As a business leader, your relationship with your sales manager is critical, and their performance should be constantly on your radar screen. A good sales manager will be driven, organized, responsive and well-respected throughout your company. A bad sales manager will be a bottleneck limiting your team’s success.
Ideally, you’ve hired the right person for the job, but what if that’s not the case? Some sales managers will take a while to get used to the role and may, with time, turn out to be great performers. Others are simply not cut out for the job, and it’s best to part ways before their shortcomings do too much harm to your business.
Based on our work on sales management hires with almost 70 companies over the past two years, here are the five most common reasons the CEO concluded it was time to show their incumbent sales manager the door:
1. Sales reps routinely bypass the sales manager to come to you
Your sales manager should be the go-to person for all the needs of their direct reports. The sales team’s boss should have the leadership skills and affability to have established themselves as an approachable subject-matter expert who can manage effectively.
If reps are instead coming directly to you, it’s because the sales manager hasn’t integrated well and hasn’t built enough credibility with the team. If you’ve made it clear to the sales team that there is a chain of command and yet they continue to come to you, it’s not working out.
2. Your sales team’s turnover is too high
Stability in your sales force is important: you need experts consistently interacting with your customers, and it takes time to foster that level of ability. Churning and burning employees means either that your sales manager is recruiting poorly or isn’t creating an environment that nurtures success.
To ensure that this one is on your sales manager, and not you or your company as a whole, you should personally conduct an exit interview with each rep who leaves your firm and ask for candid feedback. If the feedback about your sales manager is consistently negative, it’s time to make a change.
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3. Your sales reps consistently miss their targets
We all know that achieving your sales goals solves everything. If the team is meeting quota, you don’t need to rock the boat; but if it’s consistently performing below expectations, it’s time to take a close look at your sales leader.
Is your sales manager setting realistic targets? Are they closely coaching and managing their team towards those financial goals? If the manager takes the glory for the team’s high achievements, they also have to take accountability for its inadequacies. If all you get are excuses and deflection, start planning a change at the top.
4. Your sales team is giving away your product
Sure you want to make sales, but making a profit takes precedence. If your margins are being shrunk over and over by substantial client discounts, it’s time to ensure that your sales manager is promoting a value-based sales approach, rather than selling your offering as a commodity.
A great way to find out whether your sales manager is taking the former approach is to ask each of your reps, as well as your sales head, to articulate the value proposition for your product or service. Why is it unique and compelling? If you get a lot of fluffy or unsatisfying answers, your sales manager has dropped the ball.
5. The sales manager refuses to roll up their sleeves
Your sales leader should be the most knowledgeable and engaged person on the team. They have more access to top clients, key prospects, competitive analysis and customer decision-making processes than any other person in your company, and if they’re not taking advantage of that information, your company isn’t maximizing its opportunities.
If your sales manager arrives at work after your reps and leaves before them, is clueless about your competitors, isn’t tracking KPIs, doesn’t get involved in important client/prospect engagements and doesn’t add to your firm’s knowledge and expertise, then it’s time to part ways.
The role of the sales manager is inextricably linked to the success of your business. Their approach affects the way it feels for employees to work for you. Their effectiveness as a sales leader is critical to the profitability of your business. You should closely monitor your sales manager’s performance—and never hesitate to act if it’s not working out.
Sonya Meloff and Jamie Scarborough are the co-founders of Sales Talent Agency, which has offices in Toronto, Vancouver and Calgary and helps companies find, choose and equip salespeople. Meloff was on the PROFIT/Chatelaine W100 ranking of Canada’s Top Female Entrepreneurs in 2010 and 2011. Scarborough’s background as a sales leader includes having managed Monster Worldwide’s Canadian sales team.
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