Sunday, May 8, 2011


Many Sales Managers have come and gone in the modular housing industry.  So many in fact that one sales rep I know has had more than twenty in his 30 year stint in modular home sales!  This same sales person has worked for 3 factories during his career but has had only a handful of CEO's and Presidents.  There have been so many sales people come and go that he has lost track of them.

So what are the doubts that every Sales Manager carries with them daily?  What are the reasons for these doubts in the first place?  Most of them come from poor communications with upper management about how they are doing their job.  And what job is that?  I doubt that there is even one single written guideline stating what is expected from a Sales Manager or even a list of their responsibilities and I know that most factory owners don't really tell them what authority they actually have.

No wonder they have doubts about their jobs, their sales staff and even if they will be fired or hugged the next day.  I've written quite a few articles about improving the marketing and sales skills of Sales Managers but unless upper management and the factory owners get on board with helping their Sales Manager, nothing will ever improve.

The job itself is inherent with uncertainties.  

Uncertainty about how their sales reps are performing. Sales managers may only see their reps once a week or once a quarter. How can they be sure what’s happening – or not happening – in the field?

Uncertainty about where they stand with management. When a sales rep succeeds, he or she receives most or all of the credit. But when sales reps come up short, it’s the sales manager who often takes the blame. The situation is not unlike that of the manager of a Major League Baseball team.

Uncertainty about whether their plans will succeed. No matter how brilliant the sales plan, much lies beyond the sales manager’s control. Sales managers cannot control customers, competitors, market conditions, upper management and sometimes, their own sales people.

Sales Managers want to succeed.  They don't want to see their factory closed because they didn't do their job.  So how can they do their job better?  They need a clear and precise set of guidelines that include their responsibilities to their sales reps, the builders, factory management and the modular factory owners. 

They need to take ownership of the marketing plan for their company and help decide the future direction it will take. 

Unfortunately, upper management and factory owners have always viewed Sales Managers as their own personal gate keepers between the sales staff and builders and themselves.  They view the Sales Manager as an expendable position that can be easily filled by one of their sales people which creates a revolving door mentality at many factories.
Everyone's Happy when the arrow points up!

If you are a Sales Manager and think that you are safe in your position, you have to ask yourself a couple of questions.  How long have you been the Sales Manager and What happened to your predecessors?  Are those Doubts creeping in yet?


Anonymous said...

Whoa Coach. Are you saying a Sales Manager takes on a new job and DOES NOT ask what happened to the last sales manager; if it was due to poor performance what did they expect - did the sales manager agree to the sales goals - what did they get - and was the recently dispatched sales manager simply fail. Did the new sales manager ask for a copy of his job description; ask for a recap of the expected goals and objectives of the sales department; and a time frame for expected results.
Did he tie his compensation to building sales and have a bonus plan based on advances over previous years/quarters/months?
I believe many sales managers take on a sales manager job because it may be their first management job and they do not know what to ask and/or expect. If an experienced sales mgr is taking on a new job he should have enough sense to ask the questions posed above. If not he/she is probably poised for future failure.
Sales failure is not always the fault of general management.

Frank S. said...

Coach hit it out of the park. I've been in this business for a couple of decades and every sales manager I've ever met was a salesman before taking the position. There was never a formal set of expected results presented to them before they took the job and almost every one of them was always looking over their shoulder to see if somebody was ready to fire them for something.
I'm sure there are some good sales managers out there but how many actually know how to manage. This is a good old boy business and there is no time for things like sales managers actually working on a marketing plan and having it accepted by upper management.
As far as sales goals, etc, maybe in anonymous's world they are prepared after careful evaluation by knowledgable people in the company, but for us in the real world, the figures are usually just pulled out of the owner's butt in order to keep the factory doors open.
Yes, failure is the fault of general management. Don't blame the underlings.

Anonymous said...

Then there is just the opposite. I can recall one sales manager who decided that reporting was the answer to all his questions and in the process, caused approximately 20 reports per month to be generated by each of his sales staff. Completing these reports meant fewer hours on the road and complete frustration with submitting reports showing the results of the prior reports. At least it made him look busy with all of these reports coming in every day. Meanwhile, sales went out the door!

Anonymous said...

I don't think Coach is saying anything negative about Sales Managers. In fact, he is bringing something up that needs to be addressed by management. There is no definitive mandates for the Sales Manager position which means that most of them have to wing it. They need training for this position that is currently lacking in just about every factory.
We wouldn't send 4 guys off the street to set our houses without training so why do we think that we can give somebody the title of Sales Manager without proper training and goals.

Randy said...

Sales Managers do have a tough job. Most times upper managements goals are "fill the factory". There is no budget for enhancing or improving website....most upper management come from production and think sales is a necessary evil and don't get me going on reports and endless meetings talking about the same thing over and over and over.
Last but no tleast there is a disconnect between sales and marketing and many in upper management think they are the same.

Anonymous said...

The thought process in this industry is in the Stone Age. When our industry looks at the successful more modern practices other industries are using, we may overcome this problem. Sales Managers and Sales Representatives are constantly looked upon as necessary evils. Management looks at the reports as a tool to punish or to show underperformance, but yet never gave any training to help. Its old school and fewer and fewer of these people still remain. Until then, this is what we have... The newer generation (Young Guns) coming into this industry probably will not tolerate this treatment since the rest of the world has moved past this type of treatment.