TALKING SALES 146: "Top 3 sales management mistakes"

John Smibert

sales-management-mistakes-2-700x400                            "What's your sales team culture like?" - discussion with John Smibert.

Being a sales manager is tough. We all make mistakes that will negatively impact on sales.  I know I've made more than most over my career.  And that's despite the fact that from time to time I've had some great sales leaders and CEO's that coached me - but unfortunately not all the time.  And boy did I have to learn the hard way.

TonyHughesSo when I caught up with sales leadership guru, Tony Hughes, recently I asked him what he thought were the worst mistakes that sales managers typically make and what they should do to avoid them.

Tony focused on three mistakes that brought back some nightmarish memories for me.  

So I have shared here what he said in the hope you can avoid some of these.

See Tony's full interview where he provides some wonderful insight for sales leadership a on what they need to do to lead their sales team to success.


Tony is a leading author and keynote speaker in the world of B2B sales and sales leadership. He is well known for his strategic selling book "The Joshua Principle" and for the RSVPselling methodology.

See more of the 'TALKING SALES' series here


John:   Hello! I've got Tony Hughes with me again - welcome back, Tony!

Tony:     Thanks, John - good to be with you!

John:    Tony, I'd like to get more advice on the table for sales managers. I know both of us have been sales leaders over the years, and I've got to say I've made a lot of errors and mistakes, and I'm guessing you have [laughs]; that's how we learn obviously. So, help the guys learn. What do you think are some of the biggest mistakes and biggest challenges and errors that sales managers make in the modern day?

Tony:    Okay. This really falls into a couple of areas. The first thing I want to talk about is culture. The thing that's important in business as a leader is to make sure that it's about serving your people, it's not all about you. I think it's really important as a sales manager to serve your people and build a culture in them where they serve their customers and their markets, and then also manage expectations above you; it's really important to absorb the pressure not pass it on. I see so many sales managers apply the blowtorch to their salespeople, that then run off and actually damage relationships and damage opportunities. So that's really the first thing, a culture where you believe in your people and you support your people. You don't rescue them, but you believe in them and support them and you create a culture of service; you for your people and them for their customers is the first thing.

sales-management-mistakes-5-dictatingJohn:   And there's some very good ways of doing that that I've come across more recently. You want to know how big the deal is and when it's going to close, but never ask that question of the sales guy. Ask them questions that help them get insight into their customer and put them on the side of the customer.

Tony:   That's true, that's true. The second biggest mistake that I see sales managers make is they either hire the wrong people, or they fail to move the wrong people already in their team on. If you've got a salesperson carrying say a two million dollar quota, and they're the wrong person and they're underperforming, by the time you manage them out and onboard a new person... Ignoring the recruitment fees and all of those other things that go on, they've cost you a million dollars worth of revenue, they could potentially do brand damage to your company and to you personally, and they damage momentum inside a team.

sales-management-mistakes-4-poor-team-memberJohn: You've lost time.

Tony:   Oh, yes. And if someone's the wrong person, you've got to make the call and get on with it. I've been guilty of, in essence, being too compassionate with people, but you're not doing the right thing by them; they need to move on the thing that they can actually be successful in.

The third thing that's really important is to make sure that salespeople understand the business problems that they solve for customers. We've got to get salespeople to stop talking about who they are, what we do as an organisation, how it works, why you should buy from us over the competition.

John:   So what's a mistake a sales managers make in that respect?

Tony: They allow a lot of product training and a lot of pressure to be applied around product.

sales-management-mistakes-6-trainingJohn:   Oh, okay.

Tony:    What they need to do is invest in training and developing business acumen for people, so that they can engage at a more senior level earlier and talk about the business outcomes they can help clients deliver, make it evidenced and talk about the way we can help them manage risk. Sales managers need to instill that but then coach. They need to get out from behind a CRM system and a spreadsheet, and touch the deals and coach people. Don't go and do the selling for them but coach them in selling, make sure they've got access to those right relationships, that they know how the customer defines value, that they understand the buyer's process.

John:   And you just touched on it, but one of the biggest mistakes I see a lot of sales managers make, particularly successful salespeople that moved into sales management, is they take over the deal from the sales guy.

Tony:   They do. They'll elbow them out of the way and say, "I'll go and close this."

John: Yes.

Tony:   But the truth is in business-to-business enterprise style selling the most important phase is not closing at all, that'll just be a natural next step, if opening and establishing trust and establishing value is actually done well.

John: A real discovery process and challenging process, and really interchange with the customer very early in the process.

Tony:   Yes. Sales managers need to be all about their people and their team, and they need to focus on being great coaches and mentors for their people, and help them have conversations of value with buyers.

John:    Great advice - thank you very much, Tony!

Tony: Thanks, John!


More interviews with Tony Hughes:



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