Should We Fire the Sales Manager?

Just imagine what it would be like if we ran our businesses like a sports team. It’s the end of the fiscal year and the numbers are in. Despite three good quarters, in the end our competitor beat us out in total sales. It was close but, when push came to shove, our sales team was outmaneuvered on that last big sale. So the owners call in the sales manager, tell him what a rotten job he did in coaching and motivating the sales team and then fire him.

Still on the theme of running a company like a sports team, we move into the year-end draft. This is where we dump our worst performers from the sales team, reach into our competitor’s sales team, and select a couple of potential winners. Or we go to our farm team (branch office) and move up a couple of people who are showing potential at the local level and who may be ready for the “big time.” If only!

As I wrote in my article on “The Myth of Team Selling,” I’m really not into sports at all. In fact, I’m sports inert and don’t have a sports bone in my body. It’s probably for that reason I don’t understand why, when a bunch of million-dollar players don’t do the job as good as they should/could, it’s the coach that gets sacked. Why not fire the people who aren’t performing — the players? Am I missing something here?

That’s what happens with sales teams. When one or more of the sales “players” misses their target on a consistent basis, they’re given the opportunity to play for the competition or leave the game altogether.

Sack the Coach

When a sports team has a losing streak, the team’s senior management blames the coach and sacks him (it’s usually a he). Now, this probably makes perfect sense to all you sports nuts out there, but I’m still at a loss as to the reasoning behind this rationale.

I assume that the coach gets fired because he failed to get the best out of his people. Or he failed to motivate the team or to instill a killer instinct to get “out there” and demolish the opposition.

Maybe he didn’t rant enough at the half-time rally. Or he didn’t push them enough during training sessions. Maybe he didn’t expect enough from his people and let them off the hook when they didn’t give their best.

Wait a minute! Maybe the sports people are onto something here. Maybe, as business people, we should fire the sales manager.

Now, before any of you start dusting off and updating your resumes, relax. I’m not advocating anyone sack you. If anything, I’d like to see sports teams operate more like business.

Now there’s an interesting concept. Instead of firing the coach, maybe sports teams should fire some of the overpriced primadonnas who won’t allow themselves to be coached and who are only motivated by inflated incomes!

The Sales Manager’s Job

As a coach, it’s the sales manager’s job to:

get the best out of the team;
create a work environment where his people are motivated to do their best;
provide training and practise opportunities at sales meetings so his people can improve their selling skills;
spend time coaching his under-performers and supporting his super-stars.

And as a scout, it’s also the sales manager’s job to spend the time finding the raw talent he needs to build a winning team.

Coaching the Sales Team

I’ve always felt that coaching the sales team is an integral part of the sales manager’s function. Unfortunately, some sales managers don’t even know how to play the game let alone coach the team. How can you coach someone if you don’t know the rules or haven’t played the game yourself?

We’ve all heard about the disasters that can happen when you take your best salesperson and make him or her sales manager. The sad result is that we lose our best salesperson and gain our worst sales manager. Not everyone is well suited for this position.

You don’t need to be a super salesperson to be a good coach. But you do need to have the ability to get the most out of your players. Many of the best sales managers weren’t barn-burning salespeople. They are the ones who understand what’s required to make a sale and can translate that information into terms their players can understand and action.

Building an “A” Team

In sports, “A” coaches hire “A” players and “B” coaches hire “C” players. In business, “A” sales managers are confident enough to hire “A” salespeople while “B” sales managers hire “C” salespeople and then complain about how bad business is.

An “A” manager seeks to hire people who can be as good as or better in sales than the manager is himself. A “B” manager’s ego won’t allow him to hire someone who may show him up. “A” managers strive to develop and empower their people while “B” managers go for control. Become an “A” sales manager.

Bottom Line

As I mentioned, you’re probably in no danger of being fired. But it wouldn’t hurt to cement your position by developing your coaching skills and continuing to build an “A” team.