sales manager

Transitioning a sales person to a sales manager

Transitioning A Salesperson To A Manager’s Role

One of the most costly mistakes in business is to promote your most successful sales person only to find that they fail as a manager.  What makes this even more disheartening is that you may also lose some of the revenue from that producer’s territory. Sales people are promoted because they have performed well and management mistakenly believes that the super star sales person is also a great manager and trainer.  Too often, the great sales person doesn’t even realize what they are doing different.  They may be intuitive or just particularly committed to cold calling or business development.  It is not uncommon that the sales person doesn’t really understand what behaviors have lead to above average results.

Being a super sales person and being a great manager often have traits that are diametrically different.  The successful sales person is usually easy to engage and empathetic with customers.  The really great ones are excellent listeners.  The exceptional sales manager is more analytical in that they can evaluate how effectively a sales person is executing their sales process and then provide concrete, specific feedback and exercises that will lead to improvement.  The listening skill that might have made them a great sales person is often a trait that enhances success as a sales manager. Larry King is credited with saying “I never learned anything while I was talking” and his words are well worth considering.

The sales manager that says, “Watch how I do it” is often using his personal skills to role model behaviors and that field experience is valuable but of only limited value.  Sales managers need to be coaches to be successful.  Few football coaches are world class quarterbacks, kickers or tight ends.  The way that a coach is able to field a winning team is to be able to assess the strengths and weakness of each player, to be able to diagnose the appropriate development and course of action and to be able to communicate the recommended changes in a manner that is clear and compelling.  If the sales manager is not able to change the attitudes and the behaviors of the sales team, it is questionable if the performance of the team will improve.  Think about the skill set required to change attitudes and behaviors.  That skill set may not be the same one that was able to close enough deals to get the salesperson promoted to sales manager.

Transitioning managers to a coaching role is the key to upgrading the collective results of the team.  Is the manager providing the appropriate development for the team and addressing individual needs?  Is the manager asking the right questions?  Is the manager effectively listening?  Is the manager good at making accurate assessments?  Does the manager use a sales process as his playbook and work with the team to practice the process?

The manager as coach analogy is a good one although there are many playback videos of sales people performances to assess.  Start by asking sales people specific questions:

  1. What does a qualified prospect look like?
  2. Who needs to be involved in the final decision that will lead to an order?
  3. What’s the cost to the buyer of not making a change?
  4. What value does the buyer/prospect see in your offering?
  5. How are we positioned against our competition?

The answers to these types of questions will enable the manager to make an assessment of how best to coach the sales person to success.  Increasing the overall effectiveness of the sales organization is the primary goal of the sales manager.  A sales manager that is a good coach is most likely to lead his team to greater success.