Are you a Sales MANAGER or a Sales MAN-ager?

It’s often the case that “good” Sales people are promoted to Sales Management.  I personally know of only one exception where a “good athlete” manager (who was the Purchasing Director) was promoted to become a Sales Manager.  I myself graduated from selling to Sales Management  (Click here for the story about how I became a top performing Sales Manager).

Are you are Sales MANAGER, or are you a Sales MAN-ager?


There’s a big difference between the two. The obvious difference is that a Sales MANAGER is a person who manages a Sales team, and a Sales MAN-ager is really a SalesMAN who has some responsibilities for managing a Sales team, but must sell just like one of their team members. Every Sales Manager, to one degree or another, is involved in day-to-day selling activities.  Sales Managers often ride shotgun on sales calls, have some specific relationships with key customer executives, and may even sell deals on their own.  However, the real problem lies in the confusion of behaviors between a MANAGER and a MAN-ager.

The way I  determine the quality of a Sales team is by observing how the Sales Manager is involved in managing his or her team’s performance. Many Sales MAN-agers I know are only managers in title.  Someone has to produce a forecast, and some body has to manage the numbers.  In fact, if it wasn’t for the pipeline, Sales MAN-agers wouldn’t  “manage” anything, because beyond that distinction they are just another Sales person.

As a Business leader or Sales Manager, what expectations do you have when it comes to managing sales team performance?  If the primary expectation is for the Sales Manager to hold the team accountable by managing deal flow, it’s likely that any revenue gains will be offset when you end up firing poor performers who can’t keep up and hiring new sales people.    Worse, replacing poor performers actually increases expenses while putting greater pressure on remaining sales people to produce.  (Here is a calculator that demonstrates the cost of a bad hire.)

There is no question that managing the pipeline  and deal flow to predict revenue is one important sales management responsibility. However, your arsenal of tools for growing revenues is greatly impaired if you manage sales performance primarily by focusing on whether deals are closed or not.

Good Sales MANAGERs should implement a comprehensive process that includes:

  • Having a clear understanding of what constitutes productive sales behaviors.
  • Being able to describe those behaviors in terms of competencies or skills
  • Providing a means to communicate expected behaviors to the Sales person.
  • Setting goals and objectives (including, but not limited to deal flow) to learn, practice, and execute those behaviors.
  • Having a plan to improve behaviors when goal and objective expectations are not met.
  • Setting aside time to support the improvement process by coaching, teaching, and role playing.

This is an active discipline that Sales Managers much achieve whether they carry a quota or not.

The issue is not about whether you are making your numbers, but why.   Ironically, 80% of all behaviors that Sales people exhibit have little to do with pipeline numbers.  Making your quota is the by-product of good sales behaviors. As I said in the Introduction of my new book, 99% of all successful sales people are made, not born.

In my next post, I’ll discuss the framework for building a true Sales Goal Sheet, and describe how to help Sales MAN-agers become great Sales MANAGERS.


Author: Terry Walsh

Terry Walsh is a Trusted Executive Advisor known for his work helping clients create and execute revenue growth strategies, organize and build sales teams, and implement CRM systems. He focuses on helping sales leaders achieve their potential in building and managing effective sales teams. Author of “99 Questions to Achieving Your Sales Goals” (Amazon), which outlines a road map for success in both individual sales and managing sales teams, implemented in dozens of clients. Terry's 25+ years’ experience and a proven track record help organizations build high-performing, well-managed sales teams that drive maximum revenue and create enduring customer relationships to exceed revenue, operational and strategic goals. Terry is currently a Partner with Funnel Metrics, LLC, a leading professional services firm that offers a unique suite of sales enablement and performance management solutions designed to help businesses improve revenue growth and predictability.a Previously, Terry worked as an executive sales leader for major companies including Culligan International, Cendant Corporation, Whitman-Hart/marchFIRST, Digital Equipment Corporation, and others. He has supported dozens of clients as a consultant, trainer and project leader to enable effective sales organizations.

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