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January 13, 2024

How Sales Managers Get Set Up To Fail

In the Sales Leadership Awakening podcast, Steven Rosen and Colleen Stanley stress the lack of coaching and support for sales managers, underscoring the need for coaching for these managers. Key skills for sales managers include coaching, executing sales plans, and prioritizing a coaching methodology. 

“Most people don’t leave for money. They leave because of their manager.” – Steve Rosen

“If you don’t have a sales playbook, some type of methodology, I don’t even care how simple it is. Because simple often wins, you can’t coach without a playbook.” – Colleen Stanley

Soft skills like emotional intelligence are crucial for building team trust. Evaluating sales managers’ success should exceed sales quotas and include turnover and team development metrics. Ultimately, investing in sales manager development and support is crucial for organizations to achieve a successful year.

The interactive podbook below contains videos, audio, articles, summaries, transcripts, and YouTube shorts from this podcast episode.

Full Episode Article:

Byline: By sales leadership and coaching experts Colleen Stanley and Steven Rosen


Many sales managers are promoted from being top sales reps without proper training and support to succeed in their new leadership roles. This leads to good performance, happy teams, and turnover problems. However, with the right development and coaching, sales managers can thrive and lead their teams to excellence.

The Uncomfortable Truth

As Executive Coach Colleen Stanley points out, “Like it or not, sometimes we are setting our sales managers up to fail, which leads to not having a blockbuster year, but a lackluster year.” 

Without adequate guidance, even well-intentioned senior leaders inadvertently undermine their sales managers.

Stanley explains, “Nobody’s coaching the coaches…If [senior leaders] desire to have a blockbuster year, right? Cause that’s what we’re talking about, how to make sure the year is great. It’s about getting the sales managers up to speed.”

Coaching the Coaches

Sales consultant Steven Rosen notes the double standard that many organizations apply. “I’m asking my managers to be coaching their reps to make them better salespeople, but yet I’m not doing the same for my managers.”

He advises senior leaders to take responsibility for developing their sales managers. “As much as they realize that their sales managers are part of the sales management process, they need to be coaching their reps. So do senior sales leaders need to be coaching their new sales managers as well as their existing sales managers.”

Required Skills and Mindsets

Becoming an excellent sales manager requires developing new skills beyond being a top sales rep. Stanley recommends that potential sales managers evaluate if they will enjoy the leadership role and have the humility to work on their limitations.

Rosen details key competencies sales managers must build: “How to hire effectively…coaching…how do they execute the sales plan…write an execution plan…[and] what their critical success factors are.” 

Mastering soft skills like “emotion management,” “empathy and assertiveness,” and regulating one’s own emotions are also vital.

Set Up Systems for Success

Sales managers need more than skills training; they require organizational processes and tools to enable excellence. Stanley advocates that companies create “hiring playbooks” with ideal sales profiles and structured interview guides instead of winging the recruiting process.

Rosen notes that centralized sales methodologies and coaching approaches allow managers to develop team members consistently instead of “flavor of the day coaching.” Templates for crafting execution plans also facilitate managers in applying the strategies they learn.

Invest in High Potential Sales Leaders

Stanley shares an insightful story of one technology company that trains high-potential individual contributors in sales leadership before promoting them to those roles. By preemptively teaching leadership, emotional intelligence, coaching skills, and other soft skills, managers enter their roles better prepared to lead teams successfully. Identifying and investing in emerging talent also improves retention.

As Rosen puts it, “If you want to talk about retention strategies, just invest in them and treat them as special…We show them the love they’re more likely to stay than leave.”

Evaluate More Than Just Sales Numbers

While sales results provide essential insight into managers’ effectiveness, senior leaders need a more holistic view. Rosen advises also tracking “people metrics” like turnover, unwanted resignations, and team member growth and development. 

He explains, “If you achieve your numbers, but you’ve burnt your people out, there are other signs that the CRO wants to look at.”

Stanley also notes the financial impacts of turnover, poor morale, and unrealized potential are rarely quantified. By taking a broader, longer-term perspective, leaders can build healthy, sustainable success by supporting sales managers appropriately.

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