What Do Even The Best Sales Managers Do Badly?

As the saying goes, “Feedback is the breakfast of champions”.

Surveys and research provide excellent opportunities for feedback and, as managers seldom get chance to validate their performance with their teams, research that shows what management is doing right and wrong should always make interesting reading.

One of the ILM research papers identified what functions are specifically done badly by managers, and I’ve listed below what the paper said were the top ten failures.

It is always fascinating to assess yourself against the general norm, and to see what lessons we can get from it.

Here is the ILM list, in rank order:

Clear Communication

It won’t surprise you to see this up there in the lead.

Communication will never be perfect, but it’s the key component that everyone says is paramount for good performance.

Making your communications clear, understandable, accurate and observable is vital for Sales Managers to get the best from themselves and their teams.

Effective Planning

We all appreciate how planning is vital to successful implementation of strategy, but the research shows it’s number two in the list of functions done badly by managers.

You don’t have to be an expert planner; you just need to recognise the correct processes that will elicit improved planning techniques.

Dealing With Conflict

Conflict inevitably will occur because we’re dealing with human beings, and we all have our own ways of dealing with situations.

Being able to identify the causes, deal with the issues and defuse the disagreements will often increase your influence within the team.


This ability will often set you apart from the rest, as quality decision-making can often be the difference between successful implementation of a sales campaign and the inevitable failure that poor decisions bring.

Learning from mistakes is key, and the knowledge you gain from making errors can help you refine your processes for future choices.

Giving Effective Feedback

This function, when done badly, can have a massive effect on morale, motivation and performance.

The style of feedback you choose as sales manager can often make or break the relationship with team members and will influence short and long-term results.


If this is done badly, the obvious stress caused can play havoc with results.

Being able to delegate responsibilities and authority is a key component to getting people to rise to the occasion and bring out their potential abilities

Listening To And Being Accessible To Direct Reports

Failure to be there and be available to team members often causes subconscious rifts to develop, as sales people need to have sounding boards available to create ideas and check situations.

Without that opportunity, sales managers lose direct contact and respect from their teams.

Goal setting

Often seen as the key strength of sales managers, the research showed it often is the cause of poor motivation and lower performance.

Coupled with the others in this list, poor goal setting, especially through communication errors, poor planning and bad feedback, can result in the blame being passed back to management from the sales teams.

Coaching Sales People

Seen as the Holy Grail by many managers, poor coaching can often lead to sales people taking their own routes and failing to learn from development opportunities.

You’ll always raise your people above average if your coaching skills are developed and utilised.

Consistently Demonstrating Emotional Intelligence

Seen as one of the most important personal and interpersonal skills to develop, EQ needs to be demonstrated at every level of interaction with your team.

Without it, you lose confidence in yourself, are unable to motivate effectively and fail to build cohesion with the team.

You lose the momentum that can be a real driver of successful results.

A Board director of a Pharmaceutical company wrote “A globalised workforce, increase in compliance and regulatory complexity, more public scrutiny, a faster communication environment, well-informed employees, poor talent retention, profit motives in the complex market place and other pressures have increasingly put an ascending pressure and focus on leadership”

If we are to improve these ten functions of Sales Management that are being eroded through time pressures and increased forces from external dimensions, we have to first of all be aware of them and then take action to exponentially improve so the results we achieve are consistent with the efforts we put forth.