Sales Managers Need a Pipeline Too! – by Ken Smith

During a recent coaching conversation, a common theme popped up that I’ve heard time and time again throughout my career. That is, why do sales managers “WING IT” and wait till the last minute when a salesperson leaves, or worst yet, their best salesperson leaves – YIKES – to do anything about it!

And what usually happens next?  The sales manager picks up the phone in a panic and calls the staffing department to get somebody in the seat as quickly as possible, so they can get back on track to meet their sales goals.  Ever happen to you?  Be honest!  What kind of sales team are you building following this method of madness?

Thomas Jefferson once wrote “No duty the executive had to perform was so trying as to put the right person in the right place.”

Hiring a warm body won’t cut it in today’s competitive markets.  The key to your success is building a pipeline of qualified sales candidates and being a talent scout.  We read a lot about the importance of building a pipeline of prospects for salespeople, but we seldom hear about building a pipeline of qualified sales candidates for sales managers.

The first step in building your dream team is to determine the number of candidates you need to fill per year to sustain and grow your business.  Think back to when you started as a sales manager and ask the following questions:

  • How many sales people have I let go each year?
  • How many sales people have left voluntarily each year?
  • How many sales people have I replaced each year due to performance?
  • How many sales people have I replaced due to other issues?

Next, think about the future and ask the following questions:

  • Who will be retiring in the next couple of years?
  • Who seems like they’re not happy and may be leaving?
  • Who has expressed interest in other positions?
  • Who do I think is ready to move on to another position?
  • What are my plans for growth, expansion or new business opportunities?
  • How many salespeople will I need to capitalize on these opportunities?

This gives you a sense of how many salespeople you need to replace in a given year.  This activity works best during your annual sales budgeting activities.

Creating a pipeline of qualified sales candidates will help you reduce turnover, recover quicker when someone leaves, and build the team you need to succeed.  Practice what your preach!  If you expect your salespeople to have one, you need one too.

I’d love to hear your ideas regarding how you estimate the number of sales candidates you need per year.  Please feel free to contact me at


Ken Smith is currently Senior Manager of Employee Development at Allied Building Products where he leads the efforts for training, performance management and talent management.  Ken is passionate about identifying, developing and leveraging sales talent to help grow the business and win!  You can connect with Ken on Linkedin at  or send an e-Mail to him at



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