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Can A Business Work Without a Sales Manager?

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During my career I’ve met a surprising number of business owners who had the idea that hiring a sales manager to lead and coach their sales team is in fact an unnecessary luxury. Whenever I got the chance to do so, I tried to discuss their idea of the sales team’s self-government and self-development, and each time we came to the same conclusion: it works. But not really. So I’ve decided to open this topic here on my blog, and take a closer look at whether saving on leaving out a sales manager is worth it or not.

The Expectations

The main reason small- to medium-sized business owners don’t get themselves a sales manager is simple, and ironic: money. Yes, it’s one extra leadership post that doesn’t come cheap, and at the first glance it may seem like a cost that can be spared. Sales reps know their job descriptions, and they will do their jobs regardless of the leadership. Right?

When everyone knows their place and their role within the organization, there’s seemingly no more need to interfere, and as long as they fill their quotas, it may actually even be a profitable model for a while.

This is the general idea that people without proper understanding of the sales process may be getting. They trust in the sales team’s ability to generate revenue and continuously strive for success, while constantly growing and refining their skills at the same time.

The Reality

So far it seems like it could work. But …

Being a sales representative is sometimes a very stressful and demanding job that’s not easy to endure without proper goal orientation and motivation. Without those two, it can easily be a job that becomes frustrating and leads to burn-out.

A sales rep’s job is to sell — you can hardly expect them to make result tracking and data analysis a part of their job (parables about flying pigs come to mind). And even if you do teach those pigs to fly, do you really want them spending their time on getting better data, analysing that data, and coming up with  new strategies and improvements? Or do you want them to sell?

Even if you hired the best sales reps you could find, their work will never reach its full potential if you don’t provide them with sufficient mentoring and leadership. A team can’t be simply seen as a group of excellent individuals that will work their own way out. A team is a living and breathing entity that needs to work in a close link and alignment, while maintaining and taking advantage of individual skills and strengths.

Without a sales manager, your sales department will miss the following key functions:

  • The daily source of motivation
  • Individual mentoring and guided skill development
  • Tracking of the team’s results and putting them in context of the whole company
  • Setting realistic goals according to those results
  • Generating challenges and promote a team-player mindset
  • Identifying pitfalls and issues holding the sales down and coming up with solutions
  • Providing insight and feedback for individual performance

If you spend money on someone who’ll take care of all this, your sales reps will enjoy their jobs, they will feel appreciated, they’ll get a significant space to grow and learn, and the sales process will keep getting better, shorter and bring more revenues due to the constant attention it requires and will be getting.

So if your business is out there to earn money rather than to save it, and if you’ve been thinking of a sales manager’s post as a not-so-important one, I hope that I made you think again.

And if you’re a sales manager reading this, I hope it was an inspiring and motivating read for you.