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April 30, 2024

Bad Salespeople? Maybe You Should Blame the Sales Manager.

It seems like every couple of years, I need to rant about how bad selling is in our industry. I was hoping it would improve over time, but that just ain’t happening.

Here are three real sales stories – all targeted at me – that happened in just the last two weeks:

#1) I attended IIeX a couple of weeks ago, and as I was walking by an exhibitor’s booth, one of the sales reps in the booth literally stepped out in front of me, waved his arms over his head and yelled “Stop!” Really?! Maybe traffic at his booth was a little slow, or maybe his boss gave him a high goal for the number of leads they needed to generate at the event, but regardless, that sort of behavior is pushy and wildly unprofessional. Their sales manager needs to put an end to that sort of behavior.

#2) In the week following IIeX, I received several follow up emails from exhibitors thanking me for stopping by their booths. But here’s the thing – I didn’t stop by their booths. I was just a name on the attendee list that they blasted an email to. It was, of course, completely disingenuous and reeked of salesiness. Again, where’s the sales manager?

On a related note, I did receive an email from one exhibitor who said she was sorry we didn’t have the chance to meet at IIeX, but that she would welcome the opportunity to chat if I were interested in her services. It was nicely written, professional, and honest… what a breath of fresh air!

#3) Finally, I received a series of emails from a sales rep with a firm in our industry, pitching their services and asking for a meeting. When I didn’t respond (note: I never respond to cold emails), this rep then texted me on my personal cell phone. I don’t know how she got my number… and I sure as hell didn’t opt in to receive any text messages from them. This was the most egregious of all the bad selling efforts. Sales managers… are you not paying attention to this sort of behavior?

Who’s at Fault?

All this lousy selling… who’s to blame? Well, it’s easy to point the finger at the salespeople themselves – and they certainly bear some of the blame – but I think the real culprits here are the sales managers in our industry.

The ‘sales managers’ – and I use that term loosely – generally fall into one of two categories:

  • They are the business owners who, by default or (more likely) an unwillingness to hire a sales management professional, manage the sales team themselves. And have no idea how to do it! As a result, they set unreasonably high sales goals and give very broad directions, like “Go sell something!” OK, I’m exaggerating… but not by much. They don’t – and can’t – train their people, don’t know how to create effective incentive plans and don’t know how to manage and coach their people. It’s no wonder they rarely hang on to a sales rep for more than a year.
  • A person with the Sales Manager title who – more often than not – was a salesperson with that firm and got promoted into the role. And finds themselves out of their element (ever hear of the Peter Principle?!). Because they’ve never been through any sort of sales management training, had any real-life experience at it, or even been managed by a good sales manager, they don’t know what to do. So, they end up exhibiting the behavior of the business owner sales manager (see above) – bad leadership, bad processes and ineffective management and coaching.

How to Fix It

Selling is a noble profession… helping clients solve their business problems with effective solutions in a professional manner. But when the sales effort is managed with a “sell hard at all costs” mentality – because they don’t know any better – the profession is diminished. More than that, it sullies the reputation of the vendor and makes the buyer not want to have to deal with any salespeople from any vendors.

So, if you’re a sales manager, learn how to do it right… don’t fake your way through it. Read books, attend workshops and find a consultant/coach* to help. Your company, your team and your clients will all thank you for it.

* By the way, I’ve been coaching sales managers and consulting on sales management processes for years… please don’t hesitate to reach out to me if I can help in any way:

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