Improving Performance 3 of Sales Managers’ 6 Jobs

Published: November 30, 2010

Based on the chapter, The Truth About Sales, from my new book, “The Truth About Leads,” this article looks at obstacles related to sales success. First a few facts:

  1. Hunters, farmers and beaters. Hunters kill, beaters beat the bushes for opportunities, and farmers farm the fields for up-sell and add-on opportunities. Hunters don’t like to farm or beat. Beaters can’t hunt. Farmers don’t beat or hunt.
  1. Sales methodology. Most of the reps you hire to hunt today really do not know how to hunt. While methodologies like B-to-B Selling® and The Complex Sale® can be effective, the key is to integrate a methodology with reporting systems, follow through and follow up.
  1. Sales motivation. Why does there not appear to be progress until an account is won or lost? The main reason is reps do what they’re paid to do — not what you want them to do. They’re motivated — and de-motivated — by control, credit and compensation.


Many feel building a sales force is relatively straightforward—hire the best-qualified candidates, provide training and compensate for performance. While all are fundamental to the sales management process, other steps are required to achieve team success. Here are sales managers’ six basic jobs:

1. Hire

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2. Compensate

3. Train

4. Deploy

5. Monitor and Manage

6. Coach and Counsel

If hiring, training and compensating are the science behind sales, then deployment, monitoring and managing, and coaching and counseling are the art. Managers who manage on the basis of both the art and science of sales drive successful results.

Sales Deployment

Most companies deploy reps in traditional ways. Small and mid-sized companies typically assign reps to geographic territories. Larger organizations may deploy salespeople based on vertical industries. While this works organizationally, it requires little to no critical thinking.

Ideal deployment puts the best rep with the best prospect at the best time. Each rep is a unique individual offering a specific personality, skills and background. What works in one situation might not work in another. The manager must match the rep to the opportunity.

Smart deployment requires looking at each case independently and assigning based on knowledge and availability. If the best rep is currently fully utilized, it may be better to pass the hot lead to the next best rep who is available work it.

Monitoring and Managing

Ideally, a manager helps reps prioritize time so the best opportunities get disproportionately more time. Deals that may close the next quarter should be given the right amount of attention to move them along. Note: I’m not suggesting working only the hottest opportunities! Reps and managers frequently invest in sales cycles stacked against them and fail to invest in long-term opportunities that could represent more revenue and profitability.

A rep should have visibility into no more than 30 to 40 accounts at a time and should be focused on a short list of just 8 to 12 accounts a month. Four to six of these may require up to 50 percent of a rep’s time, and four to six accounts may require another 25%. Some long-term opportunities can be worked into the equation with an email every couple of weeks or a call every few weeks. Using time this way ensures continual pipeline movement and prevents focusing too much time on short-term opportunities at the expense of long-term ones.

By monitoring and helping to manage the sales continuum, managers can ensure better results.

Coaching and Counseling

Many think coaching and counseling are the same. Not true. Coaching is working with an individual capable of doing the job who doesn’t have the knowledge to do it properly. Counseling is focused on someone who has the knowledge for the job, but will not do it.

Many reps have sales aptitude, but not required fortitude and attitude. It’s sometimes difficult to determine on which side of the fence each falls because they are driven by Three C’s — Control, Credit and Compensation. The only way to effectively measure performance is to monitor it against objectives that include, but are not limited to, closed deals.

Coaching is time-consuming but necessary; it’s an ongoing educational process to help achieve full potential. Counseling has a finite number of steps and is focused on those who seemingly have the tools for better performance but aren’t using them.

Visualize the sales team distributed into three unequal groups. Those in the top section (about 10 to 20 percent) care deeply about staying there. Those in the middle (60 to 80 percent) are satisfied with staying in the middle but don’t want to fall to the bottom. Those in the bottom are fine with staying there.

If counseling does not work with the bottom group, termination is the likely outcome. This changes the dynamics as the new bottom will be comprised of previous mid-level performers with a greater desire to improve and move up. A good manager should spend more time pushing from the bottom up to improve overall performance.

Many managers are unsure of how to counsel, but it can be completed in four clear steps:

1. Identify the problem.

2. Identify the resolution to the problem.

3. Identify by when the resolution must occur.

4. Specify the outcome if the problem isn’t resolved.

By identifying the problem, resolution, and timeframe, the employee has a clear understanding of expectations and outcome.

Hiring, training and compensating continue to be primary building blocks of team assembly and development. It is easy to overlook the additional elements — deployment, monitoring and managing, coaching and counseling — critical to optimizing sales performance.

By adding these additional steps to sales management, a rep’s chances for success are greatly increased, which will in turn impact your company’s revenue.


Dan McDade is President and CEO of PointClear, the prospect development company that helps BtoB companies drive revenue by nurturing leads, engaging contacts and developing prospects until they’re ready to close. The Sales Lead Management Association named Dan one of the 50 most influential people in sales lead management in 2009.  His first book, “The Truth About Leads,” will be published November 2010.

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