Research shows that at least 50% of managers fail in any profession. In sales, it’s higher than that. Why? The risks and rewards are higher. Have you heard the saying, “Sales is the lowest paid easy work and the highest paid hard work.” For sales management it is true as well.
Why do sales managers, and sales executives fail? What do we mean by fail? The easy answer is that sales decline or don’t exceed the established objectives. Did you know that your sales results may be reaching your objectives and you could be failing? Here is an examples. A sales manager I knew came up to me and told me he had “lit a fire” under is team. I replied, “How did you do it?” He said that in a meeting he told them if they didn’t sell X amount by the end of the month they were fired. Now, that’s an all-time great motivational speech, isn’t it? Just kidding. Guess who was fired? He was.
In another example, a sales manager had a reputation for being tough and no-nonsense. While he always seemed to make his goals, he had a revolving door of people on his team. After a couple of years, he was let go. A new sales manager came in and results skyrocketed. Regardless of your style to leading there are seven fatal errors sales leaders make, which ones fit you?
Seven Fatal Errors and How to Avoid Them
1. Focus on Obstacles not Objectives
Many sales leaders forget a fundamental prerequisite for high performance and that’s clear expectations, goals and plans. Set goals as a team and with each individual rep and as you do they will perform better. Make sure you review these goals and plans regularly, too.
2. Lack of Accountability
Many manager’s talk about this in terms of the sales team. The truth is as Harry Truman said, “The buck stops here.” In other words the sales manager is the ultimately responsible for results. No excuses. Complaining about or blaming the economy, customers, competition, products, reps or upper management doesn’t cut it. Remember this adage, “If you want you people to be better you have to be better.”
3. Lack of Training
With the high probability of rejection and failure sales reps need on-going training and support to sustain wins. Far too many managers do no training or maybe an annual session at the beginning of the year. The best sales managers are the best trainers. This means one on one and in a group with live role-playing and practice. This needs to be done week in and week out.
4. Lack of Coaching
It’s been said you can never find a manager when you need one. Poor sales managers pound out report after report from behind a computer. While you need to analyze results, you need to coach even more. Make coaching a priority. Learn to become a superb coach. Get in the field, do one on ones in your office. Discover the power of phone and email coaching as well.
5. Set low standards
In this world today it is inexcusable to focus on mediocrity. Without communicating what you want and coaching your team to want it more, you are doomed to be an also ran. Benchmark your industry and competition and learn what the best do. Then set your standards high. Could you image famed football coaches Vince Lombardi or Bill Belichick telling their teams, “Let’s just have a winning season.” Winning a few sales is not enough to lead the pack.
6. Recognize only top performers
The top performers will gain whatever incentives for glory you provide. All others may win sometime. Everyone needs a day-to-day pat on the back. Your job as a sales leader is to build-up your team so all of them achieve more than they thought possible. Praise for a job well done or improvement is one of the ways to do that. Praise everyone genuinely.
7. No Innovation
Leaders who lack creativity in their leadership styles, end up doing business the “same old, same old” way all of the time. Most sales teams I know work long and hard. With the time put in why not spice it up or change the pace or have some fun once in a while. One manager we knew asked each rep what they really wanted to buy-personally. He then set goals for each rep to win in it. They had a huge quarter.
Certainly there are other contributors to failure. While you may not win all the time, the best sales managers are remarkably consistent in their efforts. They avoid the mistakes above by continuous improvement in their efforts. They improve their game by listening to others, attending seminars, and collaborating with their team. Superstar sales leaders achieve success by emulating the best and working hard to become better leaders.