Ray Collis

The Cost Of Bad Sales Leadership

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Bad Sales Leadership

There is an X Factor among sales teams that is over looked. It is that of leadership in the form of the sales manager.

A sales manager who is a leader can transform ordinary sales people into champions; a bad one will hold everybody back. Just this week we saw a great example of this.

A major office supplies company had long suffered from poor leadership at the top and a culture organization-wide of:

  • Excessive bureaucracy
  • Poor communication
  • Limited innovation
  • A culture of blame
  • Poor teamwork.

Looking in more detail the following problems were evident:

  • There was confusion about the lines of communication, with sales people going over the head of the sales director to have decisions reversed by the CEO.
  • Levels of trust were low owing to u-turns on previous commitments made by management regarding commission payments.
  • There was no documented sales plan, no mechanisms to review performance and no written job descriptions, or contracts of employment.
  • Sales meetings were both irregular and ineffective.

How to calculate the cost of these problems stemming from bad leadership? Well, the company was haemorrhaging customers and sales at a rate of up to 15% annually. After a while, this loss compelled the company to take action and to reorganize sales.

The series of changes culminated in each sales person developing and agreeing their own individual sales plan. The results were important, however when the manager was moved aside the performance of the team soared to new levels. What is the lesson? Well, sometimes sales managers hold back their teams.

Working with so many sales teams we could clearly see that:

  • Job related performance and satisfaction (we sometimes forget that the two are inextricably linked) depends more on the quality of the manager than almost anything else. Indeed, it seems that people cannot really like their jobs, if they don’t like their managers!
  • Leadership, empowerment, coaching and motivation are not soft stuff, they have the potential to boost the performance of individuals and teams by as much as one third.
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