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There is a myth in the sales world that out there is a superstar salesperson who will lift your company’s growth into the stratosphere. This is sort of true when you hire that first or even second critical salesperson, but thereafter it will be the quality and calibre of sales management that determines your growth rate and your scaling capability.

The role of the “holy grail” sales superstar is overrated and the power of the professional sales manager or leader is underrated. A competent sales leader managing 3-4 people will significantly outperform a badly-led or leaderless  team of 7-10 salespeople, even if some of the team members are individually “brilliant”.

What Sales Management Really Is

Sales management usually turns into a hazy, ineffective mix of supervising, reporting, coaching and administration. But really effective sales management brings the following to a company:

Clear Role Definition: The salespeople do the manager’s view of the sales role, not their view. If the role involves 80% prospecting, the professional sales manager ensures that is what happens. They stop people drifting off into irrelevant work and sloppy sales execution.

Prescriptive Selling: Where there is a role, there is a way to play out that role. Professional sales managers don’t hire people and then let them loose to express themselves. They prescribe how the company’s proposition should be communicated and how the company engages with prospects and customers. Prescription doesn’t stifle individualism, but it does ensure that everyone on the sales team is saying the same thing, in their own words.

Modelling Sales Behaviours: To be a good sales manager and leader you have to be an accomplished, professional salesperson so that you can model the critical selling behaviours for the sales team. This accelerates individual performance, but also guarantees the respect of the team.

A competent sales leader managing 3-4 people will significantly outperform a badly-led or leaderless  team of 7-10 salespeople, even if some of the team members are individually “brilliant”.

Clear Measurement of Progress: Where there is good sales management there is no confusion about how progress is measured, what constitutes a qualified opportunity nor what is expected in terms of providing an accurate sales forecast. The company has what you can call a “system” with a common language for measuring progress. Where this doesn’t exist, even the “best” salespeople will fail.

When this level of clarity starts to emerge in your sales function a culture of disciplined execution and high standards will follow. Another hugely significant benefit that flows from having a professional sales manager and leader is that they attract high quality sales talent – people who respect a culture of high-performance and high standards. That makes sales hiring a lot easier.

When you look at what really effective sales management involves, you can immediately see that it’s no ordinary talent that is needed.

Prescription doesn’t stifle individualism, but it does ensure that everyone on the sales team is saying the same thing, in their own words. 

Related Reading: 

What Salespeople Really Want from Their Direct Sales Manager (And it’s not Coaching!)

Building the Sales Engine for the 2020s