Sales Management – do you lead, manage or supervise?


Leadership, management and supervision; each has its place, in controlling and driving the selling function in a business.  We have observed many real world situations and our high level view is that you can lead or supervision people but management is only really suited to controlling processes.  For an example we have considered a typical sales department.

Consider a “manager” who, for example, monitors the number of telephone calls that are made by sales people.  This is supervision and the measure of success is simply the volume of effort (inputs).  The team will ensure they are seen to be on the phone, even if the call is irrelevant to the job at hand.  Also, in such a regime people are typically disinclined to use their initiative or move away from the prescribed way of doing the job.

Are you getting the best out of your team? Call us to discuss how it might be even better

Are you getting the best out of your team? Call us to discuss how it might be even better

Now consider a sales manager, who monitors performance by observing the results of the team’s processes e.g. a sales pipeline through which the manager can monitor (outputs) such as; conversion ratios, or the accuracy of forecasts for when a deal will close, its value and the probability of winning.  The team’s behaviour will now be more aligned to the needs of the business.

A good sales manager will also be a leader who shows trust and demonstrates their standards and values, leading by example.  They will get the best out of their people through coaching and mentoring, allowing them put their own interpretation on their role within the wider context of the overall job.  They get their own rewards through the success of those they lead.  When people are motivated by a good leader they are more likely to think beyond the inputs and outputs to the outcomes – they are more likely to care that the company succeeds rather than just themselves.

  • Ensure you use the right mix of leadership, management and supervision and that each discipline is applied at the right time and in the right place, to achieve the required outcome.
  • When you recruit people to do a job where you expect them to use their judgement, don’t de-motivate them by supervising their every move. If you cannot trust them you should not have recruited them.
  • It is important to recognise that monitoring at the activity level, such as sales calls made, is only measuring inputs and outputs to the process when it’s the outcomes in the form of orders which are really required.
  • Measurement needs to occur across the whole spectrum of the selling operation and the output from one measurement point should provide input to the next.  What you measure will also influence behaviour, so you need to ensure you choose your measurements wisely and they deliver leading indicators to the business, so that corrective action can be taken in a timely fashion.
  • Daily monitoring of the business is best achieved through good management information gathered from well-designed processes, whose outcomes address the Critical Success Factors of the business.
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