There are different types of sales managers you run into during your time in sales. You can learn something from most of them, but leadership being as tricky as it is, it’s often easier to point to how you get things wrong than it is to elucidate what makes one effective. These are the seven types of sales leaders you find on the sales floor, six of which you should avoid.
The Deal Manager – Manages Deals, Doesn’t Lead
The deal manager isn’t going to lead you. They are going to make you do a territory or account plan, and they aren’t going to provide you with any coaching. The deal manager does what you suspect; they manage deals. The deal manager isn’t concerned with your personal and professional development, your long terms goals, or the source of your motivation. The deal manager is only concerned with deals. You can learn a lot about deal management from this type of sales leaders, but you won’t gain much more during the time you work for them.
The Sycophant – Yes Man to Executive Leadership
I break out in hives when I interact with Sycophants. They’re difficult to talk to because they always have their lips pressed against their senior leader’s posterior. The sycophant tows the company line, come Hell or high water, providing a great sense of consistency and certainty, regardless of how bad, how unrealistic, or how difficult the initiative. They aren’t concerned at all with your performance, so long as it doesn’t reduce their standing with those above them in the hierarchy, as their strong desire is to climb up by sucking up.
Desk Jockey – Always Available by Email
If you have a desk jockey as a sales manager, you may not recognize them without first going to LinkedIn to view their profile, hoping that they updated their profile more recently than they updated you. The Desk Jockey will never join you in the field, and they’ll never visit clients with you. Their natural habit is sitting at their desk, working for their company instead of their team.
The Super Closer – Closes and Prevents You from Doing So
There may not be any more fun one can have as a sales manager as that of the super closer. You pretend your team needs you to close deals, and you insert yourself into the deal, knowing that you are going to bring it home safely. The Super Closer doesn’t trust their team to win deals on their own, believing the way they create value for the people on their team is helping them close deals. Working for a Super Closer will stunt your growth, preventing you from learning, and making the adjustments that allow you to win bigger and better accounts on your own.
The Reminiscer – The Blueprint for Your Success
The Reminiscer might also be called The Legend. The Reminiscer spends most of their time recounting their adventures in sales, and how they did it when they carried a bag. They are sure that worked for them must work for everyone, without exception, and without variation. The Reminiscer believes his people are not selling correctly and that his advice would work, if only they did what he did when he sold (even though he didn’t do very well himself). The Reminiscer doesn’t have any clue as to how to help his team improve, and he is modeling the sales managers for whom he worked.
Activity Manager – More is Better Than Better
The activity manager is a particular type of sales manager. They know that producing better results only comes from more activity. They are not concerned with the quality of a client interaction or anything that might require effectiveness. Activity Managers cannot help you improve and grow, so they go to what they know from their time in sales, that it is a numbers game. More calls are better than fewer calls, even if they are awful. A higher number of meetings are better than fewer, even if the meetings are with people and companies who are not qualified. While activity is essential, effective activity is considerably more critical.
The True Sales Leader
The Sales Leader is also just that, a leader. The sales leader will require much more of you than you would require of yourself. They’ll expect you to develop yourself personally and professionally. You will be required to do territory and account plans, to create new opportunities, to use your technological tools, and to win deals.
They’ll coach you, which will frequently feel more challenging than telling you what to do, but by making you work things out for yourself, they force you to grow. If you need them to help with a deal, they’re happy to give an assist, but they aren’t going to run your sale for you. When your leaders charge you with something difficult, they’ll challenge leadership, protecting you when it is called for, even if you eventually have to do what your leadership team asks of you.
You’ll sometimes find them at their desk, but you are just as likely to see them in a meeting with members of their team or sitting in front of a client or prospect, pursuing different outcomes than the desk jockey. While the sales leader will tell stories, their primary use will be to teach something about a principle that will drive you beliefs and your actions. What your real sales leader will want from you isn’t just activity. Instead, they’ll want you to take the initiative, the right and productive activity.
Young people often ask me what kind of company they should work for when they start in sales. They hope the answer includes cool companies in the technology space or companies where they can make a lot of money, none of which meet my criteria for how you learn to sell. If you want to work in sales—or any other role—pick a place with excellent leadership, great training, and great development opportunities. Spending a couple of years with people who care about your growth and development will serve you better than a job that pays a little more or has unicorn status.