Sales managers often don’t realize that they can sometimes be a strong de-motivating force for their teams.
Our company has delivered sales management training all over the world. Recently we have begun asking our participants to “think of the worst boss they have ever had, and identify the specific behaviors that boss had that discouraged them from wanting to fully contribute to their job responsibilities.” Here are some of the most common answers I hear.
- The Passive-Aggressive sales manager– The worst sales managers are unable to express anger in a direct healthy way. Instead, their dominant emotion is anger, displayed in hostile, aggressive behavior combined with subtle non-direct words or actions. These types of managers may lack insight into their feelings, and have unreasonable expectations of the people they manage. Some examples of passive aggressive management behaviors include the act of “forgetfulness” or tardiness, which is a way to control situations or not accept responsibility. Other examples are complaints about being misunderstood, and unappreciated, or the inability to accept responsibility for their own actions.
- The Accuser sales manager -–This manager type delights in catching people doing “things wrong.” Their communication style is one-sided and finger pointing. They are inflexible when it comes to accepting another’s perspective on situations and dislike becoming involved in a give-and-take compromise for conflict resolution.
- The Fire-fighter – These managers are like a hamster on a treadmill, continually chasing their own tail. They allow themselves to become distracted by low-priority tasks. They are so busy fighting fires that, when a rep has a problem, they don’t slow down long enough to work through a solution with the salesperson. This sales manager is “on it” when they observe a problem, and quick to assign blame to another, but offers no suggestions for remedies or solutions. They are “always busy,” but at the end of the month the sales team is no better off in terms of skill or will.
- The “desk jockey.” This is a sales manager who, sorry to say, either can’t sell or won’t sell. Desk jockeys shy away from the less-desirable aspects of sales coaching — such as making prospecting calls with their salespeople — and over time they lose their sharpness and ability to contribute value to the team. Salespeople avoid these types of managers, because discussing a deal with a desk jockey produces nothing new or valuable.
Most sales managers hope they are creating an environment where their people want to excel. Even if you think you’re doing a good job, every now and then it’s a good idea to take an honest look in the mirror, think about how others might view your behavior, and make sure you’re not one of the “worst bosses” that I’m going to hear about in my workshops.