Being a sales manager today is an impossible task. The future is bright though.

Posted by James Pember on 4/11/16 5:38 PM

I was watching a video from global consulting firm BTS the other day, and I was particularly struck by something that Lou Schachter said.

“Being a sales manager today is an impossible task”.

As a sales leader, you’re expected to hit quota, recruit superstars, coach underperformers and deliver up to date and accurate reports to your management. It really is a tough job, made all the more difficult with the added stress and pressure that any sales jobs presents.

What does that mean for sales leaders today?


The impact of sales managers having such a tough job is massive. Most sales teams are underperforming and most sales reps aren’t engaged in their work.

According to global consulting firm Accenture, 86 percent of Chief Sales Officers doubt they will achieve 2016 revenue targets.


An Accenture and CSO Insights report from 2014 suggested that “just 59 percent of sales representatives are expected to achieve his/her quota in 2014, down from 67 percent in 2013”.

Results from a recent global survey on employee engagement “State of the Global Workplace”  showed that only 13% of employees are engaged at work.The scary thing about this statistic is, we know how important engagement is

"Top-performing sales people are twice as likely to be “engaged” in their work and there is as a strong statistical correlation between an engaged representative’s confidence in their company and their sales results. Engaged reps produce new revenue at almost double the pace than those who are not as emotionally vested". (Source: Rewards and Recognition: Employee Engagement).

In addition, most sales reps are underperforming globally. The classic “Power Law” is absolutely visible when you dig into the data.

”Past research from CSO Insights has shown that the top fifth of sales reps generate more than 60 percent of a company’s sales revenues, while the remaining four fifths, including the 65-70 percent of average performers – the so called “frozen middle” – drive just 40 percent of sales”.


What does the future of sales leadership look like?

The combination of mobility, the cloud, sales analytics and cutting-edge content management has created a new opportunity to enhance the performance of the average sales performer” Robert Wollan, global managing director, Accenture Strategy, Sales & Customer Services.

However, it’s not all doom and gloom for sales leaders.

The best sales teams moving forward will focus on improving their performance in 3 clear and distinct ways.

  1. Technology will help automate and scale personalised coaching and training
  2. Teams will focus a lot more on enabling “peer coaching”, not just manager-to-rep coaching
  3. Teams will focus on driving increased engagement with company strategies, goals and targets

Technology will help automate and scale coaching and training

As I mentioned previously, the job of a sales manager really is becoming an almost impossible task. There are so many responsibilities that fall on a sales leader, and coaching and training is ironically, often the first task that is ignored when the stress builds, and the calendar fills up. Pretty much every survey of sales leaders will tell you - sales leaders struggle to find the time to engage in the amount of coaching and training they would like to.

However, as it so often does, technology presents a solution to this problem. Given the vast amounts of data that we can now collect from salespeople - emails, phone calls, LinkedIn requests and CRM activities - we can finally build out personalised and scalable coaching and training programs. Of course, these can be curated by management, however the exciting part is that the creation of a coaching schedule, automated reporting and follow up can all be “ran on autopilot” with software.

Look at how running app Runkeeper helps people train for a race, by carefully planning a weekly routine of runs, by scaling up and down the pace and distance based on best practices and providing motivational coaching along the way. The same can absolutely be done for salespeople, enabling sales leaders to spend more quality time with their people, not wasting time on reporting, and administrative tasks that provide little value to their staff.

Teams will focus a lot more on enabling “peer coaching”, not just manager-to-rep coaching

As I’ve already mentioned, sales leaders can’t be everywhere at once - so one of the most innovative things I see going on inside sales companies is the introduction of “peer to peer coaching”. In addition to the standard model of sales coaching and mentorship, the best companies now leverage all of the ability, knowledge and passion of their salespeople to make sure that is passed onto every new salesperson.

Creating a “buddy” system within a sales team is a fantastic way for senior salespeople to feel appreciated, it helps junior sales reps get an increased amount of time with a coach/mentor and most importantly - as a side benefit - it helps you identify future leaders within your own team. It’s like having your own leadership program within your four walls.

Teams will focus on driving increased engagement with company strategies, goals and targets

Every company has a strategy, and goals connected to those strategies. The problem is: rarely are employees on the lower levels engaged, or even aware of those strategies and goals! I meet hundreds of companies a quarter and many of them don’t even share their corporate goals with their teams, which is ironic, given anyone can find them by simply doing a Google search for the annual report and reading the introduction letter from the CEO.

The importance of setting clear and aligned goals CANNOT be understated.

Companies that have their employees revise or review their goals on a monthly basis are50% more likely to score in the top quartile of business performance, according to Deloitte.

The problem? Setting, visualising and following up on goals is tricky, especially inside big enterprises with tens of thousands of employees.

In addition, many companies have an extremely old-fashioned way of thinking about goals, performance and transparency. Middle management are scared of letting everyone know how they are performing and worry that employees will worry if other teams can see their own performance. The opposite is true however, transparency breeds alignment, focus, enthusiasm and most importantly - engagement.

Software like Betterworks and Sparta are making this easier.


Sales organisations all around the world are struggling. The data and qualitative research shows that. However, there is a bright future, for the companies willing to invest in change. There are 3 clear ways in which I see the best organisations developing and managing their sales organisations; with technology, with peer-to-peer coaching and creating a much clearer understanding of higher company goals.

Topics: sales productivity, tips for sales managers, sales management, sales competitions, motivating sales people, how to motivate sales team, sales motivation, motivating salespeople, sales gamification, enterprise gamification, sales coaching, gamification, goal setting, sales performance

What is Sparta?

Sparta is an end-to-end sales performance solution that helps you coach, train and drive your team into higher performance.

Create sales competitions, set collabarative team targets and inspire your team to crush their goals! 

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