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Top Sales Management Myths [+ 5 Remarkable & Funny Photos]

The world of sales and marketing is a hyper-competitive environment where mistakes can multiply to unforeseen problems, losing potential money in the process. 

These mistakes often include subscribing to age-old management myths that still exist today. 

This article will help you reorient by being reminded that these five ideas are just myths and will harm your sales team. However, we made sure to clear up the truth by giving you what is true and correct - so you can also start applying it to your team! Are you ready?

Myth: Extroverts are the best salespeople.

Meme of man looking at butterfly with caption "Extrovert" and subtitle "Is this an ideal salesperson?"
A random sales manager wondering if the extroverted applicant will be a good salesperson, without considering how they fit with the team.

Being able to handle people is indeed a critical skill in sales, but extraversion is not an assurance you will do great! A study published in Harvard Business Review noted the following observations regarding the traits commonly associated with extraversion:

  • Ostentatious salespeople who are full of bravado alienate far more customers than they win over
  • Overly friendly salespeople are too close to their customers and have difficulty establishing dominance

Instead, they uncovered the following personality traits of top salespeople:

  1. Modesty and humility - positions the team that will help them win the account as the centerpiece
  2. Conscientiousness - having a strong sense of duty and being responsible and reliable
  3. Achievement orientation - being fixated on achieving goals and continuously measuring their performance in comparison to their goals
  4. Curiosity - drives the salesperson to ask customers difficult and uncomfortable questions in order to close gaps in information
  5. Lack of gregariousness -correlated with the ability to gain the willing obedience of customers such that the salesperson’s recommendations and advice are followed
  6. Lack of discouragement - able to handle emotional disappointments, bounce back from losses, and mentally prepare themselves for the next opportunity to compete.
  7. Lack of self-righteousness - not easily embarrassed
These personality traits are not traditionally associated with extraversion, so if you are hiring for your team, write down this list and prepare your hiring process to make these traits shine in your candidates!

Myth: The best salespeople make the best sales managers.

Meme of man looking at another woman with caption showing a Sales Manager is ignoring an Average Performer who Can Coach Well
A sales manager who considers performance as sole metric for promotion.

An excellent sales manager should deliver value by:

  1. Hiring and forming a sales team
  2. Coaching salespeople through guidance, training, and mentorship
  3. Setting realistic sales quotas and goals
  4. Crafting sales plans and strategies
  5. Troubleshooting problems encountered by salespeople
While extensive experience in sales is essential in becoming a sales manager, salespeople with an average performance can still be a sales manager if they can demonstrate that they can deliver value in five ways as listed above. 

Additionally, there is a reason sales teams are called sales teams: salespeople are diverse in their abilities! Duke Corporate Education says that salespeople do not have all of the 18 observable, coachable skills that are relevant to sales. They classified salespeople into four groups, depending on the dominant skill:

  1. Masters - well-rounded in the 18 skills, excellent in the diagnosis of strategies, positioning, and closing.
  2. Closers - excellent in pitching and closing deals quickly
  3. Narrators - excellent in pitching and narrating
  4. Socializer - excellent in customer service
A good sales manager should be able to handle all these four groups of salespeople well to make the team deliver exceptional performance. 

Myth: Managers should be solely responsible for closing big deals.

A stressed sales manager presented with the options of letting the team close the deal and closing the deal himself
A sales manager should resist the urge to close a deal by itself. 

As early as 1964, Harvard Business Review reminded its readers that sales managers should manage instead of doing. The responsibilities of sales managers fall under at least one of the following categories: planning, directing, and supervising. Managers should be aware of whether what they are doing falls under managing or not. 

Selling, public relations, and the like are not part of managing. The time a sales manager spends doing instead of managing robs the sales team of the opportunity to improve their craft, thus losing the potential for more growth and sales. Therefore we should remember the following: 

  • Sales managers are not salespeople. They are responsible for coaching salespeople, crafting strategies for closing deals, and troubleshooting problems.
  • Salespeople’s responsibility, however, is to sell, to close deals. (It’s literally their job description.) 

We should let the salespeople do it themselves. Do not rob salespeople of the sweet success of closing a deal themselves! 

Besides blurring the distinction between a salesperson and a sales manager, there is another problem with this myth. Customers will quickly learn to bypass the salespeople and go straight to the manager. This will also deny salespeople of the needed experience to further hone their skills, and even rob the sales manager of time that could be spent managing the sales team. Lack of professional development will not only harm your capabilities but also may negatively affect employee retention.

Additionally, this puts the managers in an awkward position of having to choose between a customer and their salespeople. Ever watched a video of a Karen screaming “I wanna talk to the manager!!!!!!!”? The best resolutions always involve a manager standing for their employee, not the other way around. 

Myth: The management's first responsibility is to focus on the numbers

Pikachu meme being shocked at employees fighting each other to meet quota
Executives who don’t carefully craft their policies for driving the performance of the salesforce will face problems with sales people doing unethical behavior.

In 1997, Marilyn Strathern generalized an old principle in statistics and control, the so-called Goodhart’s Law. 

When a measure becomes a target, it ceases to be a good measure.

Comparing numbers is an attractive and useful way of probing the performance of a sales team. Using it as the sole measure of performance, however, will actually push managers to start gaming the numbers instead of focusing on improving the team it manages. 

At the very least, gaming the numbers leads to negative changes in management styles. At worst, this can lead to actually cooking the books to improve the numbers. Focusing only on making the numbers leads to ethical violations within the salesforce.

A study published on the The Journal of Personal Selling and Sales Management listed some effects of this narrow perspective on the behavior of the salesforce of a company:

  • 50% of sales and marketing executives suspect that their salespeople have lied on a sales call 
  • 75% of sales and marketing executives believe that the drive to achieve sales goals encourages salespeople to lose focus on customer needs
  • 50% of sales managers reported increased competition within sales organizations
  • 38% of sales managers suggested there is more conflict and disputes among salespeople over territories and leads
  • 50% of sales managers indicated greater concern about colleagues stealing accounts and lead

According to the same study, these unethical behaviors by salespeople cause problems within sales organizations and with other business functions, damage customer relationships, decrease customer retention, and reduce sales. 

The same study suggested a multidimensional solution to enhance the ethical and moral judgment of a salesforce by combining the following:

  • Improving the structural and interpersonal dimensions of the organization’s ethical climate;
  • Enhancing the salesperson’s cognitive moral development;
  • Shifting to transformational sales leadership;
  • Implementation of salesforce socialization programs;
  • Strengthening the mutual trust between the salespeople and sales managers;
  • Crafting an effective sales control management strategy

Myth: Top performers define management ability.

Drake meme declining using top performers as measure of management ability
A sales manager embracing the holistic approach.

The problem of defining management ability by looking at top performers is with how the top performers achieved their exceptional performance. Most likely, one or two of the following are true:

  1. The top performer is really “born for it”: they have the innate ability to really deliver sales and close deals. In this case, management plays a role in maximizing the talent, but it’s there in the first place so the management may overrate their contribution.
  2. The top performer already had a long experience working elsewhere before becoming part of your company, therefore they are most likely already well-polished for the job when they started. The management cannot take credit for this as they got this for free.
  3. The top performer got lucky during the assessment period, and just took advantage of it. This is something out of control of both the top performer and the management, and so should be carefully noted when assessing performances. 

While points 1 and 2 sound inconsequential as long as you keep selling, this will affect you in the long term. Here’s a scenario: what if the top performer is light years ahead of the next in the rankings? If there is one thing your company did right, that is by hiring that top performer. 

But, if the top performer does not feel well-compensated and loses their drive to deliver sales and close deals, they will leave for a better offer, and suddenly your management ability hit the rocks again. 

Point 3 is equally problematic: this means that the assessment should be adjusted to consider factors out of control of everyone involved. This may also mean that the company is not yet prepared when things turn 180 degrees. If the conditions suddenly swing to the other side, then it is not only the top performer that is impacted but also the whole company. 

Instead, consider a system that considers both external and internal factors. Another paper published in The Journal of Personal Selling and Sales Management categorizes these so-called effectiveness drivers to five categories:

  • Definers - defines the sales job by clarifying roles and territories
  • Shapers - influences the skills, capabilities, and values of the sales team
  • Enlighteners - provides the salesforce with customer knowledge, enabling salespeople to understand the marketplace, prioritize opportunities, solve customer problems, and use their time more effectively
  • Exciters - affects the selling organization’s inspiration and motivation
  • Controller - direct salesforce activities and performance
A holistic approach will not only enable sales managers and executives to see whether the current system works, but also allow them to quickly and accurately troubleshoot the problems in the system!
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