Strategies for Managing Salespeople


Shweiki Media teams up with experienced entrepreneur and business owner Karl Scheible from Sandler Training to present a must-watch webinar on the different strategies for managing salespeople.

On average, about 40-50% of salespeople do not make their quota every year, and the number-one reason they do not reach it is poor management. Most sales managers are ill-equipped to lead salespeople because, at one point, many were great salespeople themselves. Then, they were promoted. Because of this, sales managers try to get their sales representatives to do exactly what they did to become successful. However, this approach is not very successful.

Management Problems and Solutions

Common problems facing sales managers:

  1. They cannot accurately forecast when a deal will actually close.
  2. They need to cut the price in order to close deals.
  3. They’re not getting enough new opportunities.
  4. They’re unable to unseat the incumbent, even if they are doing poorly.
  5. They cannot gain access up high enough in organization.
  6. They keep hearing “looks good, but I need to think it over” after the presentation.

These problems leave sales managers with the inability to properly forecast.  What do they do in these cases? They will often lean on the reps and push them to perform better. They want them to do it their way and get frustrated when the reps’ skills do not translate over.

Common fixes managers use to deal with an under-performing sales rep:

  • 30-day performance improvement plan (PIP)
  • Occasional coaching
  • Observing other veterans on call (mentoring)
  • Training
  • Role play (practicing)
  • Motivation (incentives)
  • Creating specific performance targets (must-dos)

By far, the biggest mistake sales managers make is using discipline on a salesperson when the problem might be conceptual in nature. Trying to fix a conceptual problem with discipline will never work.

Behaviors, Attitudes and Techniques (BAT): Diagnosing The Problem

There are three main areas in which a sales manager can diagnose problems and try to help turn the problem around. At Sandler, it’s called the Behavior Attitude Technique (BAT) triangle, and it is used a lot in sales training and management.

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To best explain the BAT triangle, we will use a hypothetical sales rep named Mary, who has been under quota for a couple quarters.


The first area of the BAT triangle is behaviors. This describes what the sales rep has to do on a daily basis to create enough volume and velocity in their pipeline in order to hit their quota. Sandler has a concept of a cookbook, which is a mathematical approach to help a sales rep determine exactly what they should be doing on a daily basis to hit their numbers.

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Where sales managers go wrong is when they hold their sales reps accountable to these numbers.  Normally this does not work because most people work at their jobs for their own reasons, not the company’s reasons. Managers use quota as the company’s goal but that is not necessarily the salesperson’s goal.

First, the manager should establish a comprehensive goal-setting program with the sales rep (in this case, Mary) by finding out what she is working for and why. Then the manager should break down her behavior so she knows what she has to do to accomplish her goals. The manager should turn the whole dynamic around so he or she is leaning on Mary for her benefit. Hopefully, by Mary accomplishing her goals, the company’s goals will be met as well.

Mary can be motivated to behave when she is doing something she wants to do. It is important to remember that everyone has a different connect rate, qualification rate and close rate. Ideally, there should be a number that Mary knows, which shows how many new opportunities she has to create every day, week or month. It ultimately comes down to how many new people Mary should be meeting in this time period. This is the number we want to know.

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For example, let’s say, Mary has to meet 15 new potential prospects a week. The manager should have her break down her cookbook into how many dials, referrals, face-to-face meetings, etc. she will make a week to hit that number. It is best to break all of Mary’s activities down. This way she knows there is no ambiguity about what behaviors she needs to implement.

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Behaviors are very important because they are observable, measurable and accountable. It’s important to remember that the only thing salespeople can control is their behavior.  If reps are working hard but are not hitting their quota, maybe they are not getting enough new opportunities.


If the behavior is not yielding the desired results, then it’s time to look at the technique. In sales, technique refers to knowing what to say, when to say it and how to say it. Many times, managers will go straight to techniques, but if one does not have a behavior plan in place to anchor those techniques, then the company’s resources are not being used wisely.

How does Sandler define techniques?

  1. Personal Presence: How does the sales rep present him or herself? Are they confident? Outgoing? In their mind, are they failing before they have even tried?
  2. Strategy: One should qualify hard and close easy.
  3. Tactics: What does Mary do in the field? What practices does Mary have in her toolbox so that when she does run into trouble, she can keep the deal moving.  An example of one tactic would be negative reverse selling.

Characteristics of Techniques:

  • Techniques are taught and demonstrated.
  • Sales reps should role play and practice techniques
  • Techniques should be reinforced continually.

Techniques must be learned in different conditions. Mary has to be confident enough that she can use a specific technique at the right time in the right condition.

What does a manager do when he or she has a behavioral plan and has worked hard on techniques but the salesperson is still failing? At this point, the last thing a manager should do is put more pressure on them and use discipline.

Attitudes and Beliefs

The next thing a manager should do is look at the salesperson’s attitudes and beliefs. This is a collection of internal beliefs people  carry with them from childhood into adulthood.  In the sales process, these beliefs can hold sales reps back in closing business. Many philosophers have stated that “We are the manifestations of our own beliefs.”

For example, Mary’s mother always told her to “stay away from strangers, never interrupt people, and don’t ask too many questions. Well, what exactly is Mary doing in sales? She talks to strangers, interrupts people and asks questions. It may sound funny, but those messages are weighing in on Mary’s techniques on the sales call.

There is a vicious cycle where if someone has a belief, they make a judgment that leads them to take action. This, in turn, gives them a result that reinforces the belief.  Sandler has an inventory of some of the common beliefs that hold people back and there are close to a hundred of them.

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How can a manager fix a person’s attitude?

  1. Recognize the non-productive belief.
  2. Figure out the financial impact of that belief.
  3. Develop an alternative belief that is more effective.
  4. Reinforce the adoption of the new belief.

Managers have to assume the role of a counselor.

This requires:

  • Patience
  • Strong coaching skills
  • support and reinforcement

It is important to remember that some salespeople never change, and there is nothing that a manager can do about that.


Most sales managers were good salespeople at one point. They probably do not have a lot of self-limiting beliefs. Because most sales managers are promoted from being sales reps, many have never been trained or prepared to be in that position of authority so it seldom works.

How does one develop a team with good, strong sales management? By developing the people themselves.

Sandler’s 5 major disciplines of management:

  1. Become better coaches
  2. Become better mentors
  3. Be more effective in motivating salespeople
  4. Hold salespeople accountable without hurting morale
  5. Recruit more effectively

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Karl Scheible

After a successful career as a business founder and CEO up in upstate NY, Karl sold his companies and moved to Austin, TX. Karl dedicated the next phase of his career to helping and mentoring business owners and executives to grow sales and maximize profitability. He opened Market Sense, a Sandler franchise that specializes in consulting and training people in leadership, negotiating, enterprise selling and general sales. Over 30 Market Sense clients have been named to the Austin Business Journal's "Fast 50" list since its inception. In 2015, Karl was awarded the David H. Sandler award for his outstanding contribution to the Sandler network. Karl also teaches sales at the ACTON School for Entrepreneurship, and he is currently a member of the World President's Organization.

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