Are Your Sales Managers on The Ball. . . or on The Bubble?

  • Are you a CEO, president or vice president of sales with regional or district sales managers reporting to you?


  • Are you under pressure to increase sales, increase profit margins, reduce costs, hire superstars and mentor new managers to become great leaders?


  • Are you constantly trying to determine the effectiveness of your sales management staff, yet find it challenging to keep track of who knows what?


If you answered yes to one or more of these questions, here’s a creative exercise to use with your management team. Start today by asking one of the following questions. Ask a new question (in no particular order) every other day to determine how proactive and dialed-in your sales managers are to your customers, sales team effectiveness, the competition, industry trends, your organization’s competitive advantage, current training tools and their own effectiveness as a leader. If you don’t get definitive answers to most of these questions: uh-oh.


  1. “Susan, what’s the name of the last bestselling business book our sales team read? Do you have a copy in your office I can look at?”
  2. “Stephen, let’s review the sales training manual next Friday. Can you e-mail the most recent version in the next 60 minutes?”
  3. “Brian, what’s the name of that top gun sales person at our biggest competitor? Can you schedule a lunch for the three of us for a week from this Friday? Let’s see if he’s ready to consider coming here.”
  4. “Cheryl, can you e-mail me the Web site addresses of our top four competitors? I want to review some or their data.”
  5. “Ray, what’s the home phone number of Susan Swanson, our top customer’s purchasing agent? I’d like to call her over the weekend and say hello.”
  6. “Gary, what were the names of the sales people you met last quarter from our two biggest competitors in town? Do you have copies of their resumes I can read?”
  7. “Kim, how many articles has our sales team written for the three industry newsletters this past year? Can I read a few of the ones you have in your office?”
  8. “Robert, Can you please send me Web sites of the top three sales trainers you like. Let’s pick one for our national meeting in Scottsdale.”
  9. “Andrew, can you please send me your spread sheet of the sales team rankings and their ‘sales against quota’ status?”
  10. “Augie, What’s the name of that recruiter that specializes in our industry? We should have him out for lunch!”


The real power of this approach speaks to one key ingredient of success — accountability. These questions aren’t threatening or intimidating, but simply assumptive questions that one would expect a proactive sales manager to have answers to. By asking these questions, you’ll learn more in the next seven days about the competence of your managers than ever before. And as a result, be able to make better decisions on your future leaders.


  • Vistage member Russ Riendeau is senior partner of The East Wing Search Group in Barrington, Ill.

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