When Your Sales Opportunity Stalls, Do You Call Roadside Assistance?

Posted by Dave Kurlan on Mon, Oct 18, 2021 @ 14:10 PM


We were driving on the highway when the dashboard indicated low pressure in the left rear tire.  That can't be good!  As we exited the highway eight miles later, the tire was flat and we were able to drive another mile to a safe location and call roadside assistance.  Until that moment, I wasn't aware that the car did not have a spare tire but was equipped with a tire inflation repair kit instead.  Roadside assistance told us that the lack of a spare tire meant the car would be towed to their nearest dealer.

There are typically three possibilities when you have a flat tire:

  1. Change the tire if you have a spare and know how to do it or have roadside do it for you
  2. Use the tire inflation repair kit and keep the tire inflated long enough to get to your mechanic
  3. Get towed.

In my opinion, getting towed is the worst possible option and the last thing we want to deal with and in the waning days of a pandemic, they'll take your car but not you, so that doesn't solve anything.  Your car is still broken, you are still stranded, and you are temporarily separated from your beloved vehicle.

When salespeople get into trouble and an opportunity stalls out or goes off the rails, their sales managers are the sales version of roadside assistance.  In the context of a sales opportunity, there are typically three possibilities:

  1. Change the tire - put another salesperson on the opportunity
  2. Repair the tire - the salesperson does enough damage control to keep the opportunity alive until they can get coaching from their sales manager
  3. Call Roadside and the sales manager calls or shows up to get the opportunity back on track if possible

If you agree that a tow would be your last possible option, then it should follow that a rescue from a sales manager would be equally bad.  The prospect loses respect for the salesperson and will only speak with the sales manager after the rescue. Salespeople learn to lean on and use their sales managers as crutches, salespeople never become strong enough to handle these situations on their own, and sales managers fail to develop strong teams.

According to Objective Management Group (OMG) and their assessments on more than two million salespeople, sales managers and sales leaders, only 18% of all sales managers are well-suited for the role and only 7% are actually good at coaching. We know from this article on being an underdog in sales that the bottom half of all salespeople totally suck.

When you combine those three pathetic data points, there are a few insights that pop to the surface.

Most sales managers are a lot better at selling than they are at managing and coaching and are at their best when salespeople call for roadside assistance.  That explains their universal desire to accept those calls without pushing back, coaching and challenging their salespeople to do better.  Salespeople improve when they have no choice but to improve!

Most sales managers actually believe it's their job to be the hero and that is one of the biggest impediments to developing strong salespeople.

There are far more salespeople whose opportunities go off the rails and need help but who end up following one of three even worse scenarios than calling their sales managers:

  1. At the time, they lacked the situational awareness to realize the opportunity went sideways on them so they follow up as if nothing bad happened.
  2. They realized the opportunity was going sideways but chose to use the tire repair kit instead of calling for roadside assistance
  3. They knew it went sideways but lacked the commitment to call for roadside or use the tire repair kit and simply gave up.

These scenarios play out every day, on every sales team, at every company, all over the world.  Isn't it time to raise the bar on both sales mangers and salespeople, train them up, coach them up, and stop accepting so much mediocrity?

Join me on October 26 for a free 45-minute introduction to Baseline Selling and learn how to avoid the mistakes that most salespeople make, shorten your sales cycle, differentiate from the competition, and improve your win rate.  Register here.

Image copyright 123RF

Topics: Dave Kurlan, sales training, Sales Coaching, sales managers, ineffective salespeople, ineffective sales manager, OMG Assessment

Why CEOs/Presidents Tolerate Ineffective Sales Management

Posted by Dave Kurlan on Mon, Oct 07, 2013 @ 06:10 AM

termination noticeOne of the comments on my article, The Validiation of the Sales Assessment Validationmentioned the reluctance of CEOs and Presidents to redeploy or terminate ineffective sales managers.  That topic deserves an article of its own, making 3 of my last 4 posts about ineffective sales managers.  That will surely upset and perhaps eliminate a significant number of my regular readers. 

Lack of overall sales performance is an easily recognized problem.  A savvy President or CEO may correctly identify the symptoms: inaccurate forecasts, a lack of new opportunities, new salespeople failing to ramp-up quickly enough, delayed closings, and complacency. However, they usually fail to understand that these issues are not sales issues, but sales management issues.

On the other hand, most sales managers fail to recognize those symptoms, and when they do, they usually fail to effectively address, correct and change their salespeople's attitudes, behaviors, strengths, skills and results.  They are not at fault for their lack of success at achieving change.  They are at fault for not getting outside help!  As I mentioned in this article, The Real Problem with the Sales Profession, they are afraid of appearing weak for not being able to achieve this themselves.  Ironically, this is not really what sales managers are supposed to do.  Their job is to coach and hold salespeople accountable, and if after doing that, their salespeople continue to be ineffective, sales managers need to replace their salespeople and/or bring in outside help.  

That's being smart, not weak.  

But when they can't change the results themselves, and resist getting outside help, they appear incompetent.

Many Presidents and CEO's have that perspective of their sales managers, yet they still don't want to replace them.  In most cases, they have a strong, long-time relationship with their sales managers, going back to when the sales managers were their top salespeople.

Typically, they promoted their top salespeople (usually a mistake), became too friendly, and don't want to ruin relationships, betray friends, or hurt their families.  

That's the real reason that they prefer to deal with the devil they know, rather than the devil they don't.  After all, they trust these sales managers who also happen to know a lot about their businesses and can't imagine placing that trust in a brand new hire from the outside.

Another scenario, where Presidents/CEOs struggle to replace sales managers, is when they hired the sales managers themselves after recruiting them from outside the company.  In this case, they don't want to admit that they made a mistake and believe that, with the right help, their sales managers will succeed.

Difficulty replacing sales managers occurs a lot more frequently than you might think.  While considering the companies that I personally worked with during the past 12 months, there were about 10 sales managers who should have been replaced.  Unfortunately, only 2 were replaced when I delivered the bad news, and 2 more when it became obvious that I was correct months earlier when I told the Presidents/CEOs that their sales managers just couldn't be coached up.  That leaves 6 sales managers with good job security despite their continued ineffectiveness.   

In the end, it's easy for someone from the outside to recommend termination, but very difficult for someone on the inside to follow through.  I get that.  At the same time, if I'm brought in as an expert, asked to identify and help correct problems, it's far more difficult to achieve the growth that they expect when they are reluctant to replace an uncoachable, untrainable and ineffective sales manager.  Why is this such a big deal?  There is no role with a greater impact on the success of the sales force than the sales leaders to whom the salespeople report.

Topics: Dave Kurlan, sales leadership, CEOs impact on sales, ineffective sales manager, sales expert to CEOs

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About Dave

Best-Selling Author, Keynote Speaker and Sales Thought Leader,  Dave Kurlan's Understanding the Sales Force Blog has earned medals for the Top Sales & Marketing Blog award for nine consecutive years. This article earned a Bronze Medal for Top Sales Blog post in 2016, this one earned a Silver medal for 2017, and this article earned Silver for 2018. Read more about Dave

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