Many sales managers secretly admit to me that they are adrenaline junkies. They thrived under pressure as a sales rep and want to maintain that sense of urgency and excitement now that they are managers.

OK, you want your salespeople to have a sense of urgency just like you do. That’s fine. I agree that all great salespeople possess a sense of urgency to surpass their sales quotas.

But you’re not a salesperson any more. Urgency doesn’t help you do a better job or make better decisions. It doesn’t help you plan or strategize. It doesn’t help you develop your reps’ skills and wills. It doesn’t help you build team morale.

So if you are one of those secret adrenaline junkies, it’s time to start weaning yourself from the rush.

From Fire Fighting to Fire Prevention

One of the biggest sources of adrenaline rush comes from putting out fires—rescuing endangered deals, developing a strategy to overcome strong competition and win a large account, resolving a critical customer issue.

Putting out fires is a good measure of success for salespeople. But sales management success needs to be measured in terms of how many fires you prevent not fight, and whether the fires your team is fighting today are the same ones they fought last week or last month.

So the next time a fire occurs, resist the urge to pull out the fire hose! Instead, ask yourself four questions:

   What caused this fire? If you don’t think through what caused this problem, you can’t prevent it from happening again. Was it a problem with process? Sales rep training? Poor communication? Flawed technology?

   What were the warning signs? Looking back, have you seen this problem or others like it occur before? Now that you know what happened, what were the warning signals that something was going wrong?

   Is there a way this problem could have been prevented? Why did this problem come around? What could you have done—or what could you have taught your sales rep—to make sure it didn’t happen?

   What can you do now to prevent it from recurring? Typically, you may need to respond by improving the processes your reps use or providing them with more-targeted training and/or more consistent coaching and mentoring.

As the saying goes, those who fail to learn from history are doomed to repeat it. The reverse is also true: ask these four questions so you can help your team develop and improve. Your success as a sales manager will be demonstrated when they move past the problems of yesterday and on to greater opportunities tomorrow.


Kevin F. Davis shares practical solutions to the most challenging issues that frontline sales managers struggle with every day. Kevin blogs on methods for everything from leading, coaching, and managing priorities, to hiring, forecasting, and driving rep accountability. Kevin is the president of TopLine Leadership, Inc., and the author of the new book, “The Sales Manager’s Guide to Greatness.” Find his blogs and articles at TopLineLeadership.com/blog and kevinfdavis.com/blog