The Sales Manager’s Dilemma

By Michael Griego

Beyond the day-to-day noise and hassles of any sales organization there underlies a very simple and profound dynamic: the Sales Manager’s Dilemma.

You’re trying to hit a revenue goal, your quota, your target. Each month, each quarter, each year. You’ve been a top producer in the field and you gotten yourself promoted to sales manager. You now lead a team of other reps who are trying to hit their own revenue number.

You’re in a ongoing cycle of rep forecast and pipeline review calls, management meetings, key account reviews, updating sales reports, jumping on customer sales calls, resolving customer issues, resolving commission issues, recruiting new hires, training new reps, fighting internal issues.

All in a day’s work. That’s why they pay you the big bucks, right?

Well, yes and no.

Tough Gig Plus

The sales manager’s job is challenging no doubt. There’s pressure on several fronts and time is always pressing. The successful sales manager has quota problems, product problems, customer problems, and salespeople problems. It’s a tough and stress-filled job but it certainly keeps you mentally stimulated and can be personally and financially rewarding.

But beyond the day-to-day obvious noise and hassles there underlies a very simple and profound dynamic.

I call it the Sales Manager’s Dilemma.

What Dilemma?

As mentioned in a previous article I’ve written (Sales Management–Raising the Next Generation), the real job of a Sales Manager is to be a creator and sustainer of a great sales culture. That is, he or she establishes and communicates with clarity and emphasis 4 key process elements:

1.    A Defined Sales Process

2.    A Forecast/Pipeline Management Process

3.    A Business Review Process

4.    A Training Mindset

These are fundamentals. Table stakes even. Most seasoned sales managers would say that they have these under control – “Yeah, yeah, I’ve got that.” That may or may not be the case.

And that’s the problem. But only part of the problem.

The role of a sales manager involves setting up appropriate procedural infrastructure (sales process, forecast review process, business/territory/account review process) as well as sales-focused learning/teaching/training tactics and strategies (training mindset).

Think of it as a spectrum running left to right with Process-Oriented Sales Manager on the far left and Sales-Oriented Sales Manager on the far right. The choice a sales manager must make is where they put themselves on that spectrum. To what degree are they naturally Process-Oriented or Sales-Oriented? What are the implications of their natural orientation? Have they adjusted? Can they adjust? Should they adjust?


Right Down the Middle

All salespeople know it in their heart of hearts. They have a natural proclivity toward a process-orientation or a natural sales orientation. Knowledge of this is important so one can further develop the weaker side.

The correct answer therefore to the Sales Manager’s Dilemma is to play it straight down the middle. That is, an effective sales manager is equally effective and comfortable with the procedural and operational side of a sales organization as they are effective and comfortable with the customer engagement and selling side of the business.

Most sales managers are promoted to management because they were strong and successful sales reps. Most therefore have to learn how to do a side of the job that is less attractive to them. Of course, some strong, super star reps were already systems and process oriented and so bring that naturally to the management ranks. Those are the ones who rise quicker to the super star management status. Can’t help it.

But the reporting and reviewing and the other non-sales stuff that a manager must wade through is essential to sales organization success. As mentioned, culture is created through process. Process is communicated through one’s cadence of meetings and procedural regimens. The sooner one nails down the disciplines and processes associated with weekly, monthly, quarterly, bi-annually and annual reviews and reports the better.

Now they can make right adjustment and direct the team in selling excellence. And that is the difference maker in most sales organizations. The sales manager that runs an orderly and disciplined team (forecasts, territory and account reviews are crisp, timely, complete, thoughtful, and helpful) can now focus on effective tactical and strategic selling skills based on real and viable sales opportunities.

Now you have a well-run sales team and a highly effective sales closing machine. That sales leader is the complete sales manager, both sufficiently process and sales oriented to the benefit of their team and their company. Michael Griego

Michael Griego