Mistakes Sales Managers Make and How to Fix Them

3 Mistakes Sales Managers Make and How to Fix Them

What are the mistakes sales managers make? Well, chances are your sales managers are making three strategic errors in managing their sales teams, and it’s impacting your results. Frontline sales manager has to be the toughest job in B2B these days. Sales is under pressure to transform, and the sales manager may not be the best sales agent. Yet they are continually asked to do just that.

The Impact

If a sales manager isn’t performing at their highest level, this means the team isn’t performing at it’s highest level. They aren’t going to be winning all the deals they could, nor will they be effectively chasing opportunities. There have been various studies that point this out, this study by Wilson Learning discusses it in detail. Net-net, sales managers who aren’t good sales managers have teams that underperform.

Reality of the Sales Manager

The goal of sales managers is to be the tip of the spear and help the company make its revenue goals. But what if they aren’t actually being managers? Let’s explore three mistakes sales managers make.

Being the Super Rep

The first mistake sales managers make is being the super rep. This is completely understandable, most sales VPs don’t promote those who will be a good sales manager. Instead, they promote the super rep!


The rep that closed the most deals, or took down the big elephant. This is a known issue in sales, but it definitely impacts what the rep does. Here is an article that goes into detail on the challenges of transitioning a rep into a sales manager.

But what is it that they are doing wrong? Well, they are behaving as a rep and not a sales manager. This means they are doing what they do best, closing business. And they actually probably do a pretty good job at this. The thing is this isn’t what a sales manager is supposed to do. He or she is supposed to set up their team for success! And yes, they should get involved in key deals; however, they should be spending their time helping their rep not close one deal, but 10 or better a 100.

Not being a model for their teams

Until this week, I hadn’t really thought about this particular impact. But I was chatting with the CEO of CommercialTribe, Paul Ironside and he brought it up. He pointed out that if sales management isn’t being a model for the teams, it’s going to set up the wrong expectation for a rep. If a sales manager shows up to a forecast call and isn’t ready to discuss the forecast, will the rep be ready? If the sales manager manages their forecast off spreadsheets and not SalesForce, will the rep enter their data into SalesForce? Chances are no.

For the record, this isn’t just sales managers this is also sales VPs or even the head of sales. I worked for a Fortune 100 Tech company that sold Sales Force Automation (SFA) solutions and I saw this. I witnessed an entire division’s forecasts being run off of spreadsheets! Why? The head of sales just couldn’t be bothered to deal with SFA, so his reps didn’t. Once discovered by us, they fell into line. But I knew our sales ops teams was always on a hunt for people managing out of spreadsheets.

The manager sets the expectation for the organization. If they don’t do something, the rest of the organization won’t follow.

Ineffective coaching

This is a primary goal of a sales manager to coach their sales reps. It’s trite, but the goal is to elevate the C players to B, B to A and A to A+. Coaching their sales rep is the key way to accomplish this.

But are they doing it? Well first off, sales managers spend a lot less time coaching than they think they do. According to this study by The Bridge Group Inc, reps think they receive less than 40% of the time coaching than managers do. I tend to believe the reps.

Furthermore, sales managers might not actually understand what coaching is. John Whitmore wrote in his book, Coaching For Performance, coaching is “Unlocking a person’s potential to maximize his/her performance.” Is that what your sales managers are doing?  Yeah, I didn’t think so.

How do you fix the mistakes sales managers make

So exactly how do you address the mistakes sales managers make? Well, you really need to figure out how to address sales manager enablement. Forbes wrote about it earlier this year, but let’s expand on that. What really should you be doing? After talking to Paul Ironside, I really liked what CommercialTribe was offering in this space.

  • Managers as Role Models – This is the first thing you need to do, you need to make sure your sales managers are using your tools, your processes and your methodologies. Depending on your tooling for sales enablement and CRM, this might be pretty easy to do. Or maybe not. Give me a shout and maybe I can help.
  • Feed Their Information Appetite – You have to give them insight into what their reps are actually doing. They cannot coach a sales rep if they don’t have the information to start the process. This is inclusive of content, SFA and learning. Your ability to do this is somewhat dependent on your tooling. If you have a sales content management tool like iPresent, Mediafly, hightspot, it would be pretty easy to do this for content. As for learning, this is a tad harder, but I did like what I saw of CommercialTribe’s capabilities. I know that Qstream has some features in this space too.
  • Address Their Deficiencies – Do you even know where your sales managers need help? Is it with coaching? Managing their teams? Or something else? You will likely need some sort of tooling to assess where your sales managers need help.
  • Give Them Tools to Help Their Team – It’s not enough to just give them information, you should give them the insight and tools to direct activities for reps. This is where I think CommercialTribe really starts to differentiate itself. Their ability to review pitches and then make recommendations for team members based off a framework. This could help sales managers up their game, and in turn up their reps games.

As always hit me up on Twitter or via our contact page.

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