How to Cope With Bad Sales Managers

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Working for a good sales manager makes your job a thousand times easier (not to mention more fun). She'll help you out with any problems, give you advice and good coaching, shout your praises to the team when you're having a good month, and protect your back from upper management as needed. The relationship between a good sales manager and a good salesperson is a partnership in which each party knows the role he needs to take to promote the partnership's success.

Who are the bad managers?

Bad sales managers run the gamut from the ones who micromanage every moment of the team's time to the ones who hide in their offices until the quota results come out and then emerge to yell at the team for not doing better. Sometimes, problem sales managers are transfers from another department who don't know anything about sales, but figure that won't matter, because how complicated can sales be, right? More often, the toxic sales managers are terrific salespeople who got kicked upstairs to management with little or no training on how to manage. Like most star-quality salespeople, they're demanding, focused, and goal-oriented.

These former salespeople are trained to think of every challenge as an opportunity. Now that they are managing a sales team, the people in their team are the tools by which an opportunity can be achieved. If a salesperson on the team is accomplishing a lot, the sales manager will give him the juiciest territory and best lead lists, because he knows that salesperson will get the most out of them.

Meanwhile, the manager will try to help the less successful salespeople do better – but unfortunately, since he's never been taught how to manage people, his attempts usually make things worse. He may get abusive because he honestly thinks that that will help motivate a struggling salesperson (or he may be trying to motivate that person right out of the office). He might breathe down the salesperson's neck, insisting on constant updates, coming along on sales appointments and then taking over the presentation to “show him how it's done,” etc.

How to Cope

One way to cope with this kind of manager is to ask for a “trial period” of hands-off management. Ask him to let you do your thing for two weeks, or more if you think you can sell it, and see how your numbers look at the end of that time period. Since most micromanaging sales managers respect results above all else, if you can prove that you can deliver results without all the hovering, he may back off and give you more space. If your numbers slip later, he will probably go back to monitoring your every move for a while.

Some of the less pleasant management problems happen because the sales manager is afraid of failure. This is especially true of sales managers who were top salespeople. These guys are used to being very much in control of their activities and their success. Now, as a manager, his success depends on how well his sales team does and he has far less control over them than over himself.

If this sounds like your sales manager, you can help a little by giving him plenty of information about your activities. If your manager knows you have made thirty cold calls today, have another ten prospects in the pipeline, and are going on two appointments tomorrow, he'll feel a lot more comfortable and less inclined to either beat you up or hover over you all day.

Another tool for managing your manager is hard facts. The more detailed information you have on paper (or on a computer) about your activities, the better. If your company uses a CRM, put ridiculous amounts of notes in every account about what you did and when. Yes, this will take time, but it will also work wonders at keeping your manager off your back. Not only does it help him to know what you're working on, but it also shows that you're working hard and accomplishing things, even if your number of closed sales happens to be down this week.