The 5 Biggest Mistakes New Sales Managers Make

This article describes the 5 biggest mistakes that new sales managers make, and how to avoid them.

When new sales managers were peak-performing salespeople they mastered the science of selling. But once they become a new sales manager, they often find themselves working harder but not seeing a commensurate impact on sales results. In order to once again attain mastery in their field, they must avoid making these five mistakes.

  1. New sales managers have an unclear understanding of what exactly they need to do to improve the team’s performance

Every new sales manager knows that he or she is responsible for delivering sales results that the company expects. The trouble is, they don’t clearly understand what your company expects them to do – specifically – to cause those improved sales results to happen.

I recently suggested to a company that they send out an email to their 10 sales managers asking: “Please reply back with what you understand that our company expects that you do, other than achieving your team’s sales quota.” They received 10 completely different replies. Sales managers were doing their own thing because the company had not clearly defined and communicated the “how-to’s” of the sales manager role.

Revisit your company’s sales manager job description and then clearly communicate to your new sales managers the importance of certain leadership tasks that are proven to build the competence and competitive spirit of a sales team. A few of these priority tasks for new sales managers are:

  • Make an individual development plan for each salesperson
  • Deal effectively with sales reps who don’t make quota
  • Make developing sales rep skills and attitudes a top priority
  • Manage sales turnover. Some turnover can be good. Too much turnover can be devastating.
  • Make a goal and plan to improve win-rates on forecasted sales opportunities
  • Fast-start new-hires
  • Schedule monthly 1-on-1 performance reviews to ensure team accountability
  • Individual goal setting with salespeople

Clearly communicate to your new sales managers the importance of each of these high-value tasks for new sales managers.

  1. New sales managers pay too much attention to deals at the bottom of the funnel, instead of the top

Under extreme pressure to deliver sales growth, new sales managers allow their attention to drift toward deals in the latter stages of the sales process. New sales managers often believe that helping salespeople close deals is the best use of their time.

But by placing their time and attention on the latter stages of the sales process, new sales managers endorse poor selling skills. Why? Because creating value for the customer largely occurs in the beginning phases of the sales process, not the end. The beginning stages are also when the customer decides upon the size and amount of what they will buy.

That’s why experienced sales managers know the importance of coaching sales skills in the earlier phases of the sales process because it leads to larger deal sizes and better win-rates. Make sure your company’s new sales managers understand this.

  1. New sales managers don’t address a sales rep’s performance problem soon enough

New sales managers struggle with their own tendency to avoid conflict with others. As salespeople, they were effective at selling value and avoiding customer objections. In this way, new sales managers come from a place in which they were rewarded for avoiding conflict with the customer.

So when that great salesperson becomes a new sales manager it feels quite natural for them to continue avoiding conflict with others. But when a manager avoids confronting problems with salespeople, those problems don’t get dealt with. And unsuccessful behaviors that are not confronted by the manager are, in effect, condoned. The new sales manager is now tolerating mediocrity on the sales team. New sales managers must take care to not send the message to salespeople that poor performance is acceptable!

For new sales managers especially, addressing sales performance problems faster speeds up the success or failure of a salesperson. If a sales rep is having a problem that the manager can help them solve, then dealing with their poor behavior, activity or results should be done sooner, not later. If you realize that the sales rep’s problems can’t be fixed – or the rep doesn’t want to put in the time and efforts to improve – then the new sales manager must contact their HR department and put a de-hire program in place.

  1. New sales managers focus on coaching the team’s A and C salespeople, while ignoring the B players

When it comes to coaching, most new sales managers have natural instincts to either rescue the worst salespeople (because obviously they need the most help) or gravitate to the best players (because they will likely be working on the biggest, most exciting deal opportunities.)

A new sales manager’s biggest pay-off from sales coaching, however, will come from working with salespeople they think of as their “B” players. B players lack certain sales skills that the team’s A players have, but they are more coachable. A sales team’s B players have the biggest potential for rapid improvement in their sales results. The new sales manager’s mentality needs to be focusing their one-on-one coaching time on the people with the biggest potential, not on those with the biggest problems or biggest deals. Spending time with the high-potential people will have a much bigger impact on your team’s overall performance.

With a little more coaching from the new sales manager, B players could possess the skills to vault past the A players. And that makes the A players work even harder to reclaim their top-dog status. I have personally observed the culture of a sales team completely changed for the better with the rapid improvement of just one or two B players.

  1. New sales managers mistakenly see themselves as the team’s #1 problem-solver.

A new sales manager received the promotion because he or she has demonstrated superior personal responsibility for their sales results. The trouble is, in their new team lead role, this “I am responsible” instinct often leads a well-intentioned new sales manager into spending all day, every day, acting as an administrative assistant to the sales team. They are working more hours than they ever did before, but their reward is that their team gives them more and more of their problems to handle. This prevents the new sales manager from coaching and developing salespeople.

Define the skills your company’s new sales managers need to become excellent

Everybody knows that managing a sales team requires a completely different set of skills from selling. To gain more insight regarding what specific skills new sales managers need, download my free whitepaper, “Holistic Competencies for Effective Sales Team Management” here.

Kevin Davis

Kevin F. Davis is the author of The Sales Manager’s Guide to Greatness”, which was named the 2018 Axiom Business Book Award Winner, Silver Medal. Kevin is also the author of Slow Down, Sell Faster!”.