New Data - Are Experienced Sales Managers Better Sales Managers?

Posted by Dave Kurlan on Mon, Jun 25, 2018 @ 06:06 AM


Last week I wrote a revealing article which showed that Sales Managers are even worse than I thought when it comes to coaching their salespeople.  That article stimulated this great conversation on LinkedIn

Following that article I dug further into the same 9,000 rows of data to look at the role that tenure and experience have on sales management effectiveness. Who do you think are more effective - newer or more experienced sales managers?

I looked at four of the twenty-one sales management competencies:

  • Coaching
  • Motivating
  • Accountability
  • Pipeline Management

My goal was to see if there was any correlation between their tenure and/or experience and their sales management effectiveness.  Please review the table below where the average scores in 4 sales management core competencies can be seen for various levels of experience, along with averages for the those 4 competencies and a weighted average.


It's clear from the average scores that experienced sales managers are only marginally better than inexperienced sales managers in 3 of the 4 competencies, faring worse only in Motivating.  However, those scores change dramatically when we look beyond sales management experience.  

If we look at sales managers who also have been with the same company and in the same industry for at least 25 years, you'll see that the scores are 20% worse than for sales managers with similar sales management experience who were with different companies and in different industries during those 25 years.  Those with 253 experience grew up in those companies/industries, were risk averse, and by not leaving/moving, were not exposed to new/better practices.  As a result, they have simply repeated what they were taught by their ineffective sales managers from 2-3 decades ago.

Compare that with new sales managers who are also new to their companies and new to their industries. Despite having at least 20 fewer years of experience and little in the way of legacy knowledge as a foundation, they average 13% higher scores than those with so much more experience.  In fact, column 2 shows that all newer sales managers, regardless of company tenure or industry experience, fare better than all veteran sales managers in column 3.

Finally, average scores can be deceiving and as we all know, coaching is the most important of the competencies.  In the last row, we used a weighted coaching score worth double the coaching points and the overall scores still showed that veteran sales managers who experienced multiple companies and industries were stronger overall than any other group.

What happens if we look at the same data using Sales Management Quotient to differentiate?


Interestingly, the largest concentration of elite sales managers is in the same group - those with 25+ years of sales management experience who did not stay with the same company or industry.  Those who grew up in just 1 company clearly have the smallest representation in the elite category with just 1%.  The reverse is true as well.  The experienced sales managers who moved around have the smallest percentage of weak sales managers while those who stayed with one company have more than double the percentage of weak sales managers.

When it comes to sales management capabilities, the amount of experience can be a negative if the kind of experience that makes a difference.

As a whole, these findings also serve to validate a reason that companies look to experts OUTSIDE of their own industry for help.  Sales experts with experience in multiple industries bring far more innovation, best practices and practicality to their consulting, training and coaching.

Topics: Dave Kurlan, Sales Coaching, sales management effectiveness, sales management function

Why Salespeople Fail to Make Needed Changes

Posted by Dave Kurlan on Fri, Sep 03, 2010 @ 05:09 AM

changeI recently paid a visit to the men's restroom (more comfortable in that one) where I saw Steve, our building maintenance man, on the floor repairing the sensor that automatically turns the water on and off.  About 90 minutes later (right on schedule), I was back and shocked to see Steve still down there on the floor.  I asked what was taking so long and he said, "Well it works just fine when it's not connected to the faucet but when I reconnect it the darn thing stays broken!"

Just like salespeople!

If your salespeople are going through any kind of up-to-date sales training or coaching, then they know they're supposed to ask questions and resist presenting company or product features and benefits.  In the classroom they get it.  In the classroom they can do it.  In a coaching session it works.  But as soon as you plug them in to a real sales call, by phone or in person, they revert to being obsolete.

Just like the faucet, it will work in time.  The key is, as with Steve, you can't give up.  You must keep plugging away, reinforcing the new thoughts, questions, behaviors and expectations until they become natural.  In most companies, the training and coaching just isn't frequent enough, comprehensive enough or effective enough. Then, when it doesn't seem like it's working, it's much easier to quit, revert and be comfortable again.  Comfort Never Equates to Sales Success but Sales Success Does Create Comfort.  It requires Discomfort to Gain Success in Sales.

Topics: Dave Kurlan, sales training, Sales Coaching, sales management function

Optimize Your Sales Force Without Spending a Dime

Posted by Dave Kurlan on Mon, Aug 16, 2010 @ 15:08 PM

makeoverEnter to Win a Free Sales Force Makeover!

This is a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity for a company that wants to grow more quickly....

If you can state your case effectively than anyone else, your company could win a Sales Force MakeOver worth up to $250,000!

Four companies have partnered to create the Sales Force Makeover and between them, you could have the opportunity to work with nearly a dozen sales experts over the course of about one year.

The companies are:

  • Landslide Technology
  • Objective Management Group, Inc.
  • Strategic Compensation Partners
  • Kurlan & Associates

For contest details and to Enter to Win your FREE Sales Force MakeOver click here.

I wrote an article for Alister Paine's Digital Business Site on How to Close More Business where I discussed the importance of optimizing the sales process. Check it out!

Topics: crm, omg, kurlan, sales management function, free sales force make over, dauphanais, objective management group, Landslide

Professional Sales and the All-Star Jazz Performance

Posted by Dave Kurlan on Mon, Aug 16, 2010 @ 08:08 AM

jazzOne of the most amazing musical performances I ever witnessed took place about 9 years ago in New Orleans.  We had front row seats at a small venue that advertised an "all star jazz band".  The first musician to arrive was the guitarist, who sat polishing his axe (guitar).  Next, the drummer arrived and introduced himself to the guitarist.  Then the bass player arrived and introduced himself to the first two.  The next to arrive were the saxophonist and trumpeter.  They did as the others did, shaking hands and setting up. Someone mentioned to the guitarist that this was a jazz gig, not a rock gig, and he should get his other guitar out.  The guitarist nodded and took out the more appropriate equipment.  Finally, at one minute before 8 PM, the organist walked on stage, introduced himself to the other five musicians, mentioned that he was the musical director, handed out the arrangements, sat at the organ, and at 8 PM, yelled, "one, two, three, four" and the band began to play.  They had not only NEVER PLAYED together before, they didn't even KNOW each other!  Despite that, they were tight, in sync, confident, flexible and completely aware of the expectations, where they were in each tune, and what they had to do to make each song sound like they had rehearsed it together a dozen times.  It's their masterful ability to listen, observe and improvise within a defined structure.

If you want to know what professional salespeople should be able to do, it's exactly that! 

They should be able to walk into any meeting, at any time, at any stage of a sales process, and any stage of the buying process, having never met a participant, and within minutes, be in sync, confident, flexible and completely aware of the expectations, where they are in the sales process, and what they must do to move that sales process forward to a successful outcome.  It's their masterful ability to listen, observe, and ask unscripted (improvised) questions within a defined structure (sales process).

Professional Selling is just like being in the All-Star Jazz Ensemble.  It's being so good and so experienced, that one can perform perfectly, on demand, in any environment, despite tremendous pressure, regardless of product knowledge and expertise.

How many of your salespeople have this capability?

Topics: Dave Kurlan, sales process, Sales Coaching, listening and questioning, sales management function, sales mastery

Bench Strength - The Key to Replacing Salespeople

Posted by Dave Kurlan on Mon, Jul 19, 2010 @ 07:07 AM

bberrorEarlier this summer I wrote about how the Red Sox are decimated by injuries.  It's not so much that they have 11 starters on the disabled list as much as it's about their replacement players and whether they could hold things together. 

Yesterday, two of those replacements, failed to make 4 plays that led to all of the Texas runs.

In baseball, physical errors happen but managers go nuts when mental errors are made and yesterday's errors were all mental - the kinds that rookies usually make.

When you lose salespeople through retirement, resignation, defection or termination, do you have an adequate bench or minor league or do you rely on free agent signings?

When you send your replacements into the field, are your fingers crossed hoping they don't make mental errors that help competitors close business or are you confident because your replacements are better than those you replaced?

Those are the two keys right there: 

  1. You must always have replacements available so you must always be recruiting.
  2. Your replacements must always be better than those you replaced.  Never compromise.

If you aren't allowed to compromise but must have replacements ready to go, that could certainly put a lot of pressure on your company's ability to recruit quickly. But if you have an effective, on-going sales recruiting process and employ best practices throughout, your next hire could be last week's great interview or today's great phone conversation.

Don't put yourself in a position where you have to worry about your new salespeople.  Once they're on board, make sure you have a structured, effective 90-day ramp-up program to assure they succeed instead of setting them up for failure.

Topics: Dave Kurlan, sales recruiting, sales candidates, hiring salespeople, sales management function

Anatomy of the Worst Sales Call Ever

Posted by Dave Kurlan on Thu, Apr 22, 2010 @ 22:04 PM

The company rep showed up and looked at the plumbing.  We had a very short discussion, mostly him telling me what he could do because he was an expert.  After about 10 minutes with me, he left.  Two days later I received an emailed proposal with several options and prices.  And that was it. I never heard from him again. 

It's easier to talk about some of the things he failed to do since he didn't do anything correctly. If we were to perform an analysis working backwards from the end of his (can't really call what he did a) sales process:

  • He didn't show that he was interested in getting my business.
  • He failed to call or follow up with me in any way.
  • There wasn't an intro paragraph to the email.
  • There wasn't a call to action.
  • He didn't qualify me.
  • He didn't learn about my time line.
  • He never talked with me about money.
  • He never asked what I wanted.
  • He didn't uncover any compelling reasons why I would buy.
  • He didn't appear to care.
  • He didn't attempt to develop a relationship.

When we first begin to work with new clients, we see a lot of salespeople exhibiting these classic mistakes.  They think they're selling but they're really just going through (a couple of) the motions of selling.  They say that 50% of success is just showing up.  He's showing up so he's probably getting some business because some of his competitors aren't even doing that much.  What if we were to quantify this?  Let's pretend that he closes something close to what many companies achieve when they have salespeople like this - 10%.  And let's suppose that since they deal mostly in commercial solutions, their average deal is closer to $100k, not the $10K (could that be why he didn't follow up?) he was looking for from me.  He could be selling $1.2 M a year and the company could actually be happy with his performance.  On the other hand, his competitors might be getting the other $10M+ and the company hasn't figured that out yet.

The real question from the scenario above is, how can this salesperson be that awful and who is responsible?

  • Him for not developing his own selling skills?
  • His sales manager for not recognizing his level of incompetence?
  • The hiring manager for selecting a D player?
  • The company for not providing training and development?
  • The company for not having more of a sales culture?
  • His sales manager for not providing coaching?
  • The company for not having a structured sales process?
What might we have learned about him if we had assessed him using Objective Management Group's Assessments?

Topics: sales assessment, Dave Kurlan, Sales Coaching, sales management function, sales selection

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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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