Can you relate to this common sales organization predicament? Six months ago you promoted “Bob,” an outstanding sales rep who has great skills and the respect of the entire sales team to be a sales manager. Today, Bob is busier than ever — out on the road with the other reps, helping to close their deals. The new sales rep hired to replace Bob is struggling, generating less revenue than Bob made in the role. The rest of the sales team is producing about the same numbers they were six months ago making the net result of the promotion a loss because no one is replacing the revenue Bob brought in as an individual contributor.
This is a tale as old as time — or at least as old as cold calling. Businesses have the best of intentions in promoting a sales star to manage a sales team. They want to reward performance, retain a loyal and talented team member and leverage the demonstrated skills of one of their best business developers to improve the overall skills and performance of the sales organization. The problem is that outstanding sales skills and business development talents do not transform into great management skills after a promotion. Not without a focus on developing those management skills.
Without guidance, the Bobs of the world will typically only do what they do best: sell. They rush from account to account, helping to close deals because this is what they know how to do. While some sales reps may glean lessons by seeing the work of these sales-oriented managers firsthand, many learn to get a deal close to complete and then call in Bob to finish the job, thus halting their own sales development. Frustration (the kind that can erode morale) is common as sales reps feel Bob “just takes things over.” In addition, Bob is rewarded for being the closer allowing him to be the hero.
Can your business avoid this pattern and still cultivate internal talent to successfully lead sales teams? Yes is often the answer if businesses are willing to take the following steps to identify, develop and support new sales managers.
Watch for a Team Mentality – The best sales managers get great satisfaction from the success of others. When looking to promote from within your sales ranks watch for signs of team orientation. Does the sales rep have a record of willingly partnering with others for the greater good of the business? Does the candidate support colleagues in their efforts and openly share tips and opportunities? Is she/he good at managing the administrative side of sales operations? Use these questions and careful observation to identify candidates who will be able to adjust from measuring job success based on the revenue they bring in to measuring success based on how much they boost the performance of each team member.
Commit to Development – The skills it takes to manage a group, motivate people and coach are vastly different than the skills it takes to sell. Managers must be taught how to “coach” to develop the skills of their team members rather than “direct” or simply tell their reps what to do. They also need to encourage performance by setting clear expectations, holding people accountable, the value and skill of delegation, how to manage conflict, and how to prioritize their time in a very different way. . Rather than hoping for a sales manager to master these skills through sheer determination or the painful process of trial and error, invest in a more formal development process for your sales leaders. Also, keep in mind we aren’t talking about something that happens in a two-day class, but a combination of education and on the job activities that create strong, routine habits.
Define Expectations Early & Measure Them Regularly – If you are like most companies, you probably do not sit new sales managers down and tell them exactly what you expect. The first thing every new sales manager should hear is, “Your job is not to do it yourself, but rather to coach and improve performance so your team improves.” They need to understand that the new measure of success is not just an overall revenue number but the marked improvement of each member of the sales team. All sales people—from reps to managers to CEOs are motivated by performance goals. Tap into that desire to succeed by clearly outlining the new measures of success, giving your new manager the right goals to aspire to and measuring and rewarding accomplishments.
Would adding these management development and evaluation best practices to the way you currently operate be a serious departure from how your business works today? If so, it’s time to look at how you have been preparing and supporting sales managers. They are likely struggling and now is your chance to help them truly become leaders while making a big, lasting impact on the sales team AND your overall results.