectiveness with real business intelligence. And you can finally have the business you deserve.

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