Is Your Sales Manager Managing? Here’s How To Tell!

I was gifted by having a good sales manager in my career, and I considered myself a solid responsive sales manager when it was my turn.  Remember, you will not know every reason why your sales manager does something, but you will be intuitive as to whether your manager is working in your interest.  Read this and give it some thought.


Your sales manager can be your biggest asset.  They can have a profound effect on your income, your job title, and your longevity in your position.  If they are a successful manager, they do many activities that help you find success, yet by text book definition, the role of management is to plan, organize, lead, and control (POLC).

That description is certainly not a listing of activities that they do as much as the categories that the tasks would be assigned to.  The management role can be the most positive thing about a sales job, or it could be one of the most negative.  The person in the role will make all of the difference.

The unit sales manager or field sales manager will find and hire talent, provide important training, and will manage the ‘troops’ in the effort to make quotas.  No one is more important in the role of a new sales professional.  Additionally, if this person is good at the job, no one is more instrumental in the role of a successful sales professional, even if it’s because he removes obstacles, and stays out of the way.

I am going to share three key points that one of my former managers taught me in the course of his management of my early sales career.  I am not saying that I agreed with all of these points when I worked for him, yet it was amazing in how clear the logic was once I got into sales management.

Do the Most Important Things First!

When I was a young sales professional, I had a manager (I will call him Jim) who always had stellar sales results.  He constantly challenged the sales professionals and could mix in this motivation with some rather ‘pointy’ jabs about your performance.

He was in sales management for well over 30 years, and he knew the turf.  He was hopelessly impatient and let you know it at every turn.  His knowledge of the sales process well exceeded his product knowledge, yet believe me, he was extremely effective.

We would have meetings about our sales funnel prospects that would rival scenes from some of the greatest sales movies (such as Glengarry Glen Ross, 1992, David Mamet) and there was no doubt as to who was in charge.  The process was fluid and the expectation was simple…sell, sell, and sell.

Here are three primary points that he paid attention to:

1. Pay attention to the most important factors and work them!

He knew that a couple of the items that were most important were prospecting and quoting, and you could not find a rock to hide under that could shield you if you did not do these activities.  It was clear evidence that if you were doing the ‘grunt’ work, that you could have some success even if other facets were weak.

Jim would shield you from upper management, to a degree, if you were doing the most important things and making money for you and him.  The practice was successful as his units had the highest sales numbers, and he provided the highest amount of challenge, sarcasm, and support.  Eventually you would have to do some things that he did not think were important either, yet the real testament to his flexibility was that he knew when it was important to ‘show’ well.

2. Pay attention to your most productive sales professionals, and get the most out of them while you groom the next star for your unit.

Jim qualified for all of the sales trips because he know this important fact that.  His power and influence came from having the unit be on top.  I cannot say that I always agreed with the approach, yet it worked for him.  He knew that he had some ‘horses’ that he could ride in the present, and he would need more firepower in the future, and that was a constant vigil.  In the beginning, I was obviously opposed because when I was one of those ‘newbies’ who needed help as I found my time pre-empted by some of the veteran sales professionals.

I learned that the unit had to survive, and be on top, and that was to all of our benefit.  Having a conversation about it would not have helped, as no one wants to hear that someone else was more important.  In the end I eventually got my time, and made the most of it.

3. ‘Smell the Breath’ of the Customer!

Be on as many calls as you can reasonably do, so that you can bring the message from the customer back to the organization.  Jim knew that if he stayed at the office that he would never have a complete feel for why sales efforts fail.  He decided that attention would be given to those who took him out to present quotations, or even to develop key prospects.

He knew that he could better explain our weaknesses in program and pricing to upper management if he heard it from the buyer without filter.  Additionally, relationships were out there to make, and being in front of the buyer allowed this to happen.

The best sales manager leads in this way, and controls in this way.  Leading sales professionals from the office does not work.  You have got to go out and ‘smell the breath of the customer’, and Jim did not take that lightly.

Relationships happen for good reason when there is a ‘connection’, and Jim was able to make connections that I was not able to make.

The Wrap-up

So when you ask that inevitable set of questions:

Why the heck is she always on me about prospects?  I feel as if I have a babysitter!


What do I have to do to get some attention here?  This is ridiculous.  He spends way too much time with those two guys.


What is going on with this pressure to go out on calls with me, does he not trust me?  I can’t believe that he wants to go with me…again!

You may have the answers above.

Your comments are always welcome.

Are YouTempted to Cheat?

Are you ever tempted to cheat?  Do you know some of your sales associates who have “went out of bounds” in this profession where they may be convinced that no one is watching?  Never give in to the temptation!


I worked for a sales organization that believed in having sprint contests as well as sales incentives.  It was the nature of the beast to have a contest that had incentive trips, as many organizations have, as well as to have a contest to introduce, or spur the sales of slower moving products.

But this contest was different; it involved a sprint contest that would ‘pay’ on the basis of activity and not actual sales of the product.  In other words, you could get paid on the basis of working on something as opposed to the success of selling it.  Quite strange that an organization would be so desperate to get its sales professionals to work on a new product that they pay on the basis of working on it as opposed to the norm of selling the product.

Here is what I witnessed:

Sales reps in our office were buzzing as they talked about this new ‘program’ that they would be paid to deliver quotations on a new retirement product for small businesses and entrepreneurs.  You got paid for selling it, and if you did not sell it, you got paid in prizes and merchandise for getting to business owners to sit down and discuss it with you even if you did not sell it.  What could be better than that?

The unintended consequence of the contest was that unscrupulous sales professionals could easily augment their real activity with false activity in order to walk with some valuable prizes. As a matter of fact they could totally fabricate enough activity to walk away with stereos, televisions, sporting equipment, and gift certificates.  And that is just what happened.

The sales staff was tempted to ‘pad’ activity and those without morals did just that and were rewarded with a bounty of electronics and other items.  As a sales manager and a manager of sales managers for that same organization later in my career, it was clearly the example for what program never to undertake again.

Play Fair… Everywhere!

“I would prefer even to fail with honor than to win by cheating.”

Yes, companies can decide what programs not to implement again, but the bigger story here is not that there was a ‘dumb’ program; it is that when the moment availed itself, these sales professionals ‘cheated’ for trinkets.

They took the opportunity to ‘fudge’ their activity sheets for some items that they could already afford!  That is the problem with cheating.  Sales professionals work by a system, and the system can be ‘gamed’.   Even more, in most cases no one is watching many of the activities.

Mr. or Mrs. Clean

The impression that you will want to leave on your employer will be based on a squeaky clean image, which negates any perception that you might cheat.  The perception that you may cheat is as damaging as cheating itself.  You need to be Mr. or Mrs. Clean.  I have had this conversation with Black sales professionals on numerous occasions while mentoring.

With that in mind, you should note that if I were your sales manager, perception of your propensity to cheat would be based on some important points:

  • If you will cheat your fellow sales professional or co-employee, you will cheat me!
  • If you will cheat the IRS you will cheat me!
  • If you will cheat on your wife, you will cheat me!

Cheating obviously occurs in more than the workplace.  In the areas that are above we must consider the possibility that if it is known you violated the truth, you can possibly do it to your employer.  You may have no intent to do it to your employer, but the perception that you could do it is what can damage you.

Your personal life is yours, but says a lot about you.  It helps you establish your credibility (Read This - BSJ 4/16– Credibility …You Can’t Buy it, You’ve Got to Earn It!) as well as build a positive perception of yourself as I stated BSJ 4/9/2012 Build a Positive Perception.

Cheating in the workplace includes, but is not limited to the following:

  • Expense management
  • Handling of company property (cars, computers, etc.)
  • Your time management (while you are supposed to be working)
  • Your sales prospect data

Protect you future and your career.  Put your energy into maintaining credibility and winning the right way.  Remember, it is always easier to tell the truth! (Read it in BSJ 6/30/2011 Telling the Truth…It Works Wonders for a Relationship).

Be the Best.

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