When you Need to Fire your Sales Manager

Think about the worst, least reliable and least valuable sales manager you’ve ever worked with. (Our apologies if those bad memories sent you into a cold sweat).

What did they do poorly? Odds are that no-value sales manager – we’ll call him Bad Behavior Bob – didn’t treat his new role as anything more than being  a super-senior sales rep. He:

  • continued to live in the weeds and sell alongside the reps he was supposed to manage
  • had poor visibility into the team’s sales pipeline, so he had a joke of a sales forecast
  • couldn’t lead and manage holistically
  • provided no more value to the organization than when he was just a rep. Except, he’s no longer a sales rep.

On the other hand, remember those great sales managers you’ve worked with? She was probably someone, like Sales Leader Lauren, who :

  • understood the demands of her new role, and knew not to cross the line between “guiding” and “doing for you”
  • held disciplined pipeline review meetings that provided visibility for all
  • forecasted with a data-backed view
  • provided tremendous value to the organization

You don’t want Bad Behavior Bob leading your sales team. Who you want is someone like Sales Leader Lauren.

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Check out the detailed differences between how Sales Leader Lauren and Bad Behavior Bob, and why you need to get rid of someone like Bob, who provides no value – leadership or otherwise – to your sales team.

No-value Sales Managers…

  • Play the part of the glorified, leveled-up sales rep. Bob could never let go of the selling responsibilities of his previous life. He continued to do for the rep, instead of teaching his reps how to do it themselves. Bob was previously a rockstar sales rep, and continued to feel that he was the best qualified person on the team to sell…and maybe he was! But he has to understand that his job is no longer to sell, but to manage and lead. Bob would always get on the phone with his reps with the intention of being a silent observer, but was often unable to help himself from interjecting when he saw or heard a mistake. Clearly, Bob did not believe in the adage, “Give a man a fish and he eats for a day; teach him to fish and he eats for a lifetime.”
  • Have no pipeline visibility and no idea of what a buyer looks like. Bob did not have full sales pipeline visibility, and often had to resort to asking his reps about individual opportunities – a process that was arduous, time-consuming and mostly inaccurate. The problem was that Bob did not know which opportunities are the most winnable and viable ones. He ended up blindly guessing at opportunities in the pipeline review meeting, wasting lots of time talking about opps that are no good with his reps. The lack of effective sales pipeline management and visibility meant that Bob was not armed with the knowledge to pick the opportunities that he actually needed to dissect with his reps, opps where he can actually make a positive impact.
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  • Forecast by stabbing in the dark. An inaccurate sales forecast doesn’t just provide zero value, it can actually be a huge detriment by giving you misleading information in your effort to model and plan your team’s growth. It used to drive his Sales VP nuts when he overheard Bob asking for his reps’ intuition on individual opportunities – the primary reason why his sales forecasts were always off. When a rep tells Bob, “Yeah, I have a good feeling about this one based on a conversation I had last week with the contact,” Bob should have been instantly wary of his reps’ Happy ears – where they listen out for good news, while ignoring red flags on opportunities.

Great sales managers…

  • Know that their most important role is in training and sales coaching. Sales Leader Lauren took the “manager” aspect of her job title very seriously; it’s her job to lead and teach and manage, not to sell. Lauren understood this and appropriately spent the vast majority of her in-office time on sales coaching. She wrote a plan and held herself accountable to it. She was actively engaged with the rep on his first few call attempts. The second time, she pulled back a little and allowed her rep to walk on his own. The third time, she sat on the phone silently listening and took detailed notes for coaching feedback after. The fourth time, her reps are totally on their own. As tempting as it might be to hold their hand throughout these calls – the baby bird mentality – Lauren understood that is not the way to learn long-term sales skills that actually stick.
  • Have a crystal-clear idea of what a winning opportunity looks like. Based on historical data – taking into account opportunity size and stage, for example – Lauren knew exactly what winning opportunities look like. What really impressed her Sales VP was the fact that Lauren ran extremely tight and productive pipeline review meetings, directing her reps to focus on dissecting the right ops. She also knew that her biggest impact would be readily felt on early-stage opportunities; Bob routinely focused on late-stage opportunities, a mistake many sales managers make at their pipeline review meetings.
  • Forecast by leaning on historical sales metrics. From Day 1, Lauren came in with a designed and systematic approach to sales pipeline management, something she strictly enforced on all her reps. She was very stringent and strict when it comes to data entry on opps in the CRM, making sure each opportunity is always in the proper stage with the right close dates. After several cycles, she got exactly what she wanted from her disciplined pipeline management; a predictable process that clearly told her what percentage of each type of opportunity – by stage, age, size, etc – her team was likely to win. Lauren’s systematic approach, coupled with some of her reps’ feedback as color, made for a far more accurate sales forecast than any of Bob’s finger-in-the-wind approaches.
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As you might imagine, Bob was not long for his sales management role. His poor pipeline visibility, inaccurate sales forecasting methods and insistence on playing the part of the glorified sales rep all contributed to him providing no value to the company. On the other hand, Lauren understood the demands of her new role and came in with a leadership mentality and a data-driven approach. Lauren was very successful as a sales manager and carried her team to greater heights and better sales results.

Don’t be like Bob; strive to be a sales manager who is more like Lauren, and you’ll deliver unbeatable value to your team.
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