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Should Your Sales Managers Be Selling?

Should Your Sales Managers Be Selling?

Should your sales managers be responsible for meeting their own individual quota? Or is the “Selling Sales Manager” function flawed?

This is a question that frequently comes up for debate. If you look towards the sports world, however, you’ll see that few teams use “player-managers.” That rule of thumb should hold true in business as well. There is inherent conflict if a sales manager is required to supervise, coach, and mentor people while also carrying a separate quota.

Below are 3 key reasons why sales managers selling is a bad idea:

Reason 1: It Causes Damage to Your Sales Culture

The first important issue with the “Selling Sales Manager” function is that the competition between salesperson and manager can quickly lead to a negative sales environment.

A little bit of healthy competition can be beneficial on sales teams, but when it’s between a manager and his or her direct report, it’s never a good thing. The dynamic between sales manager and seller should be one of support, mentorship, and trust—and the dual-function role can be harmful to that relationship.

Even if leads are distributed fairly, the team may believe that the manager is picking the cream of the crop clients for themselves.

Overall, having a sales manager who sells next to his or her direct reports can lead to distrust, poor morale, and a toxic sales culture.

Reason 2: It Sacrifices the Quantity and Quality of Sales Coaching

A sales manager never seems to have enough time in a day to get everything done. If they are required to hold their own accounts, good chances are they won’t prioritize leading and coaching their team.

The things a sales manager should be focused on are:

  • Working with salespeople to develop goals—and then holding them accountable
  • Training and coaching the team to improve performance levels
  • Motivating the sales team to reach target—especially during lean times
  • Developing and implementing an effective sales recruitment and hiring strategy

Of all of the responsibilities a sales manager has, sales coaching has the greatest impact on performance. The bottom line is, it’s next to impossible to do the amount of (quality) coaching necessary for a team of reps while still bringing in personal sales. (And if an account-holding sales manager does focus on sales coaching, they risk neglecting their customers.)

A sales manager needs to focus on training and developing each player and bringing out the best in all of them—and they can’t do that if they’re focused on meeting their own personal quota.

Reason 3: Selling and Managing Require Different Skillsets

Most of us have seen what can go wrong when a company promotes their top salesperson to sales manager. Seventy-seven percent of the time (according to research from “Split Second Selling”) managers make mistakes promoting sales reps into sales management roles.

Top sales performers don’t always make great sales leaders because the roles require two distinct skillsets. By requiring sales managers to meet both an individual contributor quota and a team quota, you’re not allowing them to focus on either role with their full attention.

People need full commitment and clear steps on a single ladder to climb successfully. You have a sales manager to lead and coach the rest of the sales team to success—so give them room to focus on that objective.

The Other Side of the Coin 

While not ideal, in some industries it may be difficult for a sales manager to not have his or her own clients. If that’s the case, the sales manager must take extra strides to prioritize coaching and build trust with the team. That means regularly going on joint sales calls and conducting one-to-one coaching sessions with salespeople to help them improve their performance.

In addition, small companies may be concerned about the cost justification of a sales manager without their own sales quota. Remember, what’s true for large companies is just as true for smaller companies: sales managers are force multipliers. Commit to developing your sales managers into the most effective leaders they can be, and your entire team’s performance will improve as a result.

Conclusion

The role of a sales manager is less about “managing” and more about leading and coaching their people to perform at the highest possible levels. To lead effectively, they must build a foundation of trust and support—and they must be able to focus all of their efforts onto empowering the team. If your sales managers have the chance to do that effectively, it will far surpass anything that could be produced individually.  

At The Brooks Group, we’re passionate about giving sales managers the skills and tools needed to empower their sales teams every day. Learn more about our upcoming Sales Management Symposium here

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World-class athletic teams win for one reason and one reason only: they have absolute mastery over the fundamentals.

World-class sales managers are no different…

Lisa Rose

More articles written by Lisa Rose

Lisa Rose is a Regional Vice President of Sales at The Brooks Group. Lisa has passion for helping managers develop a unique, motivational sales culture in their organizations. She can drive sales managers who merely put out fires day to day to flourish as visionaries who can motivate their team and generate results for their sales organizations.