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3 Reasons Most Sales Managers Fail

Why do most sales managers fail? By “fail” I mean that rather than extracting the full potential of his/her team, the manager actually hurts the performance. Unfortunately, failing seems to be the rule rather than the exception where sales managers are concerned. Here are three reasons why this is the case. I’ll begin with […]


Why do most sales managers fail?  By “fail” I mean that rather than extracting the full potential of his/her team, the manager actually hurts the performance.  Unfortunately, failing seems to be the rule rather than the exception where sales managers are concerned.  Here are three reasons why this is the case.

  • I’ll begin with number three. They hire the wrong people.  Rather than taking time to properly evaluate prospective sales people (which I’ve discussed in a previous article and video), managers too often enter the realm of desperation.  All sales managers have been in that position.  They have a recruiting number and sales number to achieve, so they start recruiting anyone who is warm and breathing air!  Doing that is always, always, always a mistake – every single time.
  • Mistake number two is the result of hiring the wrong people. Managers try to manage winners like losers.  For example, you might have a sales team of ten.  Three of that ten are “winners,” meaning they are excited, want to make money, and are serious about it.  However, the other seven on the team are not good at sales, are lazy, and don’t want to work hard.  You’ll begin to manage the entire team toward the seven “losers” because they are the majority of your team.  Since the majority are lazy, that will necessitate making rules such as the minimum number of businesses contacted per day and other do’s and don’ts.  The “winners” on your team will resent being treated like babies and will soon say, “This is ridiculous.  I’m out of here; I don’t need this.”  Thus, you will be left with a team of “losers.”  This group will be happy to have a job allowing them to be losers without doing anything.
  • Mistake number one is they don’t communicate. As a leader there are some basic types of communication that are absolutely necessary for you to perform.  These are not optional!


  1. Positive group communication. When meeting with the group or team, you should be positive and inspiring.  Help them see your vision for the organization and what you’re going to accomplish.
  2. One-on-one honesty and transparency. This must be cultivated over time.  In most cases people are accustomed to keeping opinions to themselves.  The boss does not invite sharing opinions and often berates one who expresses an opinion.  As a leader, you should present employees with a different culture which says, “I’m going to give you a culture where you can say what you think.  A culture where you can give me your ideas.  And that goes both ways.  I’m going to give my honest opinion of your idea, and you’re going to give your honest opinion of mine.”  When you cultivate that level of honesty where everyone discusses an idea without taking it personally, you are going to get a lot done.

This level of honesty is achieved by one-on-one interaction with individuals.  Talk to each employee.  Know what each one wants and/or needs.  Even though everyone appreciates a pay raise, across the board that might not be the best option for each person.  Perhaps someone has reached a phase of life where some time off would be more important than the money.  Others might feel they need a greater challenge at work.  Find out what an employee wants, then decide what he/she needs to do to justify receiving that benefit from you.

Another tip I can offer for sales management is to treat your people “unfairly.”  This means you treat them based on their individual performance and individual needs.  If you treat everyone the same, that would be the scenario mentioned earlier where the three “winners” disliked being treated like babies and left you with a team of “losers.”  The “losers” stayed because they didn’t feel challenged to work or improve.  Be “unfair.”  Consider the following examples and responses:

  • An employee says, “That’s not fair! Why did you let that person leave early?”  Your response, “Because they sell more than you and make our company more money.”
  • An employee says, “Why is it we have to track all our sales on a log, but this person doesn’t have to use any of that tracking stuff?” Your response, “Because I’m not worried about that person.  I know he/she is going to sell.  But I’m afraid if I don’t track you, you won’t make any sales.  Prove that I won’t need to babysit you, and I won’t.”
  • An employee says, “That’s unfair. Why did you give them an extra week of paid vacation?  Nobody else has three weeks of paid vacation.”  Your response, “Everybody else got a pay raise, which is what they wanted.  But that person wanted a week off work, so that’s what I gave him/her.”

Treat your people unfairly, meaning individually rather than collectively.  Of course, that doesn’t mean you give everybody what he/she wants!  Not everyone deserves that.  However, you give each person a path to get what they want.  Ask what each one wants and tell each one how to get it.  Your people will love you forever if you are that kind of sales manager and leader.

My name is James Shepherd.  Thanks for reading.

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