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Is it the Manager’s Fault?

By Joane Ramsey

Is it the Manager’s Fault?

Recently I had an interesting call with a Vice President of Sales for a distributorship company. He contacted me because he was looking for training for a sales manager that was struggling with building trust and getting his salespeople to follow him. Could I recommend a class for him?

Through the initial conversation, I learned that this was not a new sales manager but a veteran that had been working with a team for the past 10 years. Prior to becoming a sales manager, this individual was a very successful salesperson within this organization. I asked, “Why now? Was the issue not apparent before?” The Vice President explained to me that the company had recently re-structured the way they go to market and went from working on a territory to working with district managers, instead. Now this sales manager was truly managing people.

After a few more questions to understand why he was having a trust issue, I learned that the distrust stemmed from the perception that this sales manager was always out for himself by making sure he achieved his quota, sold the most in his territory and gained information from his salespeople that would benefit him. After all, this sales manager had been a top sales performer all his life prior to becoming a sales manager. He had no formal sales management training and followed a style of managing that replicated how he had been managed by his superiors, “If I told you to do so, I expect you to go ahead and get it done.” As a high performing salesperson who followed up on what he was expected to do, it probably did not occur to him that not all salespeople are created equal. As a result of his non-coaching and unsupportive behavior, he was not seen as a motivator or a leader that someone would want to follow. Most of his salespeople blamed him for not achieving their numbers, or for not riding along with them enough. The Vice President thought these were all excuses while the sales manager could not understand why this was happening since he continued to achieve his numbers. Why was it that his salespeople could not replicate what he was doing?

The importance of understanding your organization is critical in situations like this. The company’s corporate culture is driven by a leader who expects his people to follow thru on his requests with high expectations that are made very clear to all, “If I told you to do it, I expect you to get it done!”

The organization also provides incentives for their salespeople based upon their individual contributions. You probably get where I am going with this, how can you expect a person to become a manager who can build a collaborative team when they are receiving incentives for individual performance in a very competitive industry. He is a salesperson at heart and he wants to win!

Bottom line is that not every successful salesperson turns into a successful sales manager. In this case, the company has a decision to make:

1. Invest in training, coaching and mentoring for this sales manager to help him understand how to become a manager and how to motivate a team by providing him with the know-how and mentoring he will need to change his behavior. This approach has to be coupled with changing the way sales managers receive incentives and bonuses. This will take time, at least 12 to 18 months to help him; and another 12-24 months to rebuild trust with his team. It is a time-consuming journey that the sales manager has to be willing to go through it; otherwise, it is a waste of your investment.


2. Maximize his strengths and place him in a position where his skills will shine and he will continue to contribute his talents to the organization, potentially with higher rewards for him and the company. This has to be done carefully in order to avoid him thinking he is being demoted. Not all salespeople make good sales managers despite training and coaching. Therefore, some salespeople are best left in a sales position that covers a territory.

So, what do you think? Is it the sales manager’s fault he is not doing a better job or is it the organization’s for creating an incentive structure that does not align with organizational cultural goals? If you would like to engage in a chat, please feel free to reach out at

Published: August 25, 2017


Joane Ramsey

Senior Performance Improvement Consultant

A native of Brazil, Joane first came to the U.S. as a foreign exchange student with AFS. She returned to Brazil where she successfully ran and sold two different businesses. Returning to the US in 1992, Joane put her business ownership experience to work with a small manufacturing company running the day-to-day operations and facilitating sales with South American companies. She joined SEG in 1999, where her experience has helped her clients get the results they desired. Joane has a B.S. degree in business management from North Central College, where she majored in international business and Spanish.

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