Top 10 Reasons Sales Managers Fail
— and What To Do About It

by Jacques Werth, Founder of High Probability Selling.  © 2006

Sales managers fail for two primary reasons: 1) They don't know how to manage their people; and 2) They don't rigorously implement effective selling processes.  Just as an engineering manager needs to be a pretty competent engineer, a sales manager need to be a pretty competent salesperson.  In both cases, however, their essential responsibility is to manage staff performance.  Understanding modern management principles beyond a few readings of “The One Minute Manager” is critical.

Most engineering managers know that technology is evolving too quickly for them to keep up at the level of a functioning engineer.  However, they do know enough about the latest technology to manage the engineers deploying it.

In contrast to engineers, most sales managers believe that very little has changed in the “Sales Game” since they became a manager.  Therefore, they tend to manage their people in the same way that they used to sell.  However, the markets for every product and service have changed dramatically in the last twenty years.  Information Overload, the Internet, inexpensive communications, increased competition, more savvy prospects, brain science, and new sales channels have affected all businesses.

Top salespeople have developed new sales processes to address and exploit these changing market conditions.  That is what most sales managers don't know.

  1. Most sales managers don't know how to use highly effective tools to recruit and train salespeople that will perform well in their organization.  Therefore, they often hire salespeople who are incompatible with their company’s culture and lack the appropriate sales aptitudes for their industry.
  2. How to Hire the Right People: contract with a service agency that will benchmark you and your best salespeople, find candidates with similar aptitudes, and select salespeople most compatible with your management style.

  3. Most sales managers don't have a highly effective, uniform sales process for their company’s products and services.  They advocate best “selling practices” based upon past market conditions and obsolete sales strategies.  Therefore, they focus on the wrong metrics, which inevitably are flawed.
  4. How to Focus on the Right Metrics: develop a sales process that is very different from the one that you are now using.  Talk to sales training companies, and look for a company that will customize and optimize the selling process for your company and industry.

  5. Most sales managers don't know how to train, supervise, and track their salespeople's performance to optimize their sales effectiveness.
  6. How to Keep Salespeople on Track: maintain a uniform and consistent process, monitoring and benchmarking all sales activity throughout the sales process.

  7. Most sales managers lack skills in target marketing and prospecting.  Therefore, their salespeople waste most of their time with prospects who will not buy.
  8. How to Focus on Likely Buyers: set demographic, situational and attitude standards for the type of prospects that are most likely to buy.  Develop criteria based upon booked business.

  9. Most sales managers believe that “you can't close if you don't get in front of prospects.”  Their salespeople go on as many appointments as possible, spending far more time with prospects who will not buy than with those that will buy.
  10. How to Stop Wasting Time with the Wrong Prospects: insist that salespeople find and make appointments only with highly qualified prospects.

  11. Most sales managers believe that salespeople should be able to convince prospects to buy.  Therefore, they have their salespeople try to persuade prospects to buy when they are merely “interested.”  It doesn't seem to occur to them that their salespeople can't convince people to do anything they don't already want to do.
  12. How to Stop Losing at the “Persuasion Game:” abandon the game altogether — there is no way to consistently win.  Insist that your salespeople treat prospects with trust and respect, utilize an effective sales process, and abandon all forms of persuasion, false urgency, and manipulation.

  13. Most sales managers don't know the difference between qualification and DISqualification.  Therefore, their salespeople create sales resistance by selling to prospects when they are not ready to buy.  That lengthens the sales cycle and decreases their closing rates.
  14. How to Shorten the Sales Cycle: insist that salespeople only make appointments with prospects who are ready to buy or specify.  Closing rates will increase dramatically.

  15. Most sales managers don't understand how the human mind works, and how it accepts or rejects information.  Salespeople typically spew features and benefits in terms of industry jargon.
  16. How to Communicate with Prospects: use words that prospects can readily understand.  They'll feel more motivated to keep listening, they'll absorb and retain more information, and they'll be more actively engaged in the sales process.

    There have been many studies about how to communicate most effectively. We used much of that research, as well as our own studies, to develop the High Probability Prospecting Offer Design Template. You can have a copy (of the 2006 version) by sending us an email request with the words “Offer Design Template” in the subject line. Or, click on this link to download the template as a Word document.

  17. Most sales managers believe that most prospects make logical buying decisions.  If that were true, enrolling in logic courses would be the path to success in sales.
  18. How to Really Get Through to Prospects: engage prospects emotionally.  Recent studies in Brain Science have revealed that most important decisions are made in the part of the brain that deals with emotions.  In High Probability Selling, we incorporate that knowledge into the selling process, resulting in higher closing rates.

  19. Most sales managers don't know how to get salespeople past their fears.  Therefore, most of their salespeople stay in their comfort zones and under-perform.  The cost of this problem is enormous.
  20. How to Boost Performance: almost all salespeople, whether beginners or veterans, can learn how to get past their fears and avoid slumps and/or burnout.  It just takes a specialize set of psychological principles.  Getting your sales forces to operate at optimum effectiveness is an entirely reachable goal.

Astute readers will notice that there really aren't just 10 Reasons That Sales Managers Fail!  Underperforming sales managers also make two fatal errors in myriad permutations:

How to Dramatically Improve Sales Performance?  Develop a uniform structured, effective and quantifiable selling process that optimizes sales process, increasing the probability of closing the sale every step along the way.