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10 Reasons I Failed As A Sales Manager

by Sean Luce

Monday was Columbus Day here in the States, so lets revisit the Christopher Columbus School of Management. The mantra is:You dont know where youre going when you leave, you dont know where you are once you get there, and you dont know where youve been once you get back. Not a good place to be, especially in management.

Recently, a sales manager went into her review. What appeared obvious to management (struggling new sales manager) wasnt clear to her; in her mind, nothing was wrong.

Here are 10 things to make sure youre NOT doing!

Letting sales reps manage you: Reps show up late for work. Weekly work plans are not submitted on time. Sales meetings are shunned and attendance is disjointed. Account lists are not up to date. These are the first signs that you are being managed by your reps, instead of you managing them.

Automatically distributing call-ins equally: Theres nothing written that states you have to divide sales call-ins equally. Screen call-ins before theyre given to a rep, and use them to reward outstanding sales reps. Some managers use them to help reps meet their goals. If theyre working hard and progressing, then thats fine. Otherwise, helping a rep who is not performing is to reward lack of productivity. Its your call. Sometimes, its good to house call-ins for a short period of time or use them to build up a list for a future sales superstar. 

Youre too close to your staff: There is a fine line between caring and being too close to your people. Attending functions with one sales rep means you need to be at functions with all of them. Being too close can often lead to you not being able to really hold a rep accountable for performance. Sharing confidential information is a classic case of managing down. Staying out late after public functions with your reps can lead to rumors.

Playing favorites: Its one thing to get a rep up and running in the field, but spending too much time with one rep will get noticed. You should be riding in the field and coaching all of them. Continually allowing a rep to miss their sales goals and keeping them on staff while somebody else has been let go because they didnt hit their goals is favoritism. When a rep spends too much time in your office. Asking for help is one thing, harboring in your office is another.

Managing by sales reps, not by accounts: Having a good account management system eliminates the quarrels that go with someone claiming an account thats been called on by another rep. A good system moves accounts around. You should always put your best reps in front of your best accounts. You job is to maximize the accounts in your market trade area. Its about the accounts. Developing your sales reps is an entirely different subject.

Letting stagnation and entitlement set in: Keep fresh blood in your sales department. One of the best ways to sharpen a sales manager is to periodically have a new rep come on board. It keeps the sales manager tuned in, out on the street in the real world, and facing the challenges that training a new rep can bring. Its also good to have a varied blend of ages on staff. Younger reps will keep you dialed into the new language and in tune with social media.

Letting the poison cheese fester: If someone has a bad attitude, it will spread like a disease. Keep it out of your bullpen.

Not knowing where your reps are going and where theyve been: Simply put, either you dont care or youre not on top of your game. I like five-minute rapid-fire meetings at the end of the day, either on the phone or in person. It gives me a good feel for what a rep did that day and, more importantly, where theyre going tomorrow. You dont need to be the Sheriff here, its about coaching.

You dont train consistently: When was the last time you had a training meeting in your sales department, focused on the fundamentals of sales? The problem I see today is that reps are not being continually taught. Setting up a good 13-week training program with a test at the end and rewards to top learners is fun and exciting.

You dont write it down. One of my favorite managers always had a pen and pad on him. When you told him something, he wrote it down. He never forgot anything. He did what he said he would do, and that was everything to me as a sales rep.

In Barcelona, Spain, there is a statue of Christopher Columbus pointing to the New World. Thats where he got his funding for his trips. If you notice the statue and where hes pointing -- hes pointing in the wrong direction. Hopefully some of the top 10 things to avoid will lead you in the right direction, no matter if youre a young sales manager or a veteran.

Sean Luce is the Head National Instructor for the Luce Performance Group and can be reached at

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