Is Your Salesman Doubling As A Sales Manager?
Many small businesses face a familiar problem. There’s a small team of sales people who do the daily grind. However, when it comes to supervision and accountability and reporting and reviews, it all falls to the CEO, who’s wearing so many hats, doing so many things that the one thing that needs absolute focus – sales gets the short straw. Between the choice of hiring a new (and expensive!) Sales Manager and searching within the company for a potential leader, the solution chosen most often? Promoting the best performing salesperson to the Sales Manager role !
You would expect that would solve the problem. Right? Wrong! But not to despair since you’re not alone. Turns out most companies in their infinite wisdom fall back on this option. However, researchers from Yale, MIT and the University of Minnesota that studied 214 different U.S. and international companies have found that the skills that contribute towards individual success aren’t useful when it comes to supervising1.
We also see this exemplified in various walks of life . Perhaps we can visualize it more clearly in sports e.g. cricket where there are numerous examples of brilliant individual contributors who have failed when given command of the team. Brian Lara, Sachin Tendulkar, Andrew Flintoff to name just a few. A Virat Kohli who sets high standards, motivates, contributes also happens but those instances are few and far between.
So what are some of the key traits that differentiate a successful sales manager from the individual brilliance of a great salesperson? Let’s enumerate a few.
- Mindset : The biggest asset that a sales manager brings to the equation is that he/she understands the big picture and sets about it methodically. They understand that it’s about the team and not self. Setting standards and clarity of goals, understanding individual capabilities and coaching effectively, managing time, prioritizing tasks with the single minded goal of bringing out the best in individuals is what drives them.
- Discipline : A good sales manager understands the value of discipline and its role in building a winning sales team. Such as putting a sales process in place that provides uniformity in sales activity related decision-making vis-à-vis the customer. Structured review and feedback mechanisms to ensure timely actions on consistent basis. All of these lead to better predictability of outcomes.
- Alignment : Right from the core company values to the sales results that must be achieved, the sales manager is focused and aligned. They are on top of the metrics that drive the business – ahead of the curve, addressing or working the problems before they become a burning problem. Lead generation, demos/ proof of concepts, pipeline, new business vs. existing client ramp ups, large deal-small deal mix, closures for the month/quarter – all of the things that matter are always in focus.
- Communication : A good sales manager communicates effectively. He leads by example, motivating the team, inculcating responsibility and accountability for actions and commitments, providing them with the right resources/advice/ feedback at the right time. He switches from mentor to coach to a driver as the situation demands.
Yes. There are quite a few significant differences and most of these are honed through experience – good and bad. Hence putting a individual performer in a sales management position might not be the best way forward.