The One Sales Leadership Tip You Need for 2013

How many times have you come into the office with a great plan for the day… and about 8:15AM everything blows up in your face? For the rest of the day you chase other people’s problems. Whether it was email, a phone call, your boss stops by, or perhaps more frequently, a sales rep saying “Hey, I got a problem here.…”

Then suddenly it’s 5:00PM. A lot of “To Dos” were crossed off other people’s lists, but what you didn’t accomplish was your own #1 goal, which was probably time spent coaching salespeople.

To start off 2013 on a new note, consider this as an idea: people should be held responsible for solving their own problems.

If you agree, then your #1 sales leadership priority for 2013 should be to stop being everyone’s problem solver. Instead, help people find their own answers.

There are two types of sales managers: reactive and proactive. One is a sales leader who helps others solve problems, one is not. Which are you?

A Reactive (or “Firefighter”)  Sales Manager

•   Tends to procrastinate, fails to prioritize. This causes missed opportunities, missed sales numbers, missed deadlines etc.

•   Likes to solve all problems because it makes them feel important. They do instead of coach, so no learning occurs. The same problems happen over and over again.

•   Lacks focus, has poor organizational skills. They lose credibility with the team. May work harder but not smarter.

•   They are a prisoner of their cell phone and email.

The problems they deal with today are the same problems they were dealing with yesterday, last month, last quarter.

In extreme cases a reactive sales manager becomes like an admin assistant to the sales team – sending the loud message to the team: “Give me all your problems and I will solve them for you.” It’s like an organizational chart turned upside down.

I recently met with the VP of Sales for a company with 300 salespeople. He told me that not one salesperson had expressed an interest in moving up to a sales management role. When I asked why, he responded, “I don’t think they like what they see. Our sales managers are burned out, fried, on the management treadmill. The way they work does not inspire our salespeople to be like them.”

A Proactive Sales Leader

•   Is a planner. Holds well-organized sales meetings, and one-on-one rep strategy meetings. Models good time management skills for the team.

•   Anticipates problems and has a defined process for preventing the problem from reoccurring.

•   Creates a sales playbook that describes best practices and solution options to common problems.

•   Uses problems as teaching moments for the sales team. This increases sales rep confidence, product knowledge and problem solving skills.

•   Is an effective, consistent communicator who provides a clear vision.  Everyone is on board with where they’ve been and where they are going.


Your 2013 will be much more rewarding and productive if you focus on becoming a Sales Leader, instead of a reactive sales manager. So stop doing! Stop feeling responsible for everyone problems. Start leading!

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!”.