Selling and managing are not the same

I am aware that I am a better sales person than I am a sales manager. The two functions almost need separate budgets. Last week I spoke about sales burnout and the challenges many SME business owners have of being all things to all people including, usually, the main sales person and sales manager.


Like many people, I have known that selling and managing are not the same thing. They are two very distinct jobs with different demands and expectations.


Some home truths about sales management:


  • Sales teams cannot be lead from behind a desk.
  • Sales people cannot be cloned into the image of the top sales-person-now-sales-manager.
  • Mediocre supervision can put a big dent in the effectiveness of good salespeople.
  • Sales people need sales leaders and coaches, not administrators and organisers.
  • Some sales people are “passengers” and will never be good sales performers.
  • Some sales managers are “bullies” in disguise and will ruin your team and quite possibly you.
  • Both sales people and sales managers need to be trained or educated about those demands and expectations along with exactly how to fulfill them.


Have a look at the key sales management duties below and check what you are and are not doing in your businesses.


  • Planning: Developing and owning the sales operating plan for the business unit in concert with marketing, service and all other parts of the business.
  • People development: Establishing the people resources needed to successfully execute the operating plan by hiring, coaching, developing, measuring and leading the “right” people.
  • Proactive review: Managing revenue and profit by monitoring, controlling and reviewing sales, business, customer and competitor activity. Proactively reviewing the sales plan and consolidating this plan into the business forecast for the organisation.


I am aware that I am a better sales person than I am a sales manager, and I am a better “delegative” manager than I am a “micro” manager. Looking at the key sales management duties above, I know I have not always been as diligent as I should have been even when it came to the sales management of my business.


And I suspect am not alone. Even if you delegate the role of sales management, you still have to be on top of things.


It is wise and correct to delegate key jobs to qualified people. In SMEs, where possible, you should always try to employ people who are already good at the functions you need them to be good at, so the “learn to earn curve” is quick.


However, you must always have key performance measurements and monitoring in place for each person’s role, and review them every week. Never lose control of the information flow, finances or the overall management of your business, even if you have to delegate it.


Too many entrepreneurs are not “detail” people and are “hands off” managers like me, and while I am not advocating “control freak” behaviour, you must be more vigilant.


If you’re not, you are at risk of not being on top of the sales pipeline and cash flow at best, or being marginalised in your own business by people who are “passengers” with no intention of really stepping up to the mark and doing their jobs, at worst. These “passengers” can take advantage of the free ride for more months than they should because you haven’t allocated the time to manage them properly.


If this happens you find you end up carrying nearly the entire sales load to keep cash flow coming in, potentially overcompensating for those staff who aren’t pulling their weight, all the while neglecting the managerial responsibilities of your business, especially the people performance management duties.


If this goes on for long enough you become too overwhelmed and stressed, and it all gets on top of you. A vicious circle. And isn’t it amazing how some of these passengers sit by idly watching you bury yourself deeper and deeper and don’t do anything to help, and yet can still take home a pay packet.


Yes I know, we are to blame. If this does happen to you then, hopefully, you only have to learn it once to get the message and never let it happen again.


So you can never not manage your business even if you are the best sales person and it’s not in your nature. At least have the minimum in place:


  • Clear performance expectations by individual and team.
  • Monitor Inputs (quantity and quality of sales activities) and Outputs (results) every week.
  • Clear accountable sales plans for each individual sales person, team and sales manager.
  • Regular (at least once a month) client field visits with each of your sales people (even if you have a sales manager).
  • Weekly sales meetings where you talk about the future “live” work, current activities, real proposals, sales initiatives and outcomes.


Know your limitations and always make time to manage your business and your sales team directly and indirectly every week. You don’t have to be the best at it, but doing it is better than doing nothing. In small business, a week without key sales activities has an impact very quickly in the bottom line.


One final note. Be very careful about employing people who have never worked in small businesses before. It can be a big risk although there are exceptions. I know it’s stating the obvious, but small business dynamics are very different to big business dynamics, especially when it comes to personal accountability and responsibility and the courage to have your arse on the line.




Author: Sue Barrett is Founder & Managing Director of BARRETT Pty Ltd, an Australian based sales fitness firm that helps businesses build high performing sales teams and is author of soon to be released book ‘Sell Like a Woman’.




For more Sell Like a Woman blogs, click here.



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