Do You Have The Right Sales Manager?

As the Inside Sales Dude, I am often hired to fix a sales problem. The problem is “Our Sales Team isn’t selling enough!”

To fix this problem, I need to assess the people, processes and systems that make up Inside Sales.

I always start with the people. With the right people on the sales team, we can overcome most problems. With the wrong people, problems will multiply while your sales decline.

Today’s post will focus on determining if you have the Right Sales Manager. 

Who Should Assess Your Sales Manager?

I recommend you use an outsider who’s not part of the existing organization. He won’t be hampered by internal politics, obligations, or a vested interest. This allows him to make an unbiased, objective assessment of your Sales Manager.

Look for someone who has built and run multiple sales teams so that he knows exactly what to look for and how to address any Sales Management problems. Here’s where you can find this person:

*Yes, I am well aware this is shameless self-promotion. If you have a sales problem, contact me anyway. I’d love to help your company.

Photo by Rik van der Kroon via Unsplash


How to Assess Your Sales Manager

The purpose here is to evaluate your Sales Manager’s skills, ability, cultural fit, and attitude to determine if you have the right person leading your sales team. If you have multiple sales managers or different levels of sales management, I’ll repeat this process with each of them.

The assessment begins with me interviewing the manager.

Most managers are quite willing to talk about themselves, their ideas and opinions. In fact, I’ve found that many sales managers are dying to have someone listen to them.

I’ll start the conversation by telling the manager why I was brought in,

“I was hired to help the sales team sell more. My goal today is to learn more about your perspective on the sales team, the company and your challenges.”

I’ll then mention one or two relevant experiences to establish some credibility with the manager. From there, we dive into the conversation. I’ll guide the conversation by prompting with questions such as these:

  • Tell me about your background (education, jobs, career path).
  • How did you end up in this role?
  • Describe your management style.
  • Describe your ideal job.  “If you could wave a magic wand and have anything you wanted.”
  • Do you enjoy this role or would you rather be doing something else?
  • Do you like managing sales people?
  • How to you mentor people?
  • How often do you meet with your reps?
  • What’s working well?
  • What’s not? How would you change this?
  • Tell me about your sales team. Who are the best reps? The worst? Why?
  • Describe your ideal sales team.
  • Tell me about your hiring, onboarding and training processes.
  • How do you manage poor performers?
  • What Is rep turnover like?
  • What’s it like working for your VP/CEO/Director?
  • What problems are not being addressed?
  • What have the sales numbers been like? Why?
  • How do you forecast?
  • Tell me about your pipeline. What’s your conversion %?
  • What the AVG deal size? Your sales cycle?

I take notes during the conversation. This is important because I won’t remember everything and I’ll want to review these later.

After speaking with the Sales Manager, I’ll speak with his peers, his reps, his supervisors and others in the organization to get their input. These conversations are briefer and will be guided by these questions:

  • Tell me what you think about the sales team.
  • What is working?
  • What’s not working?
  • What needs to change?
  • What do you think about the Sales Manager?

Although not everyone will be 100% honest or accurate, if I listen carefully, these interviews allow me to build a more comprehensive picture of the Sales Manager’s skills, ability, cultural fit, and attitude.

I wrap up the process by reviewing my notes, verifying them with any available data, and preparing a brief written assessment of the manager along with my recommendations. I then discuss this with to the leadership team.

The entire process can be accomplished in one day for a single manager (or a few days if there are several managers).

More than half of the time, the company has The Wrong Sales Manager.

When the manager is a good employee but not suited for the role, the company should try to find another position for him-  inside or outside of the company. This can be accomplished over a transition period of a few months that is good for everyone. I don’t recommend just firing someone who’s been a good employee but is in the wrong role. See my post on How to Fire an Employee for recommendations on how to help your employee find a role that’s a better fit.

When the manager is a bad employee, let him go ASAP. If a manager is dishonest, bullies his reps, sexually harasses people, or was otherwise a cancer – fire him immediately!   Everyone who works with him will be relieved, you will build emotional capital with the reps, and you build credibility by taking action quickly to fix what obviously needed to be done. In fairness to executive leadership, often they know or suspect that the Sales Manager is a problem. They may not have fired him yet because they felt that having a bad sales manager was preferable to having no sales manager. The assessment should provide information needed to make the decision.

When you’re not sure about the manager, give him the chance and the resources to grow into the role. Sometimes the Sales Manager seems to be a good cultural fit. He demonstrates the right attitude and aptitude to become an All Star, but doesn’t have the experience and skills yet. All Star Sales Managers are hard to find but now you have the opportunity to develop one from within your company.  This is where leadership training, mentoring, and professional sales coaching pays huge dividends.

Here are  real-life examples where the Wrong Sales Manager was bringing down sales. 

Mr. Top Dog was the #1 sales rep who was then promoted to Sales Manager. He was given no training, no guidance, and showed little aptitude toward management. He spent all of his time in his office doing reports and working on his computer.  He was never on the sales floor with his reps. When interviewed, he told me “I’d rather be selling – if only I could make as much money in sales, I’d go back there.”  (He found a Field Sales role in the company’s emerging products group where he killed it for the next 4 years and was much happier. His former inside sales team was reinvigorated with a new manager who spent much more time on the sales floor coaching and leading them).

Ms. Customer Service Nightmare was a former customer service manager who was promoted to lead Inside Sales. She immediately promoted her favorite reps into management roles and delegated daily sales management to them. Her managers then played favorites by assigning the best territories and lowest quotas to their friends. The team missed its numbers. Forecasts were wildly inaccurate. Morale was always low. The Executive team suspected there were problems but was unaware how bad they had become.  (We recommended immediate termination and replacement of Ms.CSN. Over the next 6 months two of her subordinate managers were fired. Three others remained on the team and developed into solid managers.)

Marketing Man was a former marketing manager who was assigned to run Inside Sales. His priorities were understandably focused on the areas he knew best: marketing, leads and data. Unfortunately the sales reps needed someone who could teach them sales tactics, pipeline management and consultative sales skills. Under his direction, the reps were “touching every lead” and updating the CRM diligently, but still missing quota and complaining bitterly behind his back. (A new sales manager was hired and MM returned to marketing where he became the lead nurturing specialist.)  

The Field Guy was a former field sales rep hired to lead Inside Sales. He made it clear that he thought Inside Sales Reps were inferior to Field Reps and were not “real sales people”.  He frequently referred to inside sales reps as “smiling and dialing order takers”. It was no surprise he had retention issues, morale issues, missed quotas and an undercurrent of resentment across the sales floor. (No changes were made. I heard later that he was promoted into an Executive role where he was also despised by his direct reports. After he moved up, his Inside Sales team had to be completely rebuilt. More than 2 years of productivity was lost.)  

Next Steps

If your sales are not where you want them to be and you are not 100% confident that you have the Right Sales Manager running your team, I encourage you to do this assessment.

A small investment of time and money can prevent years of missed numbers, unwanted employee turnover, and missed opportunities.

Note for the Sales Manager

If you’re wondering if you are the Right Sales Manager, I applaud you for reading my blog and trying to learn more. Many of us have felt uncertain about our abilities – especially when we were new on the job. 

Feel free to reach out to me if you’d like to discuss a specific situation or concern. 

If you want some help building your sales team or improving sales, contact me here. I’d love to hear from you. 

If you liked this article, please forward it to a friend, send me a note, comment, or like it on LinkedIn. 

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