Epic Fail: 6 Ways Sales Managers Let Themselves and Others Down

Discouraged business man

If you are a Sales Manager, you have a full slate of responsibilities that require a diverse skill set. And if you have recently been promoted from the ranks of front line salespeople in your organization, you might find yourself dealing with new challenges you never imagined. It can be overwhelming, but knowing where the pitfalls lie can help you avoid them. So here are 6 problem areas that could – singly or collectively – contribute to your downfall as a Sales Manager if allowed to escalate:

Failure to Teach

When you are promoted to Sales Manager or hired at that level based on your sales skills and track record, it can be a double-edged sword. Your talents, knowledge and successes earned you the step up to the next level in your sales career, but they aren’t enough to guarantee success as a Sales Manager. The good news is that when you share your abilities and sales acumen with your sales team, it becomes a win-win. They get better at making sales and you get a top performing team that frees you up to focus on other aspects of being an effective Sales Manager. Of course, if you keep your knowledge to yourself or stay too involved in the front line sales process, the opposite is true: you stunt the growth of your salespersons and you set yourself and your sales organization on a course for failure.

Failure to Relate

On the other hand, if you don’t stay close enough to your sales team and understand their daily challenges, you will lose your ability to relate to them as they work to solve problems and create opportunities. I have seen this called the “White House Syndrome.” In other words, if you spend all your time in the corporate office and little or no time with your sales team, you will quickly lose touch with reality and lose your ability to manage that reality. A two-fold fix is fairly simple: first, listen to your salespersons; and then periodically accompany them in making sales calls. Keep a toe in the water of day-to-day sales and you’ll be able to relate to your team and their challenges.

Failure to Lead

The opposite problem from failing to relate is relating too much and failing to lead. This can happen, for example, when you are afraid of alienating sales staffers you once worked alongside as a peer. It is tempting to try to keep those friendly relationships as they were, but this requires that you ignore your new duties as a sales team leader.  You have to accept that fact that you are no longer “one of the boys.” Understand this: being an effective Sales Manager sometimes requires “tough love”. Ultimately, your team will respect you more if you take your leadership role seriously by setting clear goals, communicating expectations, and treating each salesperson as a partner in success.

Failure to Manage

It’s been said that a leader makes sure his people are doing the right things while a manager makes sure that things are done right. As a Sales Manager, however, you have to be skilled at both. On the management side, one of the biggest risks to sales team success is in letting your salespersons be too independent in their sales processes. While it’s true that each salesperson will have his or her own style and talents, that style should be expressed within the confines of a sales process created, implemented and managed by the Sales Manager. Getting your sales team to be effective in working this unified process will require teaching, relating and leading.

Failure to Prospect for Talent

Even with a stellar sales team in place, it is the foolish Sales Manager who does not continuously keep eyes and ears open for top sales talent. It’s not unusual for a top salesperson to leave your company with little to no warning. It’s also not unusual for this to happen again soon after. But the smart Sales Manager is seldom truly blindsided; and even if the loss of a top performer wasn’t expected, it doesn’t have to be disastrous for the organization. The key is to start looking for new talent before you need it. Be aware of sales excellence when you see it, and when you do, ask for that person’s contact info. Instead of having to run a newspaper or online ad for a new salesperson, your next sales superstar could be at the top of your updated list and just a phone call away.

Failure to Grow

Perhaps the biggest threat to success for anyone is the failure to learn from mistakes and apply that learning to future situations. This can certainly threaten the success of the Sales Manager, too. The first challenge is to recognize and admit when mistakes are made. The second challenge is where the growth happens: learning from the mistake, making necessary adjustments and applying those adjustments to future similar situations. Without this learning, without this growth, failure as a Sales Manager is inevitable.

The Bottom Line:

No doubt about it, Sales Managers have a tough job. They face many challenges, wear many hats and must keep many priorities in balance. But awareness of these pitfalls can be the first step toward success as a Sales Manager. And help is available, perhaps internally with others who have successfully navigated the course of being a Sales Manager, or externally, with essential training and resources.