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The Sales Manager’s 7 Biggest Blind Spots

Let me start out by saying that it is much easier to see other people’s blind spots than our own. We all have our misperceptions, but we believe that we’re appraising reality with a clear and objective eye. If only we could recognize those things we don’t know that we don’t know. For example, we easily see when our products or services become obsolete, but we have a huge blind spot when it comes to recognizing an obsolete sales process. Here are some of sales managers' most significant blind spots:

1. “I know a good salesperson when I see one.”
Sales managers have a notoriously low batting average when it comes to hiring good salespeople. Why? They tend to hire those who mirror themselves, not who can do the best job for the type of customer the company is serving. Advice: Get help from testing companies like HR Chally, Caliper, or DDI. These companies test thousands of salespeople better than any sales manager can.

2. “We hire experienced professionals, so we can save money on training.”
Good luck with that worn out philosophy. Have you ever noticed what happens to a silver plate or trophy that sits on a shelf? Like silver dulls over time, salespeople lose their edge over time. Why? They try to make shortcuts. They stop listening because they think they know what their prospects are going to say.They stop explaining customer benefits because they assume that their prospects already know them. When your skills atrophy in golf, your score goes up. In sales, when your skills atrophy, your score goes down.

3. “We have a customer-focused organization.”
That’s great. Who says so? Oh, CRM vendors promised you that CRM gives you a 360-degree view of the customer. That 360-degree view is only only about 90 degrees. What’s missing? Salespeople may capture customer data, but who captures the voice of the customer? There is only one company I know of that recently introduced a solution: Sogistics. Its Smartpen records the customer's voice while the salesperson is taking notes. The amazing part is that after the call, the salesperson can use the Smartpen to touch any word or graphic on his or her notepad and will instantly hear the customer’s voice.

4. “We have great relationships with our top clients.”
That’s terrific. Can you name your top three customers? When was the last time you saw your top three customers face-to-face? What are their plans for next year? What are the three most important challenges they are facing now? How much time do your top executives spend each year with these top three clients? How do you define “great”? How do you measure the quality of the relationships? How do you measure the value you deliver to these customers? How do your top customers measure the value that you are delivering? Note: These questions are all designed to probe for potential blind spots.

5. “Salespeople are motivated by money.”
Sure, money is a great way to keep score. But is there more? According to the Incentive Marketing Association (IMA), every year corporate America spends nearly $50 billion on incentives - celebrating the Magic of Human Achievement. What’s interesting is that the right sales incentive, carefully chosen to tug at the hearts of high performers, provides much more enduring recognition than cash. Four out of five firms surveyed by the IMA said travel and merchandise awards are remembered longer than cash incentives, and three out of four said these tangible awards are also more exciting than cash. Don’t forget that salespeople want to be recognized. I know one salesperson who quit his job after he got a $50,000 bonus check from his sales manager, who had a motivational blind spot the size of a jumbo jet. As the sales manager handed the salesperson his check he said, “Here is your bonus I don’t think you deserve it.”

6. “I have good instincts, and I rely on my hunches.”
While successful sales managers rely on analytics (birst.com, right90.com, or businessobjects.com), "blind" sales managers make decisions based on what they feel is right. During the last three years, we have seen more and more companies bring more science into the sales organizations. Remove your blind spot and create a culture of measurement where all salespeople know their numbers, where marketing knows how many of its leads convert into a sale, where you know that your forecast will be 98% accurate. Good analytics takes the guesswork out of sales management.

7. “The best way to get new business is through cold calling.”
This reminds me of a street sign I saw in NYC which read, “Don’t even think about parking here.” If you are a sales manager, and if you still believe that cold calling is effective, please go to the nearest intensive sales care facility and request blind-spot surgery. You are paying a salesperson $60,000 - $120,000 a year to close sales. That’s $30 - $60 per hour, which translates into $240 to $480 for a day of solid cold calling. The blind spot: You don’t know about sales lead providers such as InsideView.com, DowJones.com, Zoominfo.com, Hoovers.com, and many more. There are many outsourcing companies that can get sales-ready leads to your team for a lot less. Also, check out this white paper: "Don’t Cold Call, Social Call"

Over time blind spots grow bigger and they can threaten your career. What causes our blind spots?
a) Unchallenged assumptions
b) Distorted thinking
c) Neurotic pride
d) Fear of change
e) Lack of courage

Someone wise once said, “We don’t see things as they are, we see things as we are.” What do you see in your organization? Where are your blind spots? What are the best ways to cure our blind spots? Share your comments.

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This is so true, especially number seven. The irony is: those that this would help won't get it because they're blind. How do you share this with your manager without p*ssing him off?

Kelley Robertson

I would also add that there are several reasons for these blindspots. One of the most common is promoting a top performing sales rep into a management position but failing to provide sales management training.

Let's face it; there is a huge difference between being able to sell and being able to lead, guide and coach a sales team.

Progressive companies understand this and take action to ensure that their key leaders are properly trained.

Avril Shelton/Sales Journal

This rings true! We should always be open about ways to improve, but first being open to the idea that we need to always be improving and paying attention to the openness of growth. How else can we better ourselves?
Thanks for sharing these points. I will share this with the readers at SalesJournal.com

Norm Ford


I had a great Sales Manager at Rank Xerox in Australia.
They had a campaign of mechandise as prizes in a sales competition.
But he sent the prize list and weekly results home for the wife to see. Clever, you now had 2 sales managers, she's be saying "you're smarter than Joe, I want one of those microwaves."
"So who are you calling on to-day? And what are you going to sell him?"
You couldn't escape the boss(s)!

Sandy Lewis

I would absolutely add one more: "I don't need training because I wouldn't be a manager if I didn't know how to do this stuff." It's the gift of the sales manager fairy godmother: you go to bed a successful sales rep and magically wake up knowing how to develop other people. No one questions the fact it's very rare in sports to see a successful player-coach, and yet in sales it's supposed to be the norm. I don't think so.

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