Guest post Monday brings us Jeb Blount, author of People Follow You: The Real Secret to What Matters Most in Leadership. As a sales manager, you owe it to yourself to pay close attention to Jeb’s keen insights on leadership.

“Leaders aren’t born, they are made. And they are made just like anything else — through hard work. And that’s the price we’ll have to pay to achieve that goal, or any goal.” – Vince Lombardi

Sales Managers have the hardest job in sales. Why?

Sales Managers bear 100% of the responsibility for the performance of their sales team, yet receive little glory for their efforts. In most cases, sales managers earn less than their top salespeople.

Yet, the best sales managers work longer hours, endure more stress, and have greater responsibility than the salespeople they manage.

Making things worse is the fact that salespeople are harder to lead and manage than any other employee. They are emotional and often irrational people who demand attention. Because salespeople are essentially in jobs where rejection is the norm, sales managers are often called upon to be coaches, mentors, mothers, fathers, and sometimes therapists in order to keep their troops motivated, focused, and delivering on sales goals.

If this isn’t hard enough, sales managers are often put in the position of shielding their salespeople from corporate policy wonks, accountants and operators who have absolutely no understanding of the psychology of salespeople.

It is a wonder why any sane human being would voluntarily choose to be a sales manager.

Though each year thousands of sales professionals give up their sales roles and accept the promotion. They move into new offices and proudly stare at their newly printed business cards with little understanding of what it takes to actually lead salespeople.

Ill prepared to perform the job of sales manager, a high percentage of these newly minted sales leaders are demoted or fired within 18 months.  Unfortunately, the sales profession is a grave yard littered with the corpses of failed sales managers who had they embraced one important principle might have gone on to become superstars . . .

Leadership Principle #1

In sales leadership one principle stands above all: You need your people more than they need you. Another way of saying this is that you get paid for what your salespeople do, not for what you do.

If you only internalize one lesson about leadership, make this the one.

A basic understanding that you need your people more than they need you is the single most important leadership lesson you will ever learn. In our leadership seminars, we spend more time on this principle than any other concept. Why? Because until you get this—and I mean really make this principle part of your heart and soul—you cannot be a great sales manager.

No exceptions.

Who Is More Important: You or Your Salespeople?

Consider this. It is Monday morning. You get to the office early, ready to start the day. As soon as you sit down at your desk, the phone rings. Mary calls in to say she is going to be out sick today. A few minutes later Ralph calls to remind you he will be on vacation. Then Ernie calls to say a relative died and he needs to fly to Cleveland to go to the funeral.

One after another the calls come in, until suddenly you find yourself alone in the office; no one is coming in today. How would you fare?

Most sales managers when faced with this question answer that they would probably make it through Monday okay.

So we follow that up with Tuesday—you show up but no one else does. How about Wednesday and Thursday? What if you came in each morning but the people who worked for you did not. How would you be doing by Friday?

You know the answer and so do I.

No sales.

Your business would be in shambles, your boss would be knocking down your door after getting your sales report, and you would be miserable.

But what if on Monday morning all of your salespeople showed up to work and you didn’t?

Would sales come in? Absolutely.

The fact is, even if you went on a two-week vacation, and all of your people showed up each day, things would likely be just fine. The work would get done.

One of the core traits of ineffective leaders and bad bosses is that they believe that they get paid for the things they do. These bosses range from the arrogantly self-centered to workaholics to micromanagers. They believe, at the core, that they are more important, smarter, and more competent than the people working for them.

Sales Managers Get Paid For What Their People Do

When you get your next paycheck, take a close look at it. The money that was deposited in your bank account was a direct result of the work your salespeople did. You were rewarded for their performance or nonperformance—not yours. To tell yourself anything different is an outright denial of the facts.

As a sales leader, if your salesperson succeeds, you succeed. If your salesperson fails, you fail.

So it follows that your job is to position your people to win. You must create an environment in which they can succeed, develop their skills, leverage their talents, and remove roadblocks so that they sell. You need them more than they need you. Anything that you do that impedes their success hurts you!

Take Dave, a director of sales with seven salespeople on his team. Dave constantly demanded insignificant reporting on virtually everything. Each time he asked for a report, it took his people away from sales activities that generated revenue.

One of his salespeople said, “He drove me over the edge of insanity. I’d be on my way to see a customer, and he’d call me wanting a report on something stupid right then, like it was the most important thing in the world.”

What happened to Dave? Dave’s goose was cooked because the talented people he had inherited when he took the job quit. He eventually lost a great job and thousands of dollars in incentive bonus because instead of helping his people succeed, he became a roadblock to success.

Far too many sales managers never learn this lesson. The single most important leadership principle is this: You get paid for what your people do, not what you do.

You need your people more than they need you.

Jeb Blount is the founder of SalesGravy.com and  a leading expert on leadership and human behavior. He helps companies, teams, and individuals transform their organizations and accelerate performance through intense focus on interpersonal relationships.  He is the author of five books including People Follow You: The Real Secret to what Matters Most in Leadership, People Buy You: The Real Secret to what Matters Most in Business, Sales Guy’s 7 Rules for Outselling the Recession, Business Expert’s Guide to Small Business Success and Power Principles.  To learn more, call 706-664-0810 x102 or email carrie.martinez@peoplefollowyou.com.

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