Sales management is an extremely demanding job, especially if you’re making the step up from regular salesperson and don’t have much (if any) management or leadership experience. Suddenly you’ve gone from contributing as part of a team to the head of the team where the responsibility for the results falls directly on you. The pressure can be too much for some, but there is the potential for great success as well.
The secret is to pre-empt the problems you might end up creating yourself, because those are the ones you can prevent or solve as opposed to the ones you have no control or influence over.
With that said, the single biggest mistake you can make as a sales manager is: You don’t allow your salespeople to do the selling.
It’s understandable that this might be a problem for you. For example, maybe you were the company’s best salesperson and that’s why you’re now the sales manager. This could be why you were promoted to the role, but it means that selling isn’t your main task anymore and it frustrates you when you see people struggling to close a sale you could wrap up in five minutes.
However, this can have a knock-on effect that impacts your team, the department, and the business as a whole. Not allowing a salesperson to sell on their own (i.e. jumping in either on the phone, via email, or in a face-to-face meeting and completing the sale if you think the salesperson isn’t going to manage to close) sends out a negative message to the entire company. It could even eventually mean you’re asked to step aside for someone else to take over the position.
Effect on the Salesperson
The main effect on the salesperson is that they never learn how to sell for themselves. This effectively ruins them professionally and personally, as they can’t close a sale and will therefore never earn any commission. They may eventually be sacked.
Common opinion dictates that you only learn by making mistakes and then resolving not to make them again. So how can a salesperson develop if you’re constantly jumping in and selling on their behalf? New salespeople in particular need to be coached so they can feel empowered and confident in their roles, and your actions will not develop that feeling.
Effect on the Business
The effect on the business as a whole stems from the fact that, as sales manager, you are so busy concentrating on covering for the salespeople you deem incapable of selling that you can’t see other weaknesses that might be affecting the sales department. Additionally, the department may begin to resent you, and this will affect the engagement and passion the salespeople have for their work. And this will lead to declining results and the most skilled workers leaving for new pastures.
If you’re selling on behalf of your reps, you are not developing your skills as a sales manager and are therefore denying yourself the opportunity to progress in your career. You should be focusing on coaching your team members and increasing their ability and confidence in selling so you can produce better results each quarter, and make an ever more significant contribution to the organization as a whole.
There are a great many other mistakes that a sales manager can make, but not allowing your salespeople to sell is the biggest one to avoid because of the extent to which it affects everyone and everything involved.
Avoiding the Mistake
Obviously, the only way to avoid making this mistake is to not dominate the sales department when it comes to the actual selling. Allowing people to make sales mistakes -- though it may affect the short-term success of the company -- will benefit it in the long run because they will learn and become stronger for it. But this won’t happen if you’re constantly intervening.
Go the extra mile and begin to actively coach and develop team members who might not be as strong as others by utilizing your own skills and experience to put them on the right track. For instance, one-on-one training sessions will allow you to focus on everyone individually and produce greater results over a shorter period of time. This will also increase team confidence and engagement with the company as a whole, because team members will be more focused on the goals of the organization and recognize more clearly how their work contributes.
Do you agree that this is the worst mistake a sales manager can make? Why or why not?
Originally published Jul 9, 2015 7:00:00 AM, updated July 28 2017