What Does High Performance Sales Management Look Like? (And What It Doesn’t)

Why do we employ sales managers? An apparently obvious question gets more interesting when you look a bit deeper. Many sales managers are seemingly employed for the following reasons:

  • to simply act as a span breaker between the sales director and the sales team
  • to stop them leaving by promoting them into a sales management role, without thought as to their management abilities
  • to curb their earnings as salespeople
  • to manage house accounts (to stop other salespeople earning too much bonus on the biggest clients)
  • so somebody is making sure salespeople are doing what they should be doing
  • to check salespeoples’ expenses
  • to pull the teams activity data together into a monthly report for the sales director
  • to organise hospitality days
  • to organise and run a monthly sales meeting
  • so the sales director has somebody to kick around

All of the above reasons we have seen in our work. For one unfortunate sales manager we talked to in pulling this article together, he felt virtually all applied to him!

Sales managers should be employed because they create a performance premium, i.e. the team would perform to level ‘X’ without a sales manager and perform to level ‘Y’ with the sales manager in place. In our experience there is a significant minority of sales managers to deliver a reverse premium, their leaving would increase the performance of the team.

Let’s look at the those things added value sales managers are doing:

  • getting the right people into the right roles so they can excel
  • setting high standards of performance, activity and behaviour
  • constantly coaching
  • not tolerating mediocrity
  • always looking for ways to optimise the sales process
  • seeing their role primarily as one of motivating and enabling
  • fighting to get their people the best equipment, resources and information – first
  • supporting their people with good systems and minimum bureaucracy
  • not trying to be the best salesperson on the team but the best manager
  • auditing their own contribution, making sure they focus as much on leadership behaviours as they do on management activities
  • protecting their people from ‘upstairs’ interference as much as possible
  • obsessing about the relationship between the quality and quantity of sales activity and never getting the emphasis muddled up
  • prompting sales excellence by recognising best practice champions in the team
  • making the sales job as enjoyable as possible