Sales Managers Are Irrelevant

Now doesn’t that little piece of information make you feel special? No? Well, strangely enough, it should!

In a comprehensive survey of salespeople done by Achieve Global, 51 percent said that their sales managers were irrelevant. Another 21 precent said their sales managers were cheerleaders, in the best sense of the word, and 19 percent said that they found their sales managers a distraction. Of the remaining 9 percent, 7 percent considered their sales managers crucial and 2 percent considered their sales managers non-existent.

Now some people might find this information somewhat distressing and, indeed, some should. But the rest, the 51 percent who are irrelevant and the 21 percent of you who are cheerleaders, should be rejoicing.

Irrelevant
I’ll admit that being considered irrelevant may be depressing to some people but let’s look at what the salespeople meant when they doomed us to irrelevancy. Their point was that they were pretty well self-managed and self-motivated. Now, as long as they are also successful, what sales manager wouldn’t kill to have a sales team like that?

If being irrelevant means that you’ve hired a bunch of people who are able to manage themselves without your constant intervention and who have the ability to keep themselves motivated without you having to pump them up every morning with a motivational air pump, then give me irrelevancy any day.

Cheerleaders
In addition to being irrelevant, I feel that it doesn’t hurt when a sales manager also embraces some of the qualities of a cheerleader. In the survey, the salespeople defined the cheerleader as a manager who kept them motivated and sang their praises to upper management.

Being a cheerleader doesn’t necessarily mean you are constantly in your salespeople’s faces, but that you’re there when they need you, particularly if they are having a bad day, bad week, bad month, bad quarter, bad whatever. Cheerleaders know that a pat on the back or a kind word goes a lot further than a KITA.

Crucial
While it might be nice to be considered crucial by your salespeople, I’m not so sure that’s the best position to be in. Being crucial was defined as being the single most supportive person in the sales organization. The potential problem with being crucial is that when you’re not there to be supportive, the sales efforts can go astray. It’s a bit like herding kittens. If you’re not there to keep an eye on them (being supportive), they’ll get into all kinds of trouble. In general, being crucial isn’t good for anything except a sales manager’s ego.

Distracting
A whopping 19 percent of the surveyed salespeople found their sales managers distracting. In their view, the less they saw or heard from their sales managers, the better. Now, I don’t know who these people were working for, but I suspect they are the old-school type of numbers-driven dictators who try to motivate through intimidation or excessive incentives.

It’s a bit sad that this number is so high and that these people haven’t stayed up with the times and realized that the most effective managers are multi-faceted and draw on a number of diverse competencies to optimize their sales teams’ performance.

Invisible
There are a small number of sales managers (2 percent) that are considered non-existent by their sales team. In these cases, when their salespeople do manage to get their time, it’s very helpful, but usually, the manager is working on other things of a corporate nature. You will often find this phenomenon when people confuse "managing" with "leading." Managers manage "processes" and leaders lead "people."   These qualities are not mutually exclusive. I’ve always felt that a good sales manager is a leader first and a manager second.

Good News
So, let those of you who are irrelevant rejoice, and those of you who are both irrelevant and a cheerleader, be deliriously happy for you have succeeded in hiring the best of the best and have built a self-sufficient team of performers who don’t need to be constantly tended to.

Bottom Line
Having a good sales team is a bit like having a good garden. If you plant the right seeds in fertile ground, they will grow and prosper and succeed. Just make sure you pull out the weeds from time to time.

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