Is a Sales Manager Free-For-All Hindering Your Quota Attainment?

The best sales teams get into an aligned operating rhythm and execute using agreed-upon best practices.

Is a Sales Manager Free-For-All Hindering Your Quota Attainment?

So many sales organizations operate with frontline sales managers “doing their own thing.” It reminds me of the times I spent watching my step-daughter’s Pee Wee/youth soccer games when she was growing up. She played in an all-girl league, and wherever the ball rolled, the ponytails followed. It took a few seasons until the coaches could corral players into actually playing their positions.

I should clarify that I don’t think all sales organizations are quite that uncoordinated. But in many companies, it’s a free-for-all.

We often accept this as “the way we do things around here” (which is a simple way to describe organizational culture). Managers each have their individual personalities, their own approaches and know what they should be doing, right? If they turn their (relatively) accurate forecast in (relatively) on time, and they are (somewhat close to) hitting their team quota, we’re doing OK, aren’t we?

I think the more appropriate question is, “Is this the best we can do?” Think about the state of the sales profession as a whole. Quota attainment has been trending downward for at least seven years. In multiple B2B buying studies over the past few years, buyers report higher-than-ever dissatisfaction with seller behavior. We know that coaching is one of the most powerful levers for improving performance, yet in coaching surveys, managers say that they coach far more often than reps report receiving coaching. And we all know how dreadfully inaccurate many forecasts are. We can do better.

Here’s a pro tip: the best-performing sales management teams work cohesively as an aligned, well-oiled machine. Yes, of course, everyone has their distinct style and flair. But the best get into an aligned operating rhythm of activities and meetings and execute using agreed-upon best practices. This is why I guide clients to adopt a sales management operating system.

Adopt a Sales Management Operating System

A sales management operating system is a series of proven effective management practices that will help your managers:

  • Master the sales process and supporting sales methodology that apply to your customer lifecycle
  • Ensure the appropriate management activities are in place, executed with best practices, and repeated in the proper cadences
  • Ensure the appropriate meetings are in place (team and individual), executed with best practices, and repeated in the proper cadences
  • Master sales analytics and diagnostic methods to identify areas to focus and determine root causes
  • Understand how to determine the best solution for a performance issue (both the solution type, such as field training, feedback, coaching, or something else) and the solution content (the mindsets and skill sets that will address the issue and improve performance)
  • Implement practical field training and sales coaching models (with the right skills training to deliver them)
  • Get into a rhythm for sales performance management that fosters a growth mindset, creates a culture of coaching, and cultivates ongoing performance improvement

The sales management operating system is part of the more extensive sales management system, but is the system’s heartbeat. The exact management activities and meetings vary based on your industry, company, products, business models, and go-to-market plans. The activities and meetings shown in the diagram are merely examples and not suggested to be suitable for your organization.

Some Parting Thoughts

I make no claims for being psychic, but I have implemented multiple sales management operating systems, and I know what questions eventually surface. I’m often asked whether this can be overdone, and sometimes, I’ve been challenged about whether I’m trying to create an army of robots, all doing the same things the same way. Let’s address both of these questions proactively.

Can this be Overdone?

Yes, of course, it can. Almost anything taken to the extreme can be detrimental. Indeed, don’t try to avoid the disciplined execution, but you also don’t need to be locked into things mindlessly, either. Use good business judgment.

Am I Trying to Create an Army of Robots?

For this, my answer is, “No, and…”

No: I especially don’t want to create an army of mindless robots. I don’t want to overdo it, as mentioned. I don’t want to suspend good judgment, and I certainly don’t want to remove managers’ experience or personality from the equation.

And: At the same time, I want managers – and hopefully their organizations – to create a repeatable, replicable path to success for both the front-line sales managers and their sales teams. A well-designed, well-implemented operating system will do that.

Does this System Produce Great Results?

If we know ineffective systems can derail good performers, we need to get great systems in place. We need talented managers operating in similar ways, in similar patterns or cadences, using proven-effective practices to get the best results possible. The genuine critical question is, “Does this produce great results?” That answer is unequivocal; “Yes! It does!”


  • Mike Kunkle is a recognized expert on sales training, sales effectiveness and sales enablement. Mike is the vice president of sales effectiveness services for SPARXiQ, where he designs sales training, delivers workshops and helps clients improve sales results through a variety of sales effectiveness services.

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