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Are Autocratic Sales Managers The Most Effective? Probably Not

September 16, 2015
By Tracey E. Schelmetic - Telemarketing Software Contributor


It’s somewhat ironic that when newbie salespeople begin to train for outside sales jobs, they are often put on the telephone and research projects to start at inside sales. It’s generally felt that insides sales sows the seeds for a skilled, experienced and successful outside sales person. While this may be true to some degree, there should be an examination of whether a task as critical to sales as telemarketing should be left in the hands of raw recruits.


Most sales start with some kind of telemarketing process, and it often requires half a dozen or more “touches” via telephone or other distance channels before a sale is made. If inside sales personnel don’t have the skills to move the process along the pipeline, companies may be missing out on a broad variety of opportunities.

One of the advantages of beginning in telemarketing or inside sales is that the recruit can have broader contact with the sales manager, and this is a good thing, if the sales manager is effective at his or her job. CEOs acting as part-time sales managers probably won’t cut it, nor will successful outside salespeople who have never managed. The effectiveness of a sales team begins and ends with a skilled, experienced sales manager who understands how to hold team members accountable while engaging in positive encouragement and non-autocratic methods of leadership, according to a recent article by Steve Martin writing for the Harvard Business Review. He recently interviewed over 1,000 sales leaders to better understand the impact of management styles and personality patterns on sales success, and the results were enlightening.

Effective managers are target and deadline driven – as one might expect. They establish firm command over their team by exercising the power of their title and position, and they have keen insight in the hiring process as to who is likely to be cut out for sales and who is not, and they have equally keen intuition over what it will take to mentor individual sales people. Those are not surprises, and this data was borne out by hard numbers in the research. What truly effective sales managers do not do, however, is bark at their sales teams with autocratic authority.

“Rather, it is based upon establishing an environment where sales team members continually seek to prove themselves, thereby driving higher overall departmental performance,” wrote Martin. “The leaders establish this culture using a ‘carrot and stick’ psychological approach. Overachievers receive praise and public recognition, while underachievers are admonished or ostracized until they redeem themselves. In essence, the command instinct is responsible for creating the peer-pressure and attention-seeking environment that eliminates complacency.”

A lack of will (or ability) to monitor sales performance closely was also associated with lower sales numbers. More laissez-faire sales managers, while they might be popular with sales teams, simply aren’t building a successful sales foundation, according to Martin.

“Sales managers who closely monitor and strictly enforce a sales process are more likely to exceed their quotas, and the best sales leaders seek to control the daily behavior of their sales teams,” he wrote.

Whether they are hiring for inside sales, outside sales, or both, it’s in a company’s best interest to find a skilled and driven sales manager who is not a whip-cracker. Instead, the most effective sales managers will be those who find a way to inspire sales team members to perform for their own reasons, whether it’s personal satisfaction, goal-reaching, competition and peer pressure, or a combination of all these things. 




Edited by Rory J. Thompson



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