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Are Traditional Sales Managers Even Necessary?

by David Brock on March 6th, 2019

Sometimes, I think Tim Ohai and I are brothers from different mothers. So much of what he writes is aligned with what I think. At least we are aligned, hopefully, we aren’t tragically wrong 😉

Tim has been writing a series on sales management, Why Can’t We Build Better Sales Managers? In this particular article, Tim suggests we may not need traditional sales managers anymore.

My immediate reaction was, “What is the role of a sales manager?” I suspect if I asked 10 people, I’d get at least 15 different responses. And I think this is the core of the problem we have in sales and in driving the performance of the people in our organizations.

As we look at most of the roles within the sales organization–sales person, SDR, BDM, Account Manager, Sales Enablement, Sales Ops, etc, there are clearly defined roles and responsibilities.

But what’s the role of the sales manager?

Is it “super sales person,” someone who sits behind the desk analyzing numbers, creating reports, is it someone who hires/fires sales people, do they train, do they coach?

Too often, when I ask a manager, “What’s your job,” the answer is “To make the numbers!” But that’s actually not the job of the manager, that’s the job of the sales person.

So what’s the job of the sales manager–particularly the front line sales manager?

The job of the sales manager is to maximize the performance of each person on her team and of the team in executing the company strategies in the face of the customer.

Sales managers and leaders must, therefore, create the environment and conditions that enable each person to perform at the highest levels in executing the company strategies.

In turn, sales managers must assure that everyone in the organization understands and accepts accountability for doing their jobs.

That’s it, there’s nothing more, nothing less than that. But how many sales managers articulate this? How many are measured on this?

While it’s pretty easy to define the job of the sales manager, most organizations haven’t done this.

While it’s pretty easy for me to define this, the tough part is, “How does the manager do this?” Or, “What are the critical attitudes, behaviors, cultures, skills experiences, and competencies required to excel in this role?” Or “What must senior leaders do to make sure their managers understand their jobs and are performing at the highest levels possible?” Or “How do we measure and improve performance for these managers?”

I won’t go into this–I’ve written one book about this, another about to hit the streets, and hundreds of blog posts—so read those.

Which brings us back to the question, I’ll rephrase since I don’t know what a “traditional” sales manager is, “Do we even need sales managers?”

Absolutely! The job of a sales manager/leader differs from that of a sales person. The things I’ve outlined above are not the responsibility of sales people but must get done! So we need sales managers and leaders.

But in order for them to perform at the highest levels possible, they need to know what their jobs are and what they are not.

Book CoverFor a free peek at Sales Manager Survival Guide, click the picture or link.  You’ll get the Table of Contents, Foreword, and 2 free Chapters.  Free Sample
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