How Your Sales Managers Are Keeping You From Having the Business You Deserve - Part 1

By Cheryl Powers

Your Sales Leaders play a pivotal role in a company’s ability to reach targets and 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 haven't been trained for and don’t qualify for the job.

Here are the statistics:

1 out of 5 sales managers doesn't meet the criteria to effectively manage a sales team.

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

Only 1 sales manager in15 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 Salespeople

Let’s begin 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 overachieving?

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.

Sometimes 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 negatively 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.

Motivating for Sales

Knowing what motivates their salespeople is the first step in 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.

Sales Accountability

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.

A full 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.

Sales Recruiting

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. (You can learn more about that here.)

Sales leaders 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 sales hire is about 3X the expected compensation of the salesperson. Don't take my word for it, learn for yourself, you will make more money (a lot more) and have more fun when you take the time to get sales recruitment right. (You can find out how much it's costing you here.)

 We have only touched the tip of the iceberg here. In Part 2 I will show you exactly what is at stake in your business and what you can do to move from ineffective to breakthrough performance.


I help CEOs, presidents, and entrepreneurs of fast-growth companies significantly grow and optimize their businesses - double the growth in half the time. In addition to providing tools, and strategies, and consulting for revenue growth, my company, Align Strategic, also recruits sales and sales leadership talent with guaranteed results. Find out more about all the ways we help elite CEOs grow revenue here.

If you'd like to learn more about me or to schedule a discovery session, click here.

Cheryl Powers is the President and CEO of Align Strategic and is a recognized salesforce development specialist, sales and marketing leader, professional coach, and author. With more than 20 years experience as a business owner, sales and marketing executive, sales trainer, speaker and professional coach, Cheryl has helped many CEOs and business leaders achieve their growth goals. By creating alignment at every level of the business, CEOs and business leaders can move performance from good to great to breakthrough levels.

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