How to Relieve the CEO of Their “Sales Manager” Role

Sales Manager as Player/Coach

We often encounter small to medium sized companies that have grown to the point that they need a sales manager. The President has filled the role and now finds himself unable to effectively run his company AND manage the sales force. He’s frustrated and is looking for a quick solution.

So, the search begins to find his perfect replacement, or as my recruiter friends refer to it; “the purple squirrel”.  The job description includes a laundry list of management responsibilities like recruiting and hiring salespeople, creating sales plans, training and coaching and even P&L responsibility.  After all, the President is trying to shed the time and energy spent managing the sales team.  Then, almost as an afterthought is the final item on the job description.  It reads something along the lines of “maintain an active book of business” or “meet or exceed annual personal sales goals”.

More often than not, the hiring requirements for the job are built around industry experience, product knowledge, proven success hitting performance goals, etc.  All of these are sales related without a mention of management skills. This is catastrophe waiting to happen.

The combination of a successful manager and high performing salesperson is almost impossible to find.  Hence the name “purple squirrel” More often than not, the hire ends up being a disappointment.

Problems on the management side of the equation include frustration with the lack of coordination with other departments, rising sales department costs, lack of sales training and poor hiring decisions.  If a strong manager is put in place, we hear complaints about customers being ignored, disappointing sales growth, and losing market share to competition.

Our world is more competitive and more fragmented.  It’s time to reconsider the idea of a producer sales manager. Up and coming companies have changed their thinking and now look for successful managers to lead sales teams.  Conversely, selling is a full time job.  Meeting sales objectives should not be relegated to part time status.  Attempting to combine selling and management in one role ultimately results in both functions performing at sub-par levels.

There’s a reason championship teams no longer have player/coaches.