sign-success-and-failure-1133804-mIf your business is experiencing a sales slump, the problem may not be that your sales team is “bad.” The problem may be that your sales team is poorly managed.

So says John Treace, author of Nuts & Bolts of Sales Management: How to Build a High-Velocity Sales Organization, and a contributor to Inc. Working with many struggling sales forces over the years, he’s found that “poor sales managers were degrading the sales teams’ morale and efficiency - and most of them didn’t even realize it.”

By avoiding these seven sins of sales managers, Treace says, “you’ll see everyone’s numbers go up."

Sin #1: Making Surprise Visits

When managers drop by without warning, in the hopes of seeing a sales rep in his or her “natural state,” they often inflict more harm than good. “For starters, it distracts the rep and degrades his or her performance.” Also, unannounced visits send the message that the manager doesn’t trust the rep “and that is a sure-fire relationship killer.”

Sin #2: Meeting With Customers Unannounced

Treace once had a sales manager meet with a favored customer without his knowledge. He later found out, not from his manager but from the confused customer, who “considered it poor business etiquette that my manager hadn’t informed me of his visit.” This damaged the customer’s confidence in the company.

Sin #3: Breaking Promises

A sales team’s trust is broken when their managers fail to keep commitments, apply rules inconsistently across the board and don’t take interest “in the daily challenges reps face.” Without trust, there can never be peak performance.

Sin #4: Treating All Territories Alike

A sales manager who “focuses on numbers alone” gives the impression he or she believes “all territories have equal potential.” But many factors can affect the value of different territories - anything from existing influential customers who “make new customer acquisition easier” to a new rep “replacing a salesperson of dubious reputation” who must then overcome customers’ negative perception of the company. “Good sales managers will recognize and acknowledge that not all territories are equal.”

Sin #5: Playing Favorites

Some sales managers (consciously or not) favor certain reps over others, granting them special concessions and rewards. As Treace notes, “This is a mortal sin, because morale is vital to the success of any sales team.”

Sin #6: Demanding Unnecessary Paperwork or Reporting

There’s only one reason for paperwork and reporting and that’s to close sales. Rather than helping a sales rep achieve this goal, these activities often present unnecessary hurdles, thereby proving to be “a drag on sales production.”

Sin #7: Setting Unrealistic Objectives

“A sales team must perceive all goals as reasonable and attainable,” Treace notes. Goals set too high (or too low) sends the message to the sales team that the manager “is not in touch with the market.” It’s difficult for sales reps to have confidence in this type of manager.

Yes, sales teams can make mistakes. But the sales manager should never be a further obstacle towards closing a sale.