How I Disguised Sales Leadership Failure as Success

sales leadership failure

I'm certain many of you can relate to this: After enjoying success as a salesperson, I was approached by my company with a promotion to sales management. From the company's perspective, the logic was clear: They knew me, I knew the company and their products and services, I had a decent relationship with my co-workers, and most importantly to them, I could sell.

For me, not only was my ego stroked, I was planting my feet firmly on the next rung of the corporate career ladder. I accepted the offer quickly. When I asked for a job description, I was told that there were no significant changes in my responsibilities. My boss was very matter of fact. "It's simple. You still have to hit your targets, except now they are multiplied by the six salespeople you're responsible for. And you know those weekly, monthly, and quarterly reports you so hate? Well, you're responsible for those, too."

Sales Managers Who Sell vs. Sales Managers Who Coach

Hmmmmm...the numbers part I got, but the reports? Really? ME? So here's what I found out. If I hit or exceeded the numbers, the reports weren't nearly as critical to the boss. As a matter of fact, they were often late (hey, man, I was out selling something!),
inaccurate (I had long ago mastered the art of sandbagging), or not submitted at all (I'll catch up next week).

While I held the position the company got what it wanted: Higher sales and a happy sales staff. I got my new business cards and a little extra cash in my pocket, all while not changing a whole lot of what I did. As a matter of fact, I did the same things I did before, just a lot more of it. In short, I sold...for everyone.

That means each day I was in the car with my salespeople, going from appointment to appointment, conducting qualifying calls, doing presentations, and handling objections. Neither the company nor I knew I was a complete failure as a manager until after I moved on to another job and company.

You know how we found out? Well, what do you think happened when I left? That's right, the company's sales ground to a virtual halt. Sales reps income declined, morale sank, and turnover became a problem.

Give a Man a Fish or Teach Him to Fish

I'm not taking full responsibility, but the company was out of business a few years later. No, I'm not claiming to have been "all that" to this company. As a matter of fact, it was what I wasn't that caused the failure.

I was a miserable coach.

I was so focused on results, I failed to give my sales team the skills necessary to thrive on their own. The truth is we could have produced significantly higher sales and margins had I coached my six people to become self-sufficient, hired six more, and done the same with them.

Unfortunately, I thought that sales people watching me sell was actually coaching. How wrong I was. It would be the equivalent of a golf instructor doing nothing more than taking a club and demonstrating her perfect swing over and over, all without me ever picking up a club. How much do think my game is going to improve watching someone else play?

The Moral of the Story

I'm not saying a good coach shouldn't demonstrate knowledge and skills as a teaching tool, but coaching and teaching FAR over-rides selling when it comes to producing high performance teams.

If you or your sales leadership team isn't focusing on this critical element, I promise your sales teams aren't producing to their fullest potential. If your sales manager is selling more than coaching, long-term it's failure disguised as success. Trust me, you'll find out when they leave.

The Guide to Sales Coaching from Axiom www.axiomsfd.com

Bob Nicols

Bob Nicols has 34 years of experience in sales, sales management, executive management and sales force development. He founded Burton Training Group, now AXIOM Sales Force Development, in 1990 after being a top and highly recognized performer in sales, sales management and executive positions within the technology sector. He has managed and mentored thousands of sales people, sales managers and senior managers and been responsible for hundreds of millions of dollars in sales. For more than 21 years he has developed and delivered sales programs that have become the standard for many Fortune 100 companies including AT&T, BellSouth, Disney Enterprises, Alltel, Verizon and ESPN. AXIOM programs have been implemented in over 30 countries including Japan, the UK, Germany, Dubai, Brazil, Taiwan, Singapore, Australia, China, Mexico, Canada, South Korea, Slovakia, Sweden, and The Netherlands. Bob's highly energetic and insightful lectures and workshops have resulted in invitations to be a featured presenter at dozens of national and international sales meetings and conferences. He is a trusted advisor to the presidents and senior managers of multiple organizations, both large and small and has been a board member of a national technology company. Bob is the developer of AXIOM's “Selling Sciences ProgramTM” and co-author of the “Selling Sciences” CD series.

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Topics: Better Coaching

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