As someone who has been in sales management since 1993, I take pride when sales management is done well. Conversely, I take great offense to bad sales management and there is a ton of it out there! Perhaps one of the most gratifying aspects of management is developing lasting relationships with your sales people. I am blessed to have an extensive network of sales people that have worked with me over the years. It includes people who were junior or telesales people, sales engineers, senior individual contributors and even directors who have gone on to become successful VPs themselves. Many of whom have worked with me at multiple companies. It’s fun to see a lot of these people grow and mature in their professional lives. I am the “Dr. Phil” for a lot of these folks:-)

They call me for career advice, they ask for help on resolving conflict, sales strategy with a challenging customer and pretty much everything in between. I’m flattered that they view me as a professional mentor or coach and that they respect my experience (no one likes to feel obsolete). While there have always been bitch sessions about bad sales manager experiences, the number of bad management “couch session” talks have increased exponentially over the last few years. And the egregiousness of the bad sales management anecdotes is simply appalling.

In the last two weeks alone, I have had no fewer than 10 conversations with sales people that used to work for me that were experiencing bad sales management problems. Are CEOs paying attention to how their sales managers are impacting the business? What are they looking at?

I believe the tenets of good sales management include: -Ability to attract, hire and retain the best sales talent (and the right sales talent-chemistry) -Ramps-up new sales people and territories effectively -Collaborates with sales team on developing and executing winning sales strategies -Mentors/coaches the sales people to grow and maximize their sales abilities -Consistently delivers optimal revenue for the company taking in to consideration all external factors (i.e., economy, competition, customer base, state of the product, etc.) -Grows the business effectively (P/L responsibility)

What prompted this post was a conversation that I had this morning. One of my ex-sales people started a new job this week. He was promised a SF bay area territory and was required to get an apartment local to SF bay area HQ since he lives about 90 minutes away. His new sales manager sits down with him and tells him that he can’t take any of the SF bay area territory away for the existing sales rep since he was the #2 sales rep last year and that his territory would consist of several “dog” east coast states that had produced little revenue for the company historically and had no existing pipeline. And he would still be expected to come in to the SF bay area HQ office when he wasn’t traveling. Are you kidding me?

Now this company is growing and they hired quite a few new sales reps to kick of this New Year. Yet, you have a spineless sales manager that is afraid to take any territory away from their top two producers from last year because they (the top sales people) are complaining. For the record, the top two sales producers have absurdly large territories and yet have the exact same quotas as the new sales people being hired. How can you grow the business effectively with territories that are not equitable? If you capitulate to top sales producers by not splitting up ridiculously large territories, how can you compete effectively (i.e., sales coverage and capacity)? How many of your new sales reps will resign after realizing that you reneged on your commitment(s) to them and it will be impossible to earn the money that they need to?

I’ve been part of a number of sales organizations where the company was growing and year after year we divided territories and increased quotas. But there was always logic behind our decisions, primarily maximizing our ability to grow the business effectively. Yes, all top sales reps bitched and moaned about having any territory or accounts taken away from them. Then I would walk them through a sales capacity model (how many opportunities can you effectively manage at one time) and the fact that they have a vested interest in seeing the new sales people become successful, which ultimately means the company is successful which benefits them. And if that discussion failed, I would propose a $10M quota for them to keep their territory unchanged (rather than $2.5M) because that is what the territory should produce if worked properly. That always solved the dispute:-)

Bad sales management is rising to epidemic levels these days and it is ruining a lot of growing businesses.