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Sales Managers: A Field Guide

If you're going to have a successful sales career, you'll need to learn how to deal with various species of Sales Managers. To help you with this all important aspect of your job, I've collected a list of the most common varieties, along with sufficient information to identify which of the breed is currently managing your team. So, without further ado, here's your field guide to strange and wondrous world of sales management.

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The Engineer
  • Characteristics: Started his own company and now wants some customers.
  • Quote: "I built a better mousetrap, so I hired you to take the orders."
  • Pros: May offer you some founder's stock.
  • Cons: Stock will be worthless unless he gets wise about selling.
  • Warning: He will never, ever, truly respect what you do.
  • Care and Feeding: Expose him to some real-life customers so that he understands that selling the product isn't all that easy.
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The Volcano
  • Characteristics: Explodes whenever things don't go the way he thinks they should.
  • Quote: "If you can't make your &*$% numbers, get the *%&# out of here."
  • Pros: Might apologize later for acting like a jackass.
  • Cons: Is actually a jackass.
  • Warning: He will grind your ego into dust.
  • Care and Feeding: Observe the inevitable signs (like a twitching eyelid) that he's about to erupt, then excuse yourself to "make an important customer call."
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The Robot
  • Characteristics: Believes that sales technology is more important than making sales.
  • Quote: "If we don't populate the database, we can't get valid analytics!!"
  • Pros: Makes beautiful slides for top management.
  • Cons: Treats sales reps as faulty peripherals.
  • Warning: Big brother (or sister) is watching you.
  • Care and Feeding: Log your activity in your CRM system as briefly and quickly as possible. Turn off your cell phone and laptop if you're taking the afternoon off.
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The Addict
  • Characteristics: Booze, drugs, gambling, sex... You name it, he's doin' it.
  • Quote: "Why work hard if you're not going to play hard?"
  • Pros: Will be out of the office much of the time.
  • Cons: Can get extremely cranky the morning after.
  • Warning: He has his hand in the till and will need a scapegoat when it comes up short.
  • Care and Feeding: Avoid as much as possible. Try to be somewhere else when then inevitable excrement hits the proverbial fan.
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The Patsy
  • Characteristics: Got assigned as sales manager because nobody else wanted the job.
  • Quote: "I don't know much about sales but I'll do my best to help."
  • Pros: Won't try to tell you how to sell.
  • Cons: Has no clue whatsoever what's going on.
  • Warning: If everyone makes quota, you'll be stuck with him forever.
  • Care and Feeding: Try to convince him to take lots of sales training courses. It will keep him out of the office and - who knows? - he might actually learn something.
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The Marketeer
  • Characteristics: Has an MBA and therefore thinks he understands why customers buy things.
  • Quote: "Marketing drives sales."
  • Pros: Knows how to secure a big budget.
  • Cons: Wastes most of that budget on brochures.
  • Warning: He thinks you are expendable.
  • Care and Feeding: Nod your head up and down every time he talks. Throw the brochures in the trash (somewhere other than your office) and make your own sales materials that can actually help you sell something.
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The Backseat Driver
  • Characteristics: Used to be top rep but got promoted to manager.
  • Quote: "Watch me close this deal for you."
  • Pros: Probably can close deals that you can't.
  • Cons: His arrogance quickly wears thin.
  • Warning: May expect a percentage of your commission.
  • Care and Feeding: Turn him into a role model. Watch carefully, then ask questions about how and why he handles customers that way. Then hide your calendar.
Click here for the final species »
Our Hero
  • Characteristics: Is committed to making the sales team successful, and knows how to train them to achieve this.
  • Quote: "That was excellent. What do you think you could be doing better? (Listens.) Hmmm.... I think I can help you with that."
  • Pros: Rarer than diamonds in dog food.
  • Cons: You'll hate working for anyone else.
  • Warning: If the hero's manager isn't a hero, too, she'll probably get fired.
  • Care and Feeding: Enjoy it while it lasts...
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