This is an excerpt from my second book, Managing the Sales Process, available on Amazon.com. You can find a series of these excerpts in a dedicated blog category to get a broad overview, post-by-post, of the book (they are listed in reverse order in the category, so start with the oldest).

From Chapter 4 – Is Someone Holding the Salespeople Accountable?

Ideally, the task of holding salespeople accountable is assigned to a specific individual. Whether the job is called Sales Manager or something else, someone in the organization needs to be designated to monitor the efforts they make in pursuit of sales revenue. In an enormous number of sales organizations, no one is doing this at anywhere close to the level of detail described above. More often, at best, salespeople are held accountable only to the end of the period result, rather than that in addition to the steps required to get there, as outlined above.

The next section of this chapter describes the elements of the sales manager job. First, let’s explore why this job doesn’t get done in the first place and what gets done instead?

More often than not, a sales manager is promoted to this position from within the ranks of sales. In any job, it is hard to go from being one of the workers to being the one managing the workers. Managing salespeople is a completely different job than selling, and the ability to sell isn’t the same as knowing how to manage salespeople. If promoted to a director or a vice president from sales manager, the sales manager’s boss probably has the same problem. This title alone does not mean he or she knows what the sales manager is supposed to do.

If the company is small, often the sales manager reports to the head of the company, who almost surely doesn’t understand what the sale manager is supposed to do. So in most cases and with most of their time, what does the sales manager do?

Sells.

Most sales managers spend the vast majority of their time selling. In an environment where the only management they know how to do is to set a revenue target at the end of the period, then selling makes sense for at least two reasons:

First, the manager who doesn’t know what to do to help the team salespeople get to the revenue target can go back to what he or she knows best (selling) to help increase the numbers. You can almost hear the conversation between the sales manager and the boss.

“…well, maybe you should go after a few accounts yourself to help boost the numbers. What do you say….”

As has been noted, in a sales organization the 80/20 Rule means that there are four weak performers for every top performer. If one of those top performers is the sales manager, it can seem imperative that he keeps on selling in order to keep up the group number that he is responsible for. A sales team that makes its number is often accepted by senior management, regardless of the results of the parts. If this is how a sales organization is run, and the manager knows more about how to sell than how to manage, from his perspective, those “crappy salespeople” should get out of his way and let him sell.

This may sound radical if you have never experienced anything like this, but for the vast majority of sales organizations this probably is painfully familiar. Once in a while, the manager may go on a sales call or two with a salesperson and usually will try to step in and do the job. Sadly, this is as much hands-on sales management as a poorly run sales organization may ever get.

The second reason that sales managers who don’t know what do to wind up selling is time. If the only management they know how to do is to set a monthly or quarterly revenue target, then the only management work they have to do other than their required internal management meetings is reviewing the numbers, going over them with salespeople once a month or quarter, and occasionally, maybe, going on some sales calls with the salespeople.

This is not a huge amount of work. So what is there to do? If they are lazy, then nothing. I have seen this before. The managers pretend to manage and stay around until the organization has limped along for long enough, then they are fired. The other thing that managers in this situation do is sell.

If you are a sales manager, or have one reporting to you, consider what percentage of time is spent selling and what percentage of the time is spent managing salespeople. If the amount of time selling is high, the sales manager may not know what to do to offset the high amount of selling time with what might be called ─ well ─ sales management.

So let’s look at that now. What is the sales manager supposed to be doing?

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Authors note (AKA shameless plugs)

So, this 7-step sales process and associated topics…. Yup, I write about that a lot. I’ve been working with it since I developed it about 25 years ago – in my own diverse work experiences, with my teams when I had them, and with clients ever since.

If you would like to develop you own personalized and customized, highly effective and efficient B2B selling system, here are some further steps you can take:

The Salesman’s Guide to Dating is a free or very cheap (depending on Amazon) Kindle book that walks you through the sales process using the familiar analogy of dating. It’s a good, fun and quick way to get your mind around the whole process and how the pieces fit together.

Building Your Sales Process (BYSP) is a free and very thorough exploration of the same 7-step process that will walk you through the development of your own customized, personal B2B selling system. When you are done, you will know exactly what to do to get new business.

The Momentum Selling System® is an inexpensive but very robust online sales training course that is similar to BYSP, but goes deeper into the concepts behind each of the steps, and also helps you develop a plan not only for the 7-step process but also addresses mindset, repeat business and client base management.

If none of that sounds right, I do personal coaching and offer a free 30-minute intake session so that we can both learn if it makes sense to work together 1-on-1. If this sounds interesting, click over to the coaching page on this site and sign up for the free session.

Here’s to your success!

-David