I was having a discussion with a client the other day, and we stumbled across something that neither of us are sure as to whether there is a simple answer or cookie-cutter solution to the coconundrum.

We were speaking about a sales manager position, one where the person is to look after, manage, mentor and motivate his or her team that are, not surprisingly, selling.

So far, so simple. But then I dug down into detail as a recruiter should, and opened up a whole can o’ worms.

A manager, by their very definition, should manage a team. Within that management they themselves will be faced with a multitude of personalities, abilities, targets, histories and experience. Add the everyday human factors of, well, being humans and all that is attached to that; and it can be a pretty timely task to be fully effective in managing a sales team – or any team for that matter.

So, should an effective sales manager need to be paid on team performance or their own performance?

Does money incentivise them to perform better? What if the Sales manager has targets themselves and is managing a team that also has targets, will they be focused in equal measure on hitting their own thresholds whilst managing to push a team to do the same? Can they be, even? It’s a tough ask, especially in those environments where the remuneration is, at best, market level.

Is the scenario where the manager gleans commission purely upon the team performance and not his or her own the ideal solution? Each company that employs sales managers has a myriad of potential layers in this set up. They have budgets and break evens and maybe a churn of lower level staff that effects the cohesion of the team itself on an ongoing basis.

If the managers have no commission at all, but a decent, chunkysalary; would that be ideal? This is surely the best setup where possible. The manager themselves will have been picked from a selection of similar people, all motivated by the mere task of doing a damn good job and making teams do well. But it rarely happens like this. Because, well, those pesky targets get in the way. So what IS the solution?

As my company is my own, I’m a different animal. When managing a team, I have a vested interest that’s unique to company owners.

Not so the managers of humans that sell. And the beauty/nightmare of us human beings is that we’re all different, so there is surely no one-size-fits-all way of doing it; but I’d love to hear what your thoughts are on this as I have no definitive answer.

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