The Real Problem with the Sales Profession and Sales Leadership

Posted by Dave Kurlan on Tue, Oct 01, 2013 @ 06:10 AM

The folks over at Insight Squared recently posted this interview with me.  It touched on sales management, but there wasn't enough time to do it justice.  I have written about sales management a lot in my Blog over the past 7 years with at least 75% of the roughly 1,100 articles on the subject.  If you are a new reader, there is a lot of material to sift through.  Start with my article series by scrolling down the left-side navigation panel.

In the context of best practices, the sales management role is now 50% coaching.  The problem is that according to data from Objective Management Group, 82% of sales managers make very ineffective coaches.  Just yesterday alone we had conversations with sales managers who:

  • Weren't able to recognize what their salespeople were doing wrong;
  • Had the ability to listen in to sales calls, but weren't doing so;
  • Heard how bad their salespeople sounded on the phone, but weren't able to correct them;
  • Struggled to onboard new salespeople, but hadn't realized that lack of sales experience added at least a year to the ramp-up period;
  • Couldn't identify who their most effective salespeople were;
  • Were afraid to present critical feedback to their best salespeople;
  • Couldn't terminate their worst salespeople;
  • Couldn't differentiate between nice and friendly, versus nice and effective;
  • Didn't have the time to spend with new salespeople.
There is very little of the right modeling taking place for sales managers of the future.  They weren't exposed to it as salespeople.  They weren't trained to do it when they became sales managers, and as a sales manager said to me last week, "I can't come to your Sales Leadership Intensive because when I was hired, the expectation was that I would be able to do all of that stuff."
Are you serious?  You're expected to be an effective sales manager or leader, but you know you aren't a master at sales coaching.  You know you could have a tremendous impact on the sales force if you became a better coach, and you don't attend the very program that could help because it was expected that you could coach effectively when you took the position?  You do know that doctors, attorneys, teachers and other skilled professionals are not only expected, but required to continue their education, attend workshops and conferences, and learn the latest from the greatest minds in their field.  Sales managers, when compared with doctors, attorneys or teachers, have not had years of education and training in the field, but probably less than 10 hours of training in their field.  Why do they believe that:
  • they don't need the help,
  • their boss would have a problem with them getting better,
  • they already know it all,
  • they can't take the time,
  • it's not important?
This is a prime example of what is wrong with the sales profession in general.  There are no requirements to enter the field, no requirements to get promoted, and no expectations of self-improvement.  While there may be exceptions in some companies and certain industries, overall, it's an embarrassment.  What can we do about that?

Topics: Dave Kurlan, sales training, sales management training, sales leadership training, sales leadership intensive

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Best-Selling Author, Keynote Speaker and Sales Thought Leader.  Dave Kurlan's Understanding the Sales Force Blog earned a medal for the Top Sales & Marketing Blog award for six consecutive years. This article earned a Bronze Medal for Top Sales Blog post in 2016 and this one for 2017. Read more about Dave.

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