When a Sales Manager Should Save a Deal

(Hint: Basically Never)


Few things stir as much discussion as determining the role a sales manager should play in closing a sale. And it seems as if opinions on this issue rarely change.

There are typically two dominant camps that recommend getting involved. The first says, “Jump in to save the sale no matter what!” The second says, “Yes, jump in and save the sale — but only to make a number at the end of the quarter or end of the year.”

These two camps drive me nuts, because they operate under the presumption that the sales manager is the only one who really knows how to sell. Excuse me, but did I miss something along the way? I thought the job of the sales manager was to develop their people, not close sales.  

If the sales manager never wants to achieve success beyond what they themselves believe they can do, then fine, go ahead and close not just some sales, but all of the sales. If this is the case — and there are far more of these managers out there than we realize — then let’s change the title from “sales manager” to “super ego.”

Getting to the bottom of the issue

When the salesperson is having trouble closing, it’s an issue that goes way back up the sales funnel. Closing problems could be due to any number of things. The true role of the sales manager is to help the salesperson develop their sales process. When the sales manager does this, they help the salesperson identify the struggles with closing and make changes to overcome those struggles.

The sales manager who only jumps in at the end to close is quickly going to find themselves doing it more and more because the salesperson will come to expect it.  Before long, the salesperson will become nothing more than a customer support person whose job is to set the sales manager up to close the sale.

Sales managers need to be engaged much more with the salesperson at other steps along the sales process. I’m not saying they need to be on every sales call, but they do need to be coaching and developing the salesperson throughout the entire sales process.

A key question I like to ask a sales manager when I’m working with them is, “How are you coaching your salespeople at each phase of the sales process?” The answer I get is almost always lame because they wind up making an excuse as to why they don’t have time to do any coaching.

They claim they can tell how a salesperson is doing by looking at their numbers. My argument is, yes the numbers tell you how they’re doing, but they don’t do anything about the why behind the numbers. That’s the job of the sales manager.

When to jump in on a sale

My advice to you, the sales manager, is to shift your focus to developing the sales process your salespeople use. Make it your goal to never have to be involved in closing a sale. Strong philosophy? Yes, but unless you buy into it 100%, you’ll make up excuses as to why you need to jump in.

Keep in mind, I’m asking you to believe 100% in the same way you ask your salespeople to buy into what they’re expected to do. When you jump in to close a sale, you’re saying it’s okay for your salespeople to not buy into their process 100%.

If you think I’m pushing the envelope, you’re right. I am. But it’s critical to push hard if we expect change to take hold. If you’re wondering if I believe there ever is a time to help close a sale, I do. But only when the potential loss of the sale is going to fundamentally change your company. In other words, is the loss of the sale going to result in layoffs, a significant hit to earnings, or some other catastrophic change?

I do not buy into the argument that it’s okay to jump in just to make a number or to keep the salesperson happy. Sorry, the only thing you’ve done with that is a bad job of babysitting.

Go ahead and challenge me. I’m game for that, but trust me on this — after having been in sales management leading salespeople, running companies, and consulting companies, I’ll argue there’s no reason to sacrifice long-term success.  

If you resist the urge to constantly jump in, sure, you may lose a few sales here and there. But long term, you’ll have a stronger sales team that is confident in closing more sales. Ultimately, with that approach you’ll be way ahead.


When the salesperson is having trouble closing, it's an issue that goes way back up to the sales funnel.”

Mark Hunter | CEO & Founder, The Sales Hunter
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