You Can't Snow the Snowman: Let Sales Managers be Sales Managers

Sales, more than ever, needs leadership that leads by example.  Why?  Sales professionals are a  quirky, ego-driven group who value success to benchmark -- over achievement on targets, plaques on the wall, etc. At the minimum, sales management has to establish credibility with the team that they're leading.

The challenge to many organizations, however, are those great attributes don't always translate well into sales management.  The  best salespeople don't always make the best sales managers. Managing sales people has to be one of THE most challenging group there is.   It's a rollercoaster ride, regardless to the extent of sales background.

Bluntly:  It is a waste of time and resources having a sales manager as a figurehead.  Very often, everyone wants to jump in the sales game once they smell a live opportunity.  Yet what happens long before that?  Sales reps do know how to survive.  What other occupation is there that potentially pays you nothing or very little unless you produce results?  That survival instinct, allows them to get the heart of opportunities for sales ... at times, that means who will give them the answer they want the quickest.  Many organizations fail their sales managers from this syndrome because at the heart of good intentions is communications or priorities from multiple direction.   The best opportunities sometimes come after a painfully long process or so quick you have to jump on it.  Have a sales manager who is equipped to handle both scenarios with authority.

Let Sales Managers be sales managers and do what you hired or promoted them to do.  What should they do?  Actually, there is a ton!  They manage and hire sales people, right?   What many fail to realize is that there is a lot that has to happen long before that live bait has been hooked.   Included on their job description would be establishing territories and budgets, outlining cold calling or activity metrics, forecasting, qualifying, mandating that CRM (Customer Relationship Management) systems to be updated, analyzing dashboards,  approving proposals or estimating, authoring or proofreading presentations, reviewing sales business plans, even networking and distributing leads fairly.  Did I forget to mention that someone has to enforce those best practices, maintain focuss, coach or motivate, hold accountability in check, and lead by example?

  If the sales manager's boss jumps in at the last minute or to give authority, then why wouldn't a sales rep just go to them to begin with?  After all, salespeople are showman who like to make sure the boss' boss knows they've got a live one!   Essentially, what can happen is that the sales manager's authority is undermined, corners can be cut.  Sales management WORTH can be directly attributed to the support they receive from their managers and organizations,  not just the revenue that is being generated TODAY.  Yet planning, analyzing and forecasting eventually leads to "today".

 Strong sales managers means you can identify and attract talent.  Human Resources and even executives can be tricked into thinking they've found the perfect sales rep because they've been won over by that polish,  articulate smooth talk, sales-ease babble, hunting tactics, fish stories and geez, so damn personable to them they must be able to sell.   Did you see how shiney the shoes were?  Must be "the one". Then there is the snowman.  The true sales manager that can cut through all the decoys and ask for proof, role play with situations, or just know by asking a candidate or employee what they do to be successful, or questions within questions that can cut through the snowjob.

 There are numerous discussions on bad sales managers or whether you should promote your top performer to be a sales manager.  My recommendation would be to focus on what a good sales manager should do and be allowed to do, with your support.  Introducing the sales manager role into an organization can be a challenge from both sides.  Primarily, letting go by those that want to keep their "finger on the pulse".  Mixed-messaging causes more harm than good. You have to believe in the management you have in place, experienced or otherwise.  Build trust between you so that they won't overstep financial risk and have the skills to analyse potentially.  You need to comprehend that you hired them because you believed in what they could do, agreed upon what results would be expected, established timelines and gave authority perimeters.  You both have synergies in styles, expectations and messaging -- so back them up!!

Now you have a few ideas on what a sales manager should do.  Are you going to jump in or trust them to do their job?