What Drives Bad Sales Management Behavior?

The Need to Control!

Several years ago, I was asked to interview someone that would be a peer to me.  They were an internal candidate and this role would be a promotion for them.  They had been a successful account manager and felt that sales management was the next step in their career. 

I went through the interview process with my questions and the candidate kept over-simplifying their answers.  I would ask "how would you inspect forecasted opportunities with your sales reps?"  They became frustrated with my questions and responded by saying, “I’ll just call the customer directly and get the deal done.”  When I debriefed with the hiring manager I asked him “Is this person a controlling person?”  the hiring manager said, “Oh yeah, they want to do everything themselves.”  I told him to reconsider the candidate and look for someone new.  The hiring manager didn’t listen and a couple of years later, that person was struggling badly as a manager, rarely hit their numbers and their team members kept leaving the company.

The fact is, being a sales manager is difficult because you have to create a process for the team, inspect the business and get out of the way.  Micro-managing good sales people rarely works, at least not for the good sales people..

The secret to being successful as a sales leader is to hire great sales people, be organized, inspect the business and GET OUT OF THE WAY!

Here is a simple formula to go from a controlling to an enabling Sales Leader:

1.     Build your Metrics – Every sales teams has metrics that are unique to their business but we all have common metrics inherent to sales. I call them the Leading and Lagging Indicators.  Your Leading indicators are typically your pipeline numbers.  Whether you track straight open pipeline or factored pipeline, they are all leading indicators that determine the likelihood of future success for your team’s performance.  Lagging indicators are the revenue (or bookings) and things like average sale, sales cycle times, and net new customers.  But lagging indicators are always a measurement of things that have already happened.  In my experience, the leading indicators tend to be the ones sales teams struggle with the most.

2.     Create a Process and Cadence – So many managers are reactive and say “I don’t have time to be organized!”  Don’t ever say that around me.  I have no patience for that statement.  An Ounce of Prevention is Worth a Pound of Cure.  Just sit down and design your meetings, review sessions and metrics.  There is no excuse for not doing this other than you may be a controlling sales manager.  It literally would take (at the most) one day a year, if you stay focused.

3.     Coach and Inspire – Once you have your metrics defined and your cadence in place, your job is to focus on coaching.  Mainly situational coaching, where your experience and ideas can actually impact the sale.  Focus on providing your team with inspiration.  They all really want to be motivated and inspired.  Being a controlling manager will be de-motivating and drives them further away from trusting you.

Take the time to get organized.  Your team will appreciate it and respect you for being a true leader vs. a controlling manager.