Making sales people more accountable. Coaching, not policing

There’s a funny blind spot that comes up a lot in my work, as I help companies grow their sales pipelines: great sales people don’t always become great sales managers. A rapid-firing start-up can see a phenomenal few quarters and promote their star sales professional into management – and not much happens. Sales plateau. The team isn’t hitting its numbers. The sales manager seems busy and they’re certainly stressed out – but the secrets of their early success on their own hasn’t spread out to the rest of the new hires.

There’s a lot of activity, but the future of the company is looking a lot less positive than even a few months ago. That’s around the time I get the call to see what’s going on.

The problem comes down to a misunderstanding of the different roles of sales person and sales manager. Seniority does not equate to skill, or mindset. If the sales person isn’t trained to manage – to be a mentor, a planner, a coach and much else besides – then they’re just not going to become that on day-one of donning their new title as they take up their new corner office. In fact, if you don’t give them the support they need, they’ll go back to what they did best, doing sales calls themselves – and hoping against reality that their team will just absorb what they need to do by osmosis, by being in the same office. That just leads to frustration and a downward slide, all around.

It’s a common problem – but fortunately, there are straightforward solutions to help turn your sales professional into management-material.

Monitoring and mentoring vs. micromanagement

What’s the call rate activity? What are the status of quotes? How are we following up after leads go from cool to hot? What are the key activities that were planned for this week – and are they actually happening? We can expect sales people to ask these questions of their own performance, but they aren’t going to do it unless they’re following a plan.

This is where the sales managers come in. They’re checking to see that the numbers are matching up to the sales strategy – and if they’re not, then they have to reconnect with the sales people and see why it’s not happening.

Micromanaging is not what’s needed. The sales manager isn’t there to take up the slack when the rest of the team starts falling behind on their calls. They’re not in charge to tell sales professionals what to do, as if they’re a parent shaming their kid for bad grades.

Instead, the sales manager’s proper role is to work with the sales staff, getting regular updates on activities performed and goals met. Where targets are not being met, they should be able to point that out and ask the sales person about how to fix the problem. It should be a collaborative approach, involving an enormous amount of coaching and mentorship in order to find solutions together.

How sales managers can really get their people working for the team (even if they’re new to this job)

The truth is that the right people WANT to be held accountable in their roles. They don’t like being policed. That’s the difference between micromanaging and mentor-managing – and one of the most important ways to ensure you’re holding people accountable is in the weekly scrum. I don’t call it a ‘meeting’ because that implies people sitting around a board room droning on and looking at PowerPoints for an hour. A scrum is fast, to the point and highly-focused, to keep people on their A-game.

There’s just no substitute for the simple, weekly ritual of a weekly sales meeting where you quickly run the numbers and get a handle on what’s working. This is where you can fine-tune the inputs (lead targeting, calling rates, promotional updates) and see how they’re matching up to the numbers of deals actually getting closed. It’s the 20 percent solution that’s going to address 80 percent of your sales issues – and it’s a critical activity for any sales manager to keep running, consistently.

Remember, it’s managing – not policing (which is just going to prompt a defensive reaction and resentment). For instance:

  •  Bad Management

“What was your call rate last week? How many deals have you closed?”

  • Good Sales Management

“I see your numbers for call rates and deals closed in this spreadsheet. Thanks for keeping it up to date, by the way. Your numbers were a bit down and it looks like we need to wrap up a few deals to make quota. What do we need to do? What resources do you need that I can give you? Do we need to adjust any KPIs, here?  Let’s plan this out together?”

Great sales professionals won’t magically transform into great sales managers unless you give them the tools, training and direction. It goes beyond shifting roles, to shifting mindsets.

About the Author

Heidi Hamilton’s strategic sales management consulting expertise sells itself.  As President of Priority Solutions, she assists corporate clients across a wide array of industries and markets in North America, Europe and Africa, helping them build sales pipelines worth millions of dollars in sustainable revenue. With 14 years experience in consulting and 25 years of successful business experience, she has proven her value to clients time and time again with a holistic approach formed from her experience in business operations, finance and sales. Now based out of the international hub of Vancouver, Canada, she continues to provide expert sales consulting around the globe. For more information, visit: