When I was younger with a new family, we tried out something new … a boat. We didn’t go for a small boat, we went for medium sized 28’ boat that you could sleep on. A nice Sea Ray with a significant price tag. In the end, we did it for a couple years and then made a family decision that we enjoyed golf and a nice pool more. But it was a great experience.

What has that got to do with drive and motivation? I was on the phone with my sales manager on the Monday after picking up the boat and he was very excited for me. I found it odd, as he was never the ‘interested in your personal life’ kind of manager. I voiced my question:

Me: “Why are you so excited about our buying a boat?”

Him: “I love to see you with a big new boat, hopefully you will upsize the house too. The bigger your mortgage, the harder you will work and the more you will sell”

Motivation, drive, that thing that pushes us to the next level is impossible to teach, very different for each person and often very personal. Good managers understand that and help it flourish. They also understand how to avoid hiring those without it.


I have been reflecting on this cliché for a few days: good players (sales reps) don’t make good coaches (managers). There are a few exceptions to the rule in sports (Pete Rose comes to mind). But what about business?

Upon reflection, I believe that there are a few keys to success when someone goes through the pro’s and con’s and decides to become a sales manager:

·         Passion: To move into sales management, the passion must shift from the joy of being in sales and winning that deal to the joy of building a great team and making others successful. It is about putting in place an ecosystem that will make the team successful. Making others successful must be fulfilling, because very few managers win public sales rewards and the best sales reps make more than their managers.

·         Ability to let go: This is so hard. The ability to back away from the business, moving from player to coach and letting the team do it their way. We all know the impact of micromanagement on sales people.

I would hypothesize that those who return to sales after a stint in management have challenges with these two. They want the limelight back, they love being directly responsible for their own fate or they don’t want to be in the back working the system to make their team successful.

So, is the sports analogy relevant?

In sports, a large part of success is based on natural ability which declines over time due to physical changes. These player’s set their goals on being a great player. Coaching is a second place activity, a way for the player to hang on to the game a while longer when the body gives out. This may be why best sports coaches are not players. If someone starts out wanting to be a coach, it is not viewed as a consolation prize. It is the prize, it is their way of being in the game.

That is why I think the sports analogy is flawed.

I would suggest that a great sales rep can move from sales to management if that is what they want. There has to be a shift in passion and the rep must look at this change as the goal, the next exciting step, not as a consolation prize (i.e. They still want to be a rep). The danger arises when the stellar sales rep becomes a manager because it is ‘the right next career step’ instead of the change they want to make. It that scenario, they hold on to what they loved (being a player) and end up failing as a manager (evolving into a coach).


I was in a course last week and the speaker stated that a sales manager is not able to motivate. Motivation comes from within and you cannot change that. If it exists, you can feed it (i.e. motivated by recognition, provide recognition), but not create it.

It is an interesting thought, and upon reflection, seems true. Someone can get me to do something, but it is my own internal drive and goals that pushes me to get things done.

The speaker followed up with the statement that a sales manager can only de-motivate. The two easiest ways to demotivate a sales rep:

1.   Pile on a good rep. Give them too high a quota or too much work.

2.   Tolerating the low performer. A proven way to demotivate the entire team.

So true.


This is an age old question that all sales reps are bound to ask at some point in their career: Do I become a sales manager or remain a career professional sales person? (And it is a question asked by a reader …)

Prior to joining the company where my personal services corporation currently sells its services, I moved from sales to management. In that case, it was not a big decision as it was a hybrid role (I was a sales manager but retained my own territory. A unique opportunity necessitated by the size of the company). It was a lot of fun and a great learning experience.

But, my last move was a big one. I thought about it for 2 years before I finally moved out of the sales role (that I LOVED) to sales management. Agonized over the move. When is the right time? Will I be happy? Can I do the job effectively? I have been out of management for 4 years, should I move back? Do I want to lose control of my time? Do I want the office life? In the back of my mind was the cliché about good sales reps making bad sales managers. So how did I decide?

For me, I did the Ben Franklin, listing the pros and cons on two sides of a piece of paper. What kept me as a sales rep where the weight that those pro’s and con’s held. As time shifted, so did the weights.

The Ben Franklin on moving into Sales Management:

Pros Cons
– Increased stock – yielding long term rewards to increase momentum toward retirement. – Decrease in pay in the short term (Everyone knows, the best managers work to ensure their reps make more than them)
– Ability to grow personally. I have done sales for 18 years and was getting bored. Other things had provided a challenges (children in the early years, golfing, etc.) but boredom was setting in. – Loss of flexibility of schedule (More travel, longer hours, calendar becomes public domain)
– Ability to lead a broad team and have a bigger impact. Expanding from the current leadership role (Sales Rep leader) to a broader leadership role. – Loss of direct control (Micromanagement is the death of the sales manager)
– Initially, I could see myself as a rep to retirement. Over time, that shifted. I wanted to run a sales organization. So, moving into this role was a required step – thereby moving to a pro. – Dramatic decline in handicap (I was at an 11, playing 70+ rounds a year and could see single digits after a stellar 80 in which I missed a 3 footer for 79)
– Expansion of network. The opportunity to work with a whole new network of people in different way. – Less time with my family
– It was a job I found exciting and it was time.  


It was a very tough decision. There are times when I still pine for the days as a sales rep (especially when I am in day 3 of a 4 day meeting in July .. looking out the window). In the end, the last point became the tipping point. I took 2 years to decide because the sales management jobs up to that point did not excite me. But when my current job came up, I knew that was the one. I went for it because I knew it was going to be really exciting, that it would stretch me and that I would learn a ton.

In the end, this is a very personal decision. During the interview process for my current role, I read more than 10 books on management to refresh my skills.

I would suggest to those thinking about making the decision, read Becoming a Manager. It is the only book that I have ever read that takes people through the transition. It can also serve as a great reality check.

But in the end, look inside. You can be whatever you want to be.


I am not sure how this hit my email inbox, but it did and I set it aside. There are some interesting nuggets:

If you are currently a sales manager (Director of Sales, VP of Sales, etc.) or an aspiring sales manager, where do you get your training? If you are like me, you learned on the job by being promoted into management based on your success and communication skills with your fellow account managers. More times than not, you were selected by senior management because you were the best person at the time of the position vacancy.

(Comment: Not the most profound of insights. One would hope you got promoted because you were the best candidate?)

Back in the 70’s, Dr. Laurence Peter wrote a book called The Peter Principle. It focused on how, quite often, individuals are promoted beyond their level of competency (i.e., a good salesperson may not make a good sales manager). So, many of us were never trained on how to manage and strategize sales and salespeople when we started out. If anything, we have been educated through publications, mentors, and common sense based on our own personal experiences with other managers.

(Comment: I am note sure what the point of the ‘Peter Principle’ is. Of course people get promoted past their current competency, that is how people grow. One could argue that people are promoted based on a core competency: the ability to grow and succeed in a role. After all, would I promote someone who did not have the skills and could not grow to meet the goals? Of course the answer is no.)

To be a successful sales manager today, you need advanced human, business, and sales management skills that will help you and your team reach the corporate sales quota profitably.

Based on my experiences, I’ve collected the top ten variables to be a successful sales manager in today’s economy (not in any particular order):

1. To succeed in sales management, you need a large ego that is manageable. Daily, you will be tested about your business model theorems and programs, so you need to be strong enough to deal with being critiqued by your boss and your team members simultaneously and be confident enough to stand your position when you know you are right.
2. You must understand sales forecasting and have business vision. It is the key to successful sales program efficiency and evaluations.
3. To be a successful sales manager (and to get paid correctly), you need to understand the variables that are involved in your sales representatives’ quota calculation and its accuracy potential.
4. You must understand paperwork, because all sales managers have it in some volume. Off-line or online, your life will include management and review of sales quotas, expense reports, proposals, employee performance reviews, and sales forecasts.
5. You must have a sense of humor. Sales management by its very nature is a dog and hero syndrome. Some days you’re loved and some days you’re not on everyone’s holiday list. Being able to laugh will get you through the tough days.
6. You must understand technology and marketing strategy. No, not the programming and technical code intricacies of development, but general IT capabilities of your product or service (and yes, I have met sales managers in IT who were technology phobic).
7. Respect for the customer. Senior management teams of Fortune 1000 firms are suspect at best when dealing with salespeople. They have dealt with car salespeople, real estate salespeople and telemarketing firms. Just because your product is more sophisticated does not mean that senior management prospects will trust you. By showing respect to the prospect, you will develop their long-term trust and greater sales opportunities.
8. You must have the flexibility of a poker player to succeed as an IT sales manager. The IT business arena is continually changing. Being rigid in your operational policies and your sales model will only cause failure. Sometimes you just need to roll with your sales team to get the big deals.
9. You must be able to sell IT professional services and applications. You do not have to be the firm’s number one salesperson, but you have to prove to the management team and your account managers that you’ve been there and done that. Credibility always makes allies.
10. You must care about your sales team. Yes, at times they may increase your blood pressure, but they are just like you. They have wives, husbands, significant others, mortgages, car loans, and children. Treat them the way you were treated (or the way you wanted to be treated when you worked for a sales manager). They don’t work for you – they work with you. Hey – it’s only a job.

(Comment: I don’t agree with all of this, but it is food for thought, and that is good enough. I would absolutely make Number 10 – Number 1. One of the mistakes I see all the time. It is all about the team)


While on vacation I read an interesting book: the handbook of coaching. It was not what I expected.

It is a book that explains how to become a professional coach, like an executive coach or life coach. I have always told my wife that she would make an amazing executive coach, as she really understands people and how to manage.

One chapter I found particularly interesting was the do’s and don’ts of management coaching. Interesting thoughts:

  • Do direct the structure and process of the session (focus the conversation, the time constraints, the rules of the tribe) and the process issues of the session (the flow, sequence, what is appropriate when and where).
  • Do ask questions that explore ways your client might manage the future.
  • Do listen and reflect back what you hear to discover if your hearing is accurate.
  • Do ask your client questions about his or her experience that guide the conversation toward a preferred future.
  • Do stay with the coaching agenda, the topics in hand stay within time constraints.
  • Do stay in the present and future tenses, always looking for options and possibilities. Use yourself as an instrument of the future.
  • Don’t direct the content of the discussion or impose a prearranged agenda on your client.
  • Don’t rescue or offer direct advice to the client.
  • Don’t dominate the conversation.
  • Don’t compare the clients experience with anyone else’s, including your own.
  • Don’t let the client make you captive.
  • Don’t try to repair the past or to solve unsolvable problems.

I personally found the don’ts very interesting and a good lesson as I have found myself saying ‘Well, I did it this way’ instead of saying ‘Have you tried or considered doing it this way (Without a personal reference)’.

Interesting. Always learning.