A sales manager who cannot sell is not respected by his team. Sales management without respect is severely impaired.

As has been shared here before, sales is not a desk job. The desk job lends itself to structure, systems, rules, policies and regulation in the corporate pyramid. It is thus comparatively simpler for one to manage a docket which one is not technically competent in. For instance, you don’t have to know cashiering to manage the operations of a bank, nor how to diagnose medicine to be the Cabinet Secretary for Health.

It may help, yes, but it’s not mandatory.  In fact, one can transfer one’s managerial skills progressively across disparate functions as one’s capacity grows, without having the respective operational competence. When a technical problem is brought their way by a direct report, such managers will likely respond, “So, what do you think we should do?” And from the response guide to a solution. And it works.

Selling is not a desk job

Effective sales management begins with the knowledge that sales is a different kettle of fish. To date, companies still haven’t found a resting place in the corporate pyramid for salespeople. The amorphous nature of selling only serves to compound the problem. To manage this wild card nature from the swivel chair is a recipe for failure. And the reason is that the field is unstructured and, if explicitly followed, rules, policies and regulation actually suffocate the sales process. (Yes, you read that right)

Successful salespeople don’t play by the rules; they are shrewd but ethical. For instance, they will convince the by-the-book desk job bank manager to open the account even though all documentation is not in yet. Oh, they will bring the documentation. It’s just that “The client’s payment (or salary) is coming in over the next 24 hours and, if we go by the rules, the account will be opened in 96 and it may jeopardize the sale.”

Different style of management

And this is reflective of differences in the style of management required. Sales is outward oriented; the pyramid is inward looking. Salespeople know this and have little respect for those that don’t, especially if it’s their boss. So, when the beaten salesperson, drowning in an ocean of rejection, comes to his manager, he needs to know he has walked in his shoes and feels his pain; he wants empathy from a practical, not theoretic perspective. Asking him, “So, what do you think we should do about it?” doesn’t cut it. Effective sales management begins with knowing what how to respond and how not to.

Sales management is a strategic job that is tactical in nature

Effective sales management doesn’t mean that you must have been a super salesman; in any case, stellar sellers make measly sales managers. And, you’re supposed to be growing, not competing with, your team members. Plus showing selling capacity is only one (indispensable) necessity for successful sales management. Meaning, if your name is last on the performance dashboard but shows occasional sales made, the team will respect this as demonstration of your capacity to sell. They are convinced that you understand their pain.

Effective sales management begins with the knowledge that it is a strategic job that is tactical in nature. As such, some managers spend the better part of week days out in the field with their teams, and allocate a Saturday for paperwork. Why? Because, this is how they inspire their teams to deliver what matters-numbers.

The disrespect can be brutal

During a sales review meeting I was invited to last year, the relatively new sales manager was asked by one of his team members, ”You are telling us that our numbers are down. You, where are your sales (sic)?” Disrespect. The kind the desk job would call insubordination and cause for reprimand. But this is Sales. From the pregnant silence you could tell that the accusation was shared across board. “Who here can say I have not given them at least one account?” the Sales Manager confidently responded. Of the eleven sales people in the room, not one hand was raised. He had earned their respect.


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