August 1, 2019

Really Bad Things Result When Sales Managers Play “Hero” Instead of Hero-Maker

One of the most common (and most deadly) sales leadership sins is when the sales manager plays the role of sales team “hero” instead of “hero-maker.”

Whether it be due to pressure, inexperience, insecurity, or a possibly an inflated ego or lack of confidence in team members, bad things happen when managers “do” instead of lead or “do” instead of mentor/coach.

I recently led a full-day Sales Management. Simplified.-based workshop for a great group of energized, engaged sales managers who work at a large company with a healthy and positive sales culture. We did an exercise where I asked the managers to identify and reflect on various areas where they may be defaulting to “hero mode.” Following the solo-exercise and group table discussions, I asked a few brave, transparent volunteers to share their takeaways from the exercise with the entire room.

One of the managers shared a powerful realization. In her first year leading the team, two of her people made “Club.” However, the next year those same two people failed miserably. The manager confessed that, looking back, she could see that during that first year, she was indeed playing hero. She was doing her reps’ jobs. She was selling for them – basically catching their fish instead coaching them how to fish and then holding them accountable to produce! When she stepped back during year two, results plummeted as both reps were unable to replicate the success of the manager’s sales efforts from the prior year. She attributed most of the blame to the fact that she was playing sales team hero instead of making heroes of her reps. It was a powerful recognition that led to further healthy dialogue and even more transparency in the room.

Sales Managers, all but one of the consequences from you playing sales team hero are bad. The one short-term benefit is that you might close more business in the short-term. But that’s the only benefit. Beyond that, these are the awful results:

  • You become exhausted
  • It’s not scalable; you are not multiplying yourself into your people
  • You create co-dependent salespeople who can’t function without you
  • It kills the credibility of the rep within the account
  • You become the bottleneck
  • It kills your culture, and demoralizes and drives away top talent
  • You burn out
  • You stunt your own growth, don’t enjoy the satisfaction from developing others, and you become un-promotable
  • You perpetuate a no-win self-defeating cycle forcing yourself into a perma-hero role!

Would you to take a few minutes this week to reflect on where, when, and how you might be defaulting to “hero mode” …when you lead team meetings, work in the field with your people, prepare for big presentations and customer meetings, share sales results up the chain or with the company. I promise, this is worth your time. Your own job satisfaction, your sales team culture, your people’s growth, and ultimately the long-term results will all improve when you shift from hero to hero-maker!


My September St. Louis full-day, full-evening Supercharge Your Sales Leadership event for sales execs and managers sold out quickly. Due to the very positive response, we are planning additional sessions in other great cities/venues right now. If you have interest in learning more about these sessions, let us know here.