Sales Managers With ‘GO FASTER!’ Stripes

Some Sales Managers have ‘GO FASTER!‘ stripes – that is to say their approach gives them a real advantage when it comes to accelerating sales.

In this insight we will explore the role of the sales manager in accelerating growth and in particular why some managers find it easier, than others.

The Role Of The Sales Manager In Accelerating Growth

‘Accelerating an organization is never easy’ that is a statement of the obvious from organizational guru John P. Kotter.

the challenge of speed and agility

While fast changing markets require a new agility and speed, that is a challenge for most organizations.  The bigger and more established the organization the greater the acceleration challenge. But, what is the solutions to the acceleration challenge?


Why Some Managers Accelerate & Others Don’t

One of the key requirements for acceleration is knowing the difference between leadership and management says Kotter’s latest book.

The difference between sales management and sales leadership

When it comes to accelerating sales, leadership is ‘the difference that makes a difference’.  This truth is evident from Sales Strategy Pitstop® benchmark data which shows that:

– Those organizations that blend leadership and management grow faster (and move faster) than those that don’t.

– Organizations that have failed to add a leadership dimension to the management of the sales teams fail to exploit the full potential to accelerate sales.

To understand why this is happening let’s look at the difference between sales management and sales leadership in today’s world.


Sales Management – The Role

Management is something that we are all very familiar with.  When it comes to sales management the role has traditionally been about; planning, forecasting, reporting and other such activities.

Defining sales management


Sales Management Priorities

Sales managers tend to be very busy people.  Here are just some of the key components of the sales management role:

Sales management tasks

The management in sales management encompasses; the sales pipeline, the sales process, sales territories, sales incentives, sales campaigns, sales strategies, sales systems and sales structures.  You might like to use this checklist to select areas that are a priority for your business in its quest for greater visibility, predictability and control of sales.


Sales Management – The Objectives

Sales is a high stakes and high risk.  It cannot be left to chance.  Visibility, predictability and control are hallmarks of a well managed sales organization.

Visibility, predictability and control

The sales organization needs to be tightly run.  It needs a minimum level of procedures, systems and controls in order to operate effectively.  In particular as the sales organization grows up (gaining in size and maturity) it has to embed processes, systems and controls.  Therein lies a danger – control seems to be addictive in most organizations.

the rise of management controls


Research by the Boston Consulting Group suggests that management controls have almost tripled in just over a decade. These results would tend to suggest that management is as popular as ever.


Managing For Growth?

The problem is that management procedures and controls don’t help an organizations to accelerate, indeed they are more likely to slow it down.

management controls in sales

Controls (although important) often slow things down.  That is why managing tends to be good at maintaining the status quo, but lousy at embracing change.  The traditional control-based approach, is more likely to hinder rather than accelerate growth.


Sales Managers – The Bar Has Risen!

In recent decades the bar for sales managers has risen.

the bar has risen for sales managers

Being a good manager is no longer enough.  To be great today’s managers must innovate, lead and inspire – these are essential in a fast changing and increasingly competitive marketplace.

Today’s managers are expected to exhibit the qualities of business leaders, such as; Warren Buffet and Steve Jobs.  But what is the elusive quality of ‘leadership’?


The Leadership Difference

The difference between managing and leading becomes clear when you look at it this way:

The difference between managing and leading sales

Because sales is a people business, it cannot just be managed.  All those people involved in sales also need to be led. That is if they are to truly perform.  So the question for you is:  Are you managing or leading your sales team?


Updating The Sales Manager’s Job Definition

Here is the new definition of the role of the sales manager:

Sales Manager Role

A key role of the leader is to get the most from people – to unlock their full potential in the pursuit of organizational goals. That is to help them to succeed at the same time as helping the organization to succeed.


Sales Leadership – The Role

Leadership of the sales function is about passion, purpose, vision, motivation, empowerment and commitment.

Sales Leadership

The items listed above are the elements that fuel higher levels of performance from people.  They are the X Factor of sales team performance.  But how exactly does that translate into specific activities for the manager who is also a leader?

Here are some of the vital ingredients of leadership in respect of the sales function:

sales leadership - the ingredients

Again, you might like to use this list to identify the priority areas for you as a leader of the sales function.


Sales Leadership – The Commitment Factor

Relatively speaking managing is ‘easy’.  ‘Manager’ is a title that is granted by the organization.   However, leadership is not a position, but a privilege earned by those to be led.

Leaders can be measured by the willingness of others to follow (as well as to perform).  In this respect it can be considered as the difference between compliance and commitment.

compliance versus commitment in sales

Many sales managers face challenges of flagging adoption rates in respect of the sales process and the use of sales systems – to use just two examples.  They know only to well the challenge of compliance and the costs of policing and enforcing it, particularly where levels of commitment are weak.


Sales Leadership – Your Journey

Making the transition from manager to leader is a major professional and indeed personal growth challenge faced by many sales managers.

From sales manager to sales leader

To help you gauge your position along the journey from sales manager to sales leader here is a summary of the top 5 differences between the two roles.

Sales leader versus sales manager

Here are some more of the significant differences between sales managers and sales leaders:

More differences between sales managers and sales leaders


Why not use the lists above to check on your progression from sales manager to sales leader and in particular to identify opportunities to strengthen the leadership dimension of your sales management role.