Most sales managers aren't evil. They're just trying to help you make their company more successful. Unfortunately, some sales managers believe that the most effective way to achieve this goal isn't building and training a sales team that can deliver consistently. Instead, they think it's smarter to manipulate sales reps by playing head-games and taking short-cuts.
Here are the top five dirty tricks that sales managers play upon sales reps, some insight about why they do it, and suggestions how best to cope.
Dirty Trick #5: The Horserace
- Description: They hire more sales reps for a region than revenue from that region can support so the reps will all compete for the same business.
- Why Managers Do It: They figure if they've got enough horses in the race, they're more likely to have a winner.
- Why It's Stupid: The reps will collide with each other and end up calling on the same people. Ultimately the company ends up looking confused and disjointed.
- Your Coping Strategy: If you're determined to remain employed there, you've got to outsell everyone else. Teamwork rules do not apply; everyone is your competitor. Keep as much information as possible secret. Bring in your sales as if they came out of nowhere. Do not share your "best practices" with anybody, especially your boss.
Dirty Trick #4: Teacher's Pet
- Description: They save all the best leads for the top rep and send the questionable ones to the other reps, just in case they might get lucky.
- Why Managers Do It: They figure they're more likely to make the big numbers because the top people can be counted on to bring in the business.
- Why It's Stupid: When the top rep leaves for greener pastures, sales figures plummet, because most of the mid-range talent will have long since quit in disgust.
- Your Coping Strategy: If you're the top rep, just enjoy the ride. If you're a mid-level rep, you'll need to find your own leads, which means doing research, networking and generally finding the same kind of prospects that normally go to "the pet."
Dirty Trick #3: Horizon Shoot
- Description: They set ambitious targets intended to impress top management when they know that the reps cannot really achieve them.
- Why Managers Do It: They're being pressured by top management to unrealistically increase sales. Rather than doing his job and pointing out that top management is "smokin' weed," the managers decide to play along, hoping for an end-of-quarter miracle.
- Why It's Stupid: End-of-quarter miracles, never all that common, are in decidedly short supply nowadays.
- Your Coping Strategy: This one's easy. Sell as much as you can, just as you would if you had a reasonable target. When (inevitably) nobody makes their quota, you get to enjoy watching the sales manager will get chewed out and probably fired. Hooray!
Dirty Trick #2: Bait and Switch
- Description: They change the compensation plan to drastically or retroactively reduce the compensation that's actually paid.
- Why Managers Do It: Simple greed. They don't want to pay commissions because they don't respect the sales function.
- Why It's Stupid: Employee turnover rates will go through the roof as nobody with any sales talent will stay for more than a few weeks.
- Your Coping Strategy: Begin networking for another job. That sales manager just told you, in the clearest way possible, that he doesn't respect you or your contribution. When you leave, try to take your customers with you. You'll be doing them a favor because, well..., dirt bags are dirt bags. If your firm is willing to screw you, they'll definitely screw their customers, sooner or later.
Dirty Trick #1: The Bully Pulpit
- Description: They demean you as a professional and as a contributor when you don't perform they way they'd like.
- Why Managers Do It: They believe you'll be motivated to work harder, simply to avoid another unpleasant critique.
- Why It's Stupid: This management "style" strips away your self-respect, making it increasingly difficult to sell.
- Your Coping Strategy: First, recognize that the bullying is just a calculated ploy to manipulate you. Second, separate yourself emotionally. Third, refuse to be abused and instead insist upon professional behavior from the manager. Finally, explain what kind of coaching works for you and motivates you and ask your manager to provide input within those limits.