Sales managers and the story of the “super salesperson syndrome”

Sales Manager

Sales Manager

How can we diagnose someone with “super salesperson syndrome”(S3)? Well, a sales manager with the “super salesperson syndrome ” will probably exhibited some of these 6 characteristics:

  • Sell rather than coach.  When push comes to shove, S3 sales managers will spend their time selling rather than sales coaching.  They’ll look for reasons why they should be engaged at various times during the sales cycle and personally make sales calls in sales reps’ accounts.
  • Retain personal accounts.  In order to make sure they get what they think is the desired amount of selling time, they will retain a limited number of personal accounts. This is particularly frequent and easy to execute when our S3 sales manager is a recently promoted sales rep from the same territory.
  • Portray the notion that selling hasn’t changed much.  They can be heard telling stories about the fact that “selling is selling” – nothing much has changed.  Buyers still buy like they always did.  Sales success is all about having been there and done that – it’s experience and relationships that you either have or you don’t.
  • Downplay the importance of sales training.  Since sales excellence is something that one mainly just picks up over time, our S3 sales manager is not overly supportive of time out of the field for sales training.  It’s much easier to just watch how they do it.
  • Take over sales calls.  When they do go on sales coaching calls with their salespeople, they will tend to jump in and take over the call.  After the sales call they will talk about why they had to jump in and then explain how the sales person should do what they just did on future sales calls.
  • Demonstrate limited interest in personal coaching and leadership training.  Since they would rather spend time selling, there’s not much use in getting better at something they consider a secondary priority.

While our description of our S3 sales manager was meant to be somewhat humorous, we suspect that a fair number of sales reps, at one time or another, had a sales manager that somewhat resembled our exaggerated characterization.

If you are a sales manager have noticed that lately you might be slipping into the “super sales syndrome” what can you do?  Well, try starting by asking yourself these questions:

  • If  I’m going out on a sales call in a sales rep’s account to help sell, can I make a unique contribution?  For example, this often happens when the call involves more senior management on the customer’s side of the table or when the call requires marshaling resources from various departments in your organization.
  • Have I developed a coaching profile of my sales team?  To optimize sales coaching effectiveness it’s important to know how you should prioritize your coaching time: Who should you coach first and what are the skill sets that deserve focus for each person to be coached?
  • Have I figured out how to maximize the time my sales team spends selling?  Today many salespeople spend less than 50% of their time actually selling due to tasks that in many cases are nothing more than distractions.  Great manages make these distractions disappear.
  • Has I invested time in learning how to coach?  Sales coaching is key for developing a superior sales team.  But just because you know how to sell does not necessarily mean you can be an effective coach.  Sales coaching is a unique, very high-level skill that requires training and practice.
  • Have I developed the knowledge required to leverage the available institutional resources to help my sales team?  Due to changing customer expectations sales reps cannot do it alone – they need help.  They need to be able leverage support from other organizational groups like Marketing, Engineering and Technical Support.  Sales managers need to have the internal relationships and political skills to make that possible.
  • Have I started to develop the skills to help the sales team to think and act strategically?  Sales managers must have the skills to think and act strategically and the skills to coach their reps to do the same.  Without solid strategies for their accounts sales people are likely to do a good job coming in second in today’s competitive market.

Sales managers are the pivotal job for developing a superior sales force.  So there is clear and urgent need for sales managers to be sales managers providing their sales teams the coaching and leadership required for success.

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About Richard Ruff

For more than 30 years Dr. Richard Ruff and Dr. Janet Spirer - the founders of Sales Horizons - have worked with the Fortune 1000 - such as UPS, Canon USA, Smith & Nephew, Boston Scientific, Owens & Minor, Textron - to design and develop sales training programs. During his career Dick has authored numerous articles related to sales effectiveness and co-authored "Managing Major Sales", a book about sales management, "Parlez-Vous Business" which helps sales people integrate the language of business into the sales process, and "Getting Partnering Right" – a research based work on the best practices for forming strategic selling alliances. Dr. Ruff received his Ph.D. in Organizational Psychology from the University of Tennessee and a B.S. from Rennsselaer Polytechnic Institute.
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