Has Sales Leadership Become too Complex?


What if sales leadership has become so complicated that no one person can accomplish all aspects of the role with excellence? Hiring, firing, interviewing, budgeting, selling, coaching, scheduling, expense reporting, dealing with client issues, training, counseling, and the list goes on and on. 

My experience working with thousands of sales leaders over the years tells me the 80/20 rule is alive and well in the role of sales leadership. 80% of all sales leaders are caught in their daily whirlwind and have great difficulty focusing on the few activities that truly drive results.

I believe that two of the most highly leveraged responsibilities of a sales leader are, simply put, coaching people and coaching deals. I have asked sales leaders all over the world what percentage of their time they actually devote to coaching their sales people and most say it is a fairly high percent of time. Again, that is what they say.  When pressed and asked to really explore their time, most admit it’s less than 10% per week. This is a very startling realization for most of them. Many sales leaders think they are coaching more than they really are. This critical activity is going by the wayside, lost in the whirlwind of things to get done. Think of the impact on revenue, team development, and succession planning!       

In his book, The Checklist Manifesto, Atul Gawande points out that life has become so complicated that we need to go back to the simplicity of a checklist. In building that checklist, we must identify the few things, when done consistently and well, that yield the greatest impact. Many sales leaders are able to identify those key activities, but simply cannot get them done on a consistent basis. You’ll hear many of them say they just need to work harder and smarter to carve out more time for the things that matter. I’m not so sure. I am beginning to wonder if the role itself has become just too complex. 

What if the role were split in two? Imagine it being shared by two leaders; one leader whose skills are best suited for coaching people and coaching deals and a second leader who is adept at managing the HR/administrative side of the role. In my experience, it’s rare to find individuals who are highly skilled at both.

It seems to me, in situations where a sales leader struggles to find time for both coaching and HR/administrative issues, the admin side wins. Can you imagine a sales leader saying, “Sorry, I did not get my expenses approved because I was coaching a B player,” or “Sorry, I wasn’t able to attend the interview to fill that open slot because I was coaching a deal?” It seems that it’s always the other way around and, as a result, coaching suffers.

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About the Author

Sean Frontz

For over two decades, Sean Frontz has helped people get better at what they do. For the last 10 years, that has been solely focused on the world of sales and business development. Sean engages at the leadership level to help leaders develop themselves and the people they lead.

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