The Five Deadly Sins of Sales Management

There are probably more than five deadly sins of sales management, but here are the ones that are the deadliest and the ones that I see committed most often as I do my sales management consulting. How many are you guilty of?

Sin #1 Not Hiring the Right People

Or more importantly, hiring the wrong people. Many sales managers, either under pressure or in desperation to fill a position, will plug in any warm body that can walk and talk at the same time and then despair when the person doesn’t work out.

Not everyone is suited for sales. In fact, some people shouldn’t be in sales, period. A recent study found that fifty-five percent of those people who earn their living from selling should be doing something else! When we inadvertently hire one of these people, it’s like taking a fish out of water and watching it flop around until it finally goes to the great aquarium in the sky. There are two reasons this happens in business: (1) we hire the wrong person off the street or (2) we have the wrong person forced on us from above, such as one of the boss’s relatives, or even worse, a family member.

Another scenario is when your company is downsizing, right sizing, or whatever, and your boss asks you to take Joe (or Josephine) from manufacturing and put him into sales. After all, he tells you, Joe has lots of product knowledge. Your boss also informs you that if you don’t “give him a chance,” Joe will be laid off and his kids will starve, etc.

Despite their excellent product knowledge, there are a lot of Joes in the world who couldn’t sell their way out of a wet paper bag. You and I don’t do these Joes any favour by putting them into a position where they’ll fail.

Even people who have a natural flair for sales may not be suited for your type of selling situation. Making the proper match between the individual and the position is one of the sales manager’s most critical challenges. Use of an instrument such as the Sales temperament Assessment (STA), available from Callidus Software, can help avoid or minimize the hiring of duds.

If nothing else, hire for attitude and train for skill, which brings us to our second sin.

Sin #2 Failing to Train

It’s critical that new salespeople get started on the right foot. Just like a sale can be made or lost in the first four minutes, first impressions count with new employees. If those first four minutes (or four hours, days, or weeks) are spent wandering around the corporate wilderness, the new person is likely to become discouraged. Remember, these people may still have resumes floating around the marketplace and if they’re not happy with where they are, they’ll jump ship at the first convenient port that looks better.

It’s up to the sales manager to provide proper training. In my e-book, Breaking in the New Salesperson, I discuss the three key training areas: policies and procedures, product knowledge, and sales training. As I point out in the book, breaking in a new salesperson is like breaking in a new car engine. The more care you take, the longer it will last and the fewer problems it will give you. You might want to check out my article on “The New Hire – Doing It Right.”

So, make sure you “break in” your people with the proper training.

Sin #3 Failing to Manage the Sales Process

A lot of people think sales just happen. Not so. There’s a start, middle, and hopefully, a happy finish to the sales process. Many sales managers don’t take the time to map out their particular sales process. It’s like planning a trip. If you don’t know where you’re going, it’s hard to get there (except by accident and, frankly, too many sales are made by accident).

Take the time to define each step of your sales process (usually five to nine) and then establish pre- and post-criteria. Determine what has to happen before a step can occur and what is supposed to happen after a step is done. A well-thought-out sales process becomes your road map to sales success.

Understanding your sales process gives you the edge in managing your sales team by assisting you to help them close more sales.

Sin #4 Failing to Lead Your People

Not all managers are good leaders and not all leaders are good managers. Over the years I’ve come to believe that the major difference between managers and leaders is people skills. A manager becomes a leader when he or she has earned the right to have followers.

Leadership is particularly important in tough times. People need someone they can look up to, not hide from. There are certainly times when the KITA approach to management has merit but, in my experience, the carrot-and-stick approach works best, particularly if you’re using the stick to dangle the carrot, not beat people.

How are your interpersonal skills? Over the ten years I was a Dale Carnegie instructor, I saw people with already good people skills develop into dynamite leaders. It’s a course you might want to consider either for yourself or for those people you want to develop as future leaders.

Sin #5 Failing to Fire When Necessary

As a sales manager, you’re responsible for the revenue-producing portion of the business and your salespeople are the tools you use to produce that revenue. If one of those tools isn’t (or never was) productive, you have to either repair or replace it. The longer you delay, the worse your numbers will become. Unless you’re Attila the Hun and enjoy destroying people, one of the hardest things any manager has to do is fire someone – which is probably why we don’t do it either soon enough or often enough.

Check out my article “Is It Time to Dump Your Duds,” for ideas on how to minimize the pain of giving people a new career opportunity (firing them).

Next to hiring the wrong person, failing to fire the wrong person for the job is one of our greatest sins. Hanging on to sales deadwood is bad for morale, bad for sales, and bad for business.

Are you spending too much time managing the wrong people?

Bottom Line

Go forth and manage sin-free.