Are your invisible sales managers losing you sales?

The number one priority for any sales manager is to lead and drive the effective sales performance of their sales team. The only way a sales manager can achieve this is by being available and responsive to his/her sales team. What does this actually mean in real world terms?

This means getting out from behind your desk, ditching any excessive administration, leaving internal meetings and getting out in the field and working with your sales teams. If you want to drive and lift sales performance you need to be out in the field working with your sales teams at least 26-30 weeks a year.

That’s right, at least 26-30 weeks a year in the field! The more time you are out in the field actively coaching and developing your team: working on deals together, helping them develop their sales/territory plans to find new markets or avenues into new or existing accounts, making sure they are skilful at selling, etc, the more sales you and your team will make.

NB: This does not mean that you do the selling for your sales team, which is also another issue for another time.

Yet too many sales managers remain invisible to their sales teams. Salespeople are lucky if they get any one-on-one time from their sales managers, let alone effective coaching and support.


Because most sales managers in most organisations are being drowned in administrative paperwork, endless meetings and interference from other departments.

According to a recent large study undertaken by The Sales Management Association in the USA looking at Sales Management Activities:

  • Frontline sales managers spent 31% of their time on admin, with 10% being the desired amount of time
  • Mid-tier sales managers spent 30% of their time on admin, with 11% being the desired amount of time
  • Senior sales managers spent 25% of their time on admin, with 12% being the desired amount of time

You can see already that the Actual versus Desired for company administration is way out of balance by a factor of three for the front line and mid-tier sales manager – whose job is really to do that coaching and development in the field. Sadly, on average only 26% of the sales managers’ time was actually spent in the field working with their sales teams.

This backs up other studies which have been undertaken over many years. As we wrote recently, salespeople have a hard time getting enough real face time to sell because of other extraneous company activities put upon them. And so it is with sales managers. This is just one study of many showing how sales managers are being robbed of doing their real jobs.

So why is this happening?

Two reasons:

1. Over the years, companies have been removing the sales support functions from sales managers and teams trying to cut overhead costs, saving money… the consequence is making the administrative workload for sales managers worse, robbing them of doing their real jobs. I was reminded of a saying the other day: ‘you cannot save yourself rich’

2. Obsessed with numbers, too many senior management teams are turning their sales leaders, and especially their field sales managers, into number crunching desk jockeys. Time in motion studies reveal that each level of sales management spends more than 50% of their time with other internal functions instead of in the trenches with their sales teams and customers.

The consequence is that most sales managers’ time allocation is inefficient, leading to lost sales and poor growth. However, most sales managers believe their time should be weighted more to customer and market-facing activities, with less time spent on administration. No surprise really.

Findings also show that the more sales managers are in the field working with their salespeople on customer and market activities, the more positively this is correlated with sales growth.

The root cause for inefficient time allocation by sales management is directly correlated to senior management influences.

So how do you change this?

Like freeing salespeople up to have more live selling time, businesses need to free up their sales managers to have more field time with their sales teams.

Organisations should mandate that sales managers spend time in the field with their salespeople in the real market place. The figures below are what is recommended for a full-time sales manager:

  • three days/week in the field for mid tier sales managers
  • 3.5 days/week in the field for front line sales managers

The Sales Management Association study also recommends that businesses need to:

1. Limit and control the impact other internal departments have on the sales managers

2. Limit the amount of reporting sales managers have to do

3. Make sure that sales management and leadership have a direct input into business strategy planning – involve them at the start

4. Limit internal demands made on frontline sales managers which reduces their external focus.

This is not new to Barrett either, we see this ineffective use of sales managers’ time and talent daily.

The reality is sales leadership and sales management is not about selling itself, it is about creating and leading fit, viable sales teams that can sell! In fact when one examines the role of the modern sales leader it quickly becomes evident that there just isn’t time to sell.

Equipping sales leaders and sales managers to perform the tasks for which they are responsible, and sustaining the momentum of the sales force in its drive for incremental value and volume, at the same time as continuously improving the customer experience, is a challenge that demands a high degree of maturity, dedication, focus, extraordinary leadership skills – and of course, adequate time in the field to make this all happen.

You might also like to read ‘No sales leadership + no accountability = No sales results

Remember, everybody lives by selling something.

 Sue Barrett is a sales expert, business speaker, adviser, sales facilitator and entrepreneur and founded Barrett Consulting to provide expert sales consulting, sales training, sales coaching and assessments. Her business Barrett P/L partners with its clients to improve their sales operations. Visit 



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