Solving the Sales-Training Retention Headache
The True Purpose of Account Planning

The Plight of a Sales Manager

LaVonKoenerLaVon Koerner is chief revenue officer of Revenue Storm, a global sales consulting and revenue acceleration firm. Join Revenue Storm at the Sales 2.0 Conference in Las Vegas on September 18, 2014.



No other role has undergone more change and is under more pressure to achieve greater results with fewer resources than that of a sales manager. Sales managers receive less support, training, and pragmatic tools for managing their ever-increasing number of direct reports and are expected to hit ever-increasing revenue targets in shorter amounts of time. 

The plight of a sales manager is intensified by the following:

  • Most sales managers have never been properly trained for the jobs to which they have been promoted.
  • Most sales managers have been revenue heroes but are unable to replicate their personal approach.
  • Most sales managers fall into the trap of closing business themselves because they do not have the time, methods, or science to develop such skills in their own people.
  • Most sales managers live a hectic life of reactively running from person to person and from pursuit to pursuit in hopes of finding a way to make their numbers.
  • Most sales managers have no coach, no coaching process, no developed coaching skills, no coaching governance, and work for a company that has no coaching culture.

Given these points, is it any wonder that sales managers are experiencing one of the highest turnover rates of any position in the corporate world? Here are two seemingly counterintuitive principles that aspiring managers should practice, although the principles may be both uncomfortable and unconventional. 

Be in the Game but Not on the Field

If you’ve watched or played sports, you may know that, when the manager of a sports team crosses into the field of play, you will immediately see a flag or hear a whistle signaling that a foul has been committed. In the business world, there are no flags or whistles to identify the violation of an important business-management principle. This judgment is left to the self-policing of a disciplined manager.

Generally, sales managers fall into one of two camps: the Post-Game Clips Manager, who focuses on the post-game analysis, or the Star Player Manager, who runs onto the field to ensure that the big plays are successful. While these two types of managers may seem very different, they both make the same mistake: trying to achieve short-term results rather than develop their people for repeatable gains. Both of these management styles are doomed to failure in the long term. Their misguided plans, no matter how well intended, will eventually come up short. 

In order to be in the game but not on the field, one has to be committed to the value of coaching. Coaching brings you into the game while not being on the actual field of play. If the manager does not have frequent and consistent coaching sessions built upon a well-designed and healthy coaching culture, then the chances of this principle being implemented are slim to none.

Following this principle allows the manager to advance the pursuit while still advancing the talent. Only coaching can produce both short-term and long-term sustainable results.

Be in Touch but out of Reach

Technology can be a wonderful thing. It enables managers to increase their span of control while reducing their time of control. Managers who feel constant panic from being behind and overwhelmed covet immediacy. 

As with all good things, however, too much can turn bad. Our marvelous new technological capabilities must be used with restraint. Immediacy and speed can become the adversary of intimacy, and quickness will be the enemy of quietness. Managers who deliberately make themselves unreachable by turning off their cell phones for set periods of time will be better positioned to develop their team and strategize for success. In our fast-paced, plugged-in world, there is no substitute for deliberate contemplation of people and issues.

Managers who spend quality time one-on-one with their people will reduce time to performance. How long does it take a manager to transform a new hire from a “cost center” to a “profit center,” which is when the new hire achieves increased self-sufficiency and role proficiency? This simply cannot be accomplished without uninterrupted, dedicated time focused on helping an individual overcome his or her personal challenges and skill deficits, so he or she can break through to the next level of performance. 

Leadership is not possible without vision, and vision is not possible without careful and thoughtful consideration. Stop the noise and think about the big picture. Take the luxury of dedicated time and apply it to a specific situation until breakthrough thinking is attained. Then, turn the technology back on and lead with the courage of your newfound convictions. 

Faithful adherence to these two simple but profound principles is key to raising your management proficiency.


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