Why Sales Managers Get Stuck in the Reactive Trap

I recently reviewed the sales manager job description for a Fortune 500 company, and 85% of their sales managers’ responsibilities were related, either directly or indirectly, to sales coaching. Then my partner and I conducted in-person interviews with four of their regional sales managers, and asked, “What percentage of your time do you actually spend one-on-one with a salesperson?” Not one of the sales managers told us they spent more than 10% of their time, one-on-one, with a salesperson!
So for this company, 10% of a sales manager’s day was actually being spent on achieving 85% of what the company expected a sales manager to accomplish. Talk about productivity disconnect!
The biggest time-waster that sales managers told us that prevented them from spending more time coaching reps boiled down to this – fire-fighting and daily distractions. Clearly, for you to achieve maximum sales leadership effectiveness, you must spend considerably more than 10% of your time coaching salespeople.
Here are five reasons why sales managers allow themselves to get stuck in the reactive trap:

1. Solve problems quickly. Let’s face it….you can complete the task faster than a salesperson. That’s why you were promoted into a sales leadership responsibility. The problem is, sales management is getting things done through others. And if you solve everyone else’s problems guess what your reward is…..yep, more of other people’s problems. So, resist the temptation to be everybody else’s fix-it person.

2. “If I solve reps’ problems, they will make more sales calls.” Ha! If you believe this old wive’s tale I have some real estate in eastern Nevada to show you.

3. You take pride in being decisive. You were promoted because you are an action-oriented, take-charge person with a high activity level. Problem is, you don’t know when to just say no.

4. We’re seen as creative and innovative. A natural human tendency is the desire to be needed by others. But this tendency is robbing you of your leadership productivity. At the end of each day ask yourself, “Is anybody on my sales team better than they were yesterday, as a result of my sales coaching abilities?”

5. Urgency brings stress, but is also intoxicating. You want your salespeople to have a sense of urgency. OK, fine. I agree that all great salespeople do possess a sense of urgency to surpass their sales quota. But you’re not a salesperson anymore! And besides, you can’t teach a salesperson to have a sense of urgency. I’m an experienced sales trainer, and I know this.

“I have met the enemy, and he is us,” the comic strip Pogo said. Every one of the five reasons above is a choice that you make, and you can just as easily make a different choice. Your skill, and more importantly – your will to resist these five reasons for getting stuck in the reactive trap, is a critical success factor in your ability to devote the time it takes to develop your salespeople into peak sales performers. Choose to step out of this reactive sales management trap!

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!”.