I recently went car shopping, which is always a hoot for me personally because I'm always way ahead of the salesperson, since I basically know every trick in the book.

In this case, my wife and I were about to leave one dealership when the salesperson brought over his sales manager to meet us. Here's the conversation:

Me: "Jim here is doing a good job."

Manager: "Has he sold you a car?"

Me: "Not yet."

Manager: "Then he's not doing a good job."

This was a stupid move, because I'm not likely to buy from a place where the sales manager is an ***hole, even if I like the salesperson. Anyway, the event got me thinking of something I wrote a long time ago about the dumb tricks that sales managers play on their salespeople. It's nowhere on the web (I wrote it as a freebie for a friend), so I think it's worth revisiting, along with some updates.

Here are the dumb things that sales managers do that alienate salespeople:

1. The Bully Pulpit

The sales manager publicly or privately demeans the salesperson as a professional and as a contributor when he or she doesn't perform at the level the manager wants. The manager does this believing this will motivate the salesperson to work harder, simply to avoid another unpleasant critique. Unfortunately, this tactic strips away the salesperson's self-respect, making it increasingly difficult for that salesperson to sell. The "coffee is for closers" speech in the film Glengarry Glen Ross notwithstanding, fear is a lousy motivator. The worst example I ever saw of this was a sales team where the low performer was required to carry a rubber chicken while in the office.

2. Bait and Switch

The sales manager changes the compensation plan to drastically or retroactively reduce the compensation that's actually paid, either while the sale is in progress or even after it's taken place. The motivation for doing this is simple greed combined with a fundamental lack of respect for salespeople. This tactic is abysmally stupid, because it guarantees that anybody with real sales talent will leave the team. Over time, the bait and switch tactic generates a reputation so that the only people who'll come to work there are the barrel scrapings.

3. The Horizon Shoot

The sales manager sets ambitious targets, even though the sales manager knows that the sales team cannot possibly achieve those numbers. This happens when sales managers are more concerned with what top management wants than with what's actually likely to happen. Rather than doing his job and pointing out that top management is being unrealistic, the sales manager decides to play along, hoping for an end-of-quarter miracle. When that doesn't happen, both the sales manager and the team suffer. Usually the sales manager gets fired.

4. Teacher's Pet

The sales manager saves all the best leads for his or her top rep but sends the questionable and weak leads to the other reps ... just in case they get lucky. The reasoning is obvious: The manager figures that the top rep is more likely to close business. However, this tactic eventually backfires, because when the top rep leaves for greener pastures, the sales figures plummet, because the midrange talent has long since quit in disgust, leaving only hapless nonperformers.

5. The Horserace

The sales manager hires more sales reps for a region than revenue from that region can support and then lets the reps compete for the same business. The sales manager figures that if there are enough horses in the race, one of them will win it. What happens is that the the sales reps collide with each other and call on the same people, making the looking confused and disjointed. This, in turn, drives business to the competitors.

6. The Undercut

The sales manager allows direct web sales to undercut the prices available to the sales force. The motivation is to reach customers that the sales force can't reach and to build new business. However, the customers to whom the sales force is selling ALWAYS find out about the other price and blames the salesperson for charging them too much. Trust evaporates, driving customers elsewhere, even if they're "getting a deal" by cutting the salesperson out of the loop.

Oh, BTW, I bought a car from the dealership down the street on that very day. And then, despite my supposedly being so savvy, I let the sales manager upsell me a $2,000 service contract on a low-mileage car that already had a lifetime power train warranty. [forehead slap]