Should Sales Managers Sell?

If there’s one raging debate in the sales world, it’s whether or not a Sales Manager, i.e. someone who has a team reporting directly to him or her – should also be responsible for having to meet a personal sales target.

I recently asked a few of my friends and colleagues in sales to share their view on the subject in around 100 words or so.  Please take a few minutes to read the varying comments of “yay and nay” and then tell us who you agree with the most.


 Should sales managers sell? It depends!

In general, part time sales managers, like part time salespeople don’t usually work out well in the end. You either manage or you sell.

Sales’ managing is a full time job. When you split the job into two parts, sales and sales management, the incumbent is likely to favour one function over the other. This results in one of three things happening:

1)  Good sales manager and poor salesperson
2)  Poor sales manager and good salesperson
3)  Mediocre sales manager and mediocre salesperson.

There is an exception to the rule and this depends upon the size of the sales team.

If the sales team has 10 or more salespeople, a dedicated sales manager is in order.

If the sales team has 5-9 salespeople, a part time sales manager should be considered, keeping in mind that one of the three conditions outlined above will apply.

If the sales team has less than 5 salespeople, there is no designated, formal, sales manager. This does not mean that they don’t need to be sales managed; it means that there is no dedicated sales manager. In small sales teams, the best sales management is self-management.

I hope these insights help.

 Brian Jeffrey


My experience since joining my present company in Lagos was that my National Marketing Manager (19 years with the company) had been allowed to sell cars and keep the commission. I recently persuaded my MD to allow me to change the commission structures to even the playing fields and she resigned.

What was happening , she had built up a substantial client base over 19 years and would not allow any of the sales people to get near her customers and as a result she would out sell them 20 to 1. Not only was this demoralizing for the sales staff but also dangerous for the company the following aspects;

* She had control of a large percentage of the companies customer base.

* Her time was been taken up selling and not managing. 

* The sales staff were looking for other illegal means of earning more money due to lack of proper supervision.

The structure that I now have in place is that my Manager does not actively sell and any sales that do come in as a result of him / her is a “dealer sale”. The manager earns a percentage of the overall sales departments controllable net profit. The sales people were on a fixed Naira amount per vehicle, they are now on a two tier sliding scale , volume and net profit.

Stephen Gladwin
General Manager
Mandilas Toyota
Lagos Nigeria


 This is probably a hot potato only in our own minds. Usually the sales manager get to this position because he is a great sales person. He is usually your best sales person bringing in the most revenue. He is usually put in the position because we hope that he will transfer his skills in a practical way to his sales team.

We need the sales manager to lead by example and the only lasting way is ‘do as I do’. It all depends on the size of the business, the small & medium size businesses cannot afford for the most effective sales person (usually the sales manager) not to be generating their own revenue. I firmly believe that the sales manager should have their own personal sales target.

Stephen Varty
Managing Director
Life and Analytical Sciences (PTY) Ltd.


 A sales manager is someone who increases sales by making their people stronger. In essence the sales manager is coach, trainer and mentor. They may still sell but it should be in a modeling – coaching role. When the sales manager is also salesperson, reps question the manager’s motives and it totally undermines the manager. You can’t name one sport where the coach is also player. In my opinion the only time for the sales manager to also be sales person is as a transition strategy while building the sales team. That means 1 year max in a dual function!

Andy Miller
Sales Consultant and Strategist


I have been on both sides of this argument.  A sales team needs guidance, encouragement, a sounding board and commercial guidance.  A Sales Manager should drive the overall sales strategy. Also a brilliant sales person does not necessarily make a good manager – and I have seen the downfall of sales teams when the mistake of promoting a successful sales person to manager, has been made.

I strongly believe there is a conflict of interest when a Sales Manager also has their own personal targets. The personal target is going to dominate above the support the sales members needs. And the bigger the sales team, the greater the requirement for support and overall strategy of the sales drive. If, however there is a huge deal that requires the expertise of Management then the Sales Exec can be guided in the process and can complete the leg work required, while the Sales Manager assists with strategy, networking and presentations.

So in short….. No.  Manage a team. Or sell.

–  Ex Sales Manager and Sales Person


 My two cents. Yes and no.

Yes in the case of :
Small sales force
Short Sales Cycle
Simple Product

No in the case of:
Large sales force
Long, complex sales cycles

Mark Annett
Maximizer GM – Gauteng


 My opinion is that a Sales Manager should not have a personal target.  The main focus of a Sales Manager should be to lead, inspire, motivate and empower his/her sales team, consistently driving sales through facilitating, coaching, mentoring and offering new selling ideas to their team. Sales Manager derived sales can distract from the main focus of her/his role and can lead to unnecessary rivalry and tension between the manager and team.

The sales management and sales person’s skills and personal profile make-up are also almost diametrically opposed.

It is not a bad idea for the sales manager to handle a couple of ‘house accounts’ to keep her/his hand in and be able to tap into the market that the clients are operating in.

Charmaine Brough
Branch Manager: Johannesburg
Homemakers Fair

1 thought on “Should Sales Managers Sell?

  1. Kept Private

    I am currently managing and selling for a small inside sales team for a SaaS company. My owners constantly give me side projects, presentations, etc. I have reports to produce, interviewing, training, etc., as well. We also have no legal team or RFP group so I have to handle a lot of detail oriented, time-consuming stuff that most companies assign to teams. I have to read every NDA, contract redline, etc., and try to negotiate all this stuff for my team, before we will pay for a lawyer. Meanwhile I have been given a full quota of my own to sell and I only get compensated when my team sells if we hit bonus numbers, which are not sales numbers by the way, they are year over year revenue numbers that are affected by attrition. This means we can sell like crazy but not get bonuses due to support issues. I am working 14 hours a day most days just to keep up. I inherited my team, as the owners fired the Director of Sales, along with the CEO and the Director of Marketing a few months ago, claiming that they were taking over after a horrible year. We even hired a guy I did not want because the owner who oversees Sales liked the guy over the phone (this owner lives in California). To stick to the question, if you do have an Sales Manager and you have to have him sell, make sure s/he does not have the same quota as the team. It will kill the person. They will spend hours a day on assigning leads, handling non-sales related things and then have to play catch-up with the team that only focuses on selling. If they give themselves the good leads, they will lose the team, and if they favor the team to seem fair, they will not sell as much themselves. This is a horrible position to be in. If you want your sales manager to be the top sales rep, expect to have a miserable team. They will accuse him or her of stacking the deck. It is a no-win situation.


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