The 7 Myths of Sales Management

The 7 Myths of Sales Management

By Geoffrey James
Sales Machine Blogger

Sales managers have a tough job. Sales professionals are not always the easiest people to manage, and sales managers are often blamed when sales go sour.

Unfortunately, the job is made even more difficult when sales managers cling to these seven, stupid, outworn myths concerning what sales management is all about.

This list, BTW, is based upon a email from a management guru by the name of Ray Williams.  Smart guy.

IMPORTANT: Enjoy this post?  To see more, email me through my website: GeoffreyJames.com

Illustrations by Araga

The 7 Myths of Sales Management

Myth #1: Management's First Responsibility is to Make the Numbers

Myth #1: Management's First Responsibility is to Make the Numbers

Why It's a Myth: While numbers are important, they are always the history of what's happened in the past. Treating the numbers as the top priority leads to jiggling the revenue stream, pushing revenue into different quarters, and (worst case) cooking the books to make the numbers look good.

Why It's Believed: The pressure to management the numbers proceeds directly out of a combination of fear and incompetence.  Because the sales manager does not know how to manage people in order to get results, he jumps directly to trying to manage the results.

The Real Truth: Management's first responsibility is to manage activities. While a manager cannot (honestly) manage the numbers, a manager can always manage the activities that lead to the numbers. If you focus on what the sales team is doing, and measuring the effectiveness of each activity, each day the numbers become a foregone conclusion that needs little attention.

IMPORTANT: Enjoy this post?  To see more, email me through my website: GeoffreyJames.com

The 7 Myths of Sales Management

Myth #2: The Manager's Job is to Have the Answers

Myth #2: The Manager's Job is to Have the Answers

Why It's a Myth: Each time a manager answers an employee's question, he or she becomes a thief. The manager has robbed that person of the opportunity to think and the opportunity to grow. While experience has value, people don't learn when that hard-won wisdom is handed over on a platter, much less forced down their throat.

Why It's Believed: In many firms, sales managers are created by promoting top salespeople into management positions. Those individuals naturally assume that they were promoted because they "know how to sell" when in fact that knowledge is probably specific to their own personality and style of selling.

The Real Truth: The manager's job is to ask the right questions. The trick to managing effectively is being able to spark, in the employee's own mind, the thought processes and ideas that will make the employee successful. Great managers know the "magic questions" that help employees discover where they need to improve and how, and which get the commitment necessary to make the improvement.

IMPORTANT: Enjoy this post?  To see more, email me through my website: GeoffreyJames.com

The 7 Myths of Sales Management

Myth #3: Quota is an Employee Management Tool

Myth #3: Quota is an Employee Management Tool

Why It's a Myth: Quota defines the minimum performance standard of an organization and the minimum performance of the individual inside that organization. When it is used as a management tool, managers are placing maximum emphasis on minimum performance. The result is entirely predictable: the entire sales team aims at the minimum standard and seldom exceeds it.

Why It's Believed: Human beings are complex and difficult, with variable means of becoming motivated. By contrast, a quota is easily understood, making it a convenient short-cut when it comes to setting goals that are suppose to motivate the team to sell.

The Real Truth: Quota is a corporate measurement tool. Quota is simply what the organization needs to achieve in order to fulfill its goals. Quota has nothing to do with what the employee wants from his or her employment with the organization. It does not motivate, even when managers uses it as a club to beat employees about the head and shoulders at the end of the month.

IMPORTANT: Enjoy this post?  To see more, email me through my website: GeoffreyJames.com

The 7 Myths of Sales Management

Myth #4: Morale Will Improve When Sales Go Up

Myth #4: Morale Will Improve When Sales Go Up

Why It's a Myth: Morale will improve when sales go up. Managers often believe that increased sale will result in higher morale, ignoring the fact that low morale makes it difficult, and even impossible, to increase sales. What results is a classic "chicken or egg" situation where everyone's waiting for things to improve, with decreasing hope that they actually will.

Why It's Believed: When sales are bad, an atmosphere of doom and gloom can easily descend upon an organization.  People start railing against the economy, the competition, management, or whatever exterior elements that can be blamed for failure.

The Real Truth: Morale improves when employees believe sales will improve. To create this belief managers must: 1) present a clear vision of the future, 2) have the sales team make the reality check that the vision will work and will benefit each team member, and 3) refine the vision into a practical set of steps that everyone agrees are achievable. Note: this initiative must have an upper management champion or it will die on the vine.

IMPORTANT: Enjoy this post?  To see more, email me through my website: GeoffreyJames.com

The 7 Myths of Sales Management

Myth #5: Managers Should Put the Customer First

Myth #5: Managers Should Put the Customer First

Why It's a Myth: When managers preach and practice this longstanding axiom, they overlook their employees, who are responsible for creating and nurturing the customer relationship. Customers quickly learn they can bypass the rep and get what they want by appealing to the manager, resulting in lousy morale, high turnover, and customer dissatisfaction.

Why It's Believed: Endless books and seminars on being "customer focused" have made it difficult to differentiate between employees who actually do work with customers (like salesfolk) and employees who support the people who work with customers (like sales managers.)

The Real Truth: Manager must put their employees first. Managers should communicate regularly and comprehensively with employees, and work through them when communicating with the customer. Managers should never undercut their employee's authority to deal with customer issues.

IMPORTANT: Enjoy this post?  To see more, email me through my website: GeoffreyJames.com

The 7 Myths of Sales Management

Myth #6: Top Performers Define Management Ability.

Myth #6: Top Performers Define Management Ability.

Why It's a Myth:  Managers often point to their top performers as an indicator of how successful they are as sales managers. However, while the manager may have hired that top performer or grown him or her into that role, the success of that individual is more likely to reflect that person's drive and ability, rather than anything the manager brought to the table.

Why It's Believed: Sales teams tend to be success-oriented and to create "stars.'  Although such stars are usually born, not made, it's understandable that sales management would like to take some credit for recruiting and cultivating them.

The Real Truth: The worst performers define management ability. The worst performing sales person on the team illustrates exactly what the manager will accept, because that person remains employed. What's more, the worst performer acts as a drag upon the rest of the team, who are well aware that they must work harder in order to cover for the manager's willingness to tolerate poor performance.

IMPORTANT: Enjoy this post?  To see more, email me through my website: GeoffreyJames.com

The 7 Myths of Sales Management

Myth #7: Management is Mostly Common Sense

Myth #7: Management is Mostly Common Sense

Why It's a Myth: When we view the solution to anything as being common sense, we tend not to pay much attention to it, thinking that our common sense will get us through. The result is that the same problems keep coming up month after month, year after year, because managers are relying upon "common sense" to fix them.

Why It's Believed: The belief in common sense as a panacea is always the result of mental laziness.  It's wrongly assumed that a person with "common sense" will make good decisions, while people with real expertise will act like impractical egg-heads.

The Real Truth: Good management requires a complex and multiplex skill set. To get the best from employees, managers must know their employees and their interests, and manage according to those interests. That requires applied psychology. To make sure that sales activities result in profitable revenue, managers must define and track a productive sales process. That requires system analysis.  And so forth.  If you're serious about being a great sales manager, you'll constantly upgrade your skills and knowledge.

IMPORTANT: Enjoy this post?  To see more, email me through my website: GeoffreyJames.com