The Stupid 80/20 Rule – A Series: Part 2

In part 2 in this 80/20 series, I want to illustrate why many exceptional sales people make horrible sales managers. In some cases, the 80%ers underperform because companies have promoted top sales people into management roles that are unqualified as managers. Sales Managers are also often saddled with the individual responsibility of a sales quota, thus making their management role only a portion of their obligation. This combination creates a situation that could increase poor performance rather than reduce it. As a recruiter, I cannot tell you how many sales directors (insert whatever title you want here) actually consider themselves “selling managers”. I know from personal experience that it is hard to give up the sale and instead manage the one who sells. A good sales manager needs to spend time working with their sales team to enable them to sell better, rather than selling for them or having them watch “how a pro does it”. If you could describe to me a few of the best sales people you’ve ever worked with, I bet you would use words like grit, tenacity, hunger, driven, loved a challenge, etc. Where in that list of describing attributes did you mention that they were a great manager of people? In my experience, a large number of your great sales people are not great managers. They are more of an individual contributor. Why then do so many companies feel that they have to “promote” their top sales people into sales management? I challenge you to look at your sales department to see if you have an amazing sales person struggling to manage a sales team. Are they happier as a manager or happier selling? They must work to know each and every person they manage; their motivations, their personality, their fears, and their background. That knowledge is only part of what they need to manage. Sales management is so much more than one simple approach. They also need to have systems and processes in place that let them monitor and measure their team constantly. As a consultant, I would ask the manager of a struggling sales team why a certain sales person was not on target. The one that could give me a reasonable answer was in tune with his team. On the other hand, the one that just denigrated his team and their sales ability showed me that they were totally out of touch and uninterested in motivating for success. Sometimes the inability of the 80%ers to perform lies on the shoulders of their sales manager. This blog is a just a snapshot of one aspect of why I feel the 80%ers underperform. Take a look and see if what you read here has some relevance in your company. What would happen if just one point here allowed you to improve your 80%ers by just 2%. Depending on the size of your company, that could mean thousands or millions in additional revenue. Little things can make a big difference in a company’s performance. As the movie “What About Bob” said, take baby steps Bob, baby steps. Next week in part 3 of this series, I will discuss my personal process used for sales success.


Keenan is A Sales Guy Inc’s CEO/President and Chief Antagonist. He’s been selling something to someone for his entire life. He’s been teaching and coaching almost as long. With over 20 years of sales experience, which he’ll tell you he doesn’t give a shit about, Keenan has been influencing, learning from and shaping the world of sales for a long time. Finder of the elephant in the room, Keenan calls it as he sees it and lets nothing or no one go unnoticed.