Egos, Eggs, Letters and Ticklers: 4 Sales Management Tricks That Increase Sales and Improve Morale

Managing salespeople and proposal writers has been described as being like herding cats. That seems a little unfair to cats, frankly. Cats can’t help themselves. Salespeople and proposal writers, on the other hand, choose not to hold management to quite the level of infallibility that management would like.

Nonetheless, management and sales reps can work together to improve sales. And, when they’re not working together, management can at least choose methods that do as little damage as possible to the already fragile egos of salespeople and proposal writers. Here’s some tricks that I recommend.

Trick #1: The Follow-Up

When a salesperson gets back from visiting with a prospect, the sales manager should send a handwritten letter – or at least an email – to the prospect that thanks the prospect for the courtesy he showed the sales rep. It doesn’t have to be complicated. In fact, it can be the same thing every time:

“Dear Sam-

Dave asked us to thank you for the courtesy you showed him when he visited you about… ”

Of course, the salesperson should be doing his own follow ups, but those should be about the prospect and what he needs. This one is designed to simply be a kind note to say thanks. And that simplicity is the key.

First, by thanking the prospect for their courtesy, the prospect sees himself as a courteous person. Not only is this flattering, but the prospect will now act consistently with that label. You open the way for the materials that follow. To do otherwise would be inconsistent.

Second and more importantly, by singling out courtesy, you signify that this is a quality you value. You also signal that your company is composed of humans who appreciate decency and who are easy to work with. All of those things help the prospect trust your more.

Third, there is an additional effect. The prospect who was courteous with the salesperson likes knowing that it was recognized and was worth enough that it was mentioned to a sales manager. This builds rapport and the prospect will be even happier to see the salesperson when he next returns.

And if the prospect wasn’t courteous? This is why it should be handwritten and come from the sales manager. If it comes from the salesperson, it sounds passive aggressive. If it’s an email, it’s too easy to shoot back a snarky reply. But if the sales manager says it by letter, and this is a prospect you really want to pursue business with, then the discourteous prospect will be stuck recognizing the error in his treatment of the salesperson. Odds are good that, next time the salesperson calls on the prospect, the prospect will go out of his way to prove he’s a good person.

Trick #2: The Tickler

Most Customer Relations Management software either includes or supports ticklers – little reminders that a customer or prospect should be contacted. But ticklers are useful for sales managers too, not just salespeople.

If the sales manager is getting reminders, then the manager can go to the salesperson and politely request a report. If, as usual, the salesperson has no report to make because he ignored his own tickler system, then the sales manager can set the system to remind him again the next day. When the next day comes, out comes the manager to politely get a report. This procedure keeps on going until the salesperson realizes it’s easier to just call the prospect than to stare across his desk at his manager every afternoon, trying to come up with a fresh batch of excuses.

Trick #3: The Ego Saver

It’s no secret that the egos of salespeople and proposal writers are delicate things. Not only the ego, but also the always fragile relationship between manager and salesperson can be damaged by a negative email about some trivial little detail the salesperson missed in a Miller Heiman Blue Sheet or other report. The morale deflating and resentment producing that goes along with receiving a critical email saps all his desire to sell. It can cost the company hundreds or thousands of times more than whatever the value would have been of filling out the Blue Sheet correctly. Despite this, I see managers continue to send these sorts of emails day in and day out – even at supposedly enlightened firms.

But, these managers argue, salespeople need to fill out the Blue Sheets correctly or else the rest of the organization can’t do their jobs.

That’s true as far as it goes, so here’s the approach I recommend, for example, when salespeople are required to fill out specific forms on the customer, their needs, their pain points and so on.

The Blue Sheets themselves are easy enough to understand for the salesperson, since they’ve been trained in Strategic Selling. So the salesperson knows whether or not his Blue Sheet gives the information that it needs to.

Although it’s possible for the manager to send a condescending email every time the Blue Sheet is filled out in a superficial way, it’s not a good idea. It’s too easy to harm the relationship with the salesperson, harm the company through decreased sales and so on.

Instead, the manager should just return a copy of the deficient Blue Sheet with a small star next to the questionable part. It’s a symbol, which the salesperson immediately recognizes, that more depth or more information is required. If the next version of the Blue Sheet doesn’t fix the problem, a copy is again returned, this time with a question mark next to the star. If a third mark is needed, then an exclamation point can be added and added and added, until there is a string of exclamation points for as many iterations of the Blue Sheet as the salesperson requires before he gets tired of the game and fills out the form correctly.

A salesperson might leave because he feels mistreated by the manager, but he can’t exactly storm out because you put a lot of exclamation points on his Blue Sheet. Yet he knows he was sloppy and he knows the manager knows. The end result is much more effective than a nasty email.

Trick #4: Customer Eggs

One of the most important roles that a sales manager can do – but is rarely done – is to ensure that the company has a variety of customer types. Just as you shouldn’t put all your eggs in one basket, you shouldn’t rest all your revenue on one sector. If you sold only to real estate companies in the early 2000s, your company went down the drain just as fast as the realtors did. More recently, if your customer was only working class individuals, the long recession left you in as bad a shape as it did them. A “one type of customer” business is as risky as a retirement plan that only has shares in one company.

Instead, your sales manager needs to check your customers for their industries and, taking it a step further, needs to check if those industries are correlated. If your clients are in software and construction, you’re safe. If they’re in real estate and construction, you’re looking at trouble. Try to keep a little elasticity with your goods and your sales force, so that, if one area starts to get hit, you can smoothly shift over to another.

Bonus Tip: Competitions Aren’t Always What You Want

As one final trick, consider the question of whether to have sales competitions. In this case, the trick is not what to do or not do, but what to consider. The issue here is that, if you offer prizes to the best salespeople or proposal writers for a particular month, you may end up causing more harm than good. Not to the losers, which you might expect, but to the winners.

There is no doubt that competitions work. If you offer one, the salespeople will go crazy to win the prizes. You will see energy you haven’t seen in months.

The problem comes once the competition is over. It can ruin the winners. The winners will be some of your best salespeople. Once the contest is complete, however, they now know they they’re your best salespeople. And unfortunately it can happen that it goes to their head, creates friction with other salespeople, and their sales immediately begin to fall. They start to coast on their reputations. They frequently cannot recover psychologically from the blinding of the temporary glory.

So, before you offer a sales contest, take a long hard look at your salespeople. Can they handle losing it? Can they handle winning it?

***

Keep these tricks and tips in mind and your organization will see more sales, higher proposal win rates and a happy, efficient sales team.

You need to sell more. For the sake of your business, your job, and your family, you have to be successful in more deals.

Chris Sant will help you to win 35% more opportunities by boosting the quality, framework and emphasis of your organization’s proposals by means of the Bulletproof Proposal Formula, including the exclusive ABC, 5-10-15-20 and PROSE techniques.

Evidence? These sorts of procedures and techniques raised the win rates of over 125 Fortune 500 corporations by a good deal more — about 39%.

As a matter of fact, materials prepared making use of these techniques have led to over $30 billion in opportunities — that’s even more than the GDPs of Iceland and Jamaica together!

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Be a Successful Sales Manager, Not a Super Seller

How many sales teams suffer because their sales manager is not doing their job at the right “level”? Sales figures suffer, sales people suffer and the sales managers feel pressured and possibly even stressed. I want to look at some of the reasons why this occurs and offer some initial ideas for how sales managers can carry out their roles more confidently and effectively – for everyone’s benefit!

Why does this seem to happen so often? It does seem that the transition to sales management is one which can often prove a struggle! There is a long list of reasons, few of which are the fault of the person doing the sales manager’s role. The organisation is probably a significant contributor to the problems facing the sales manager! A lack of clear succession planning is part of the equation. Maybe there is a limited understanding of what the role really involves, or should involve! The chances are that the senior management may share many of the misconceptions of the sales function and how it operates in a successful environment. Where sales is concerned, there is usually too much short-term thinking and a focus on results. I agree that the sales manager is there to achieve the targets and to work within a budget. However, to paraphrase the great Peter Drucker, “sales results are not an objective in their own right, they are an outcome of achieving the other objectives.” Another tripping point can be an expectation that the new sales manager should be acting like a predecessor – provided they were successful and, typically, outgoing and told a convincing tale about how things would turn out!

In common with many other managers, the sales managers have probably been promoted into their role with little real preparation, guidance or training. This will be compounded if they were given the opportunity because they were one of the best in the sales team. (Rather than choosing the person with the right qualities to do the job.) Sales does have an additional time pressure, in that results need to keep being obtained from the outset. There is little time for a learning curve! Without the development support the newly appointed manager has a limited range of choices. A typical response is to think about role models we have known and adopt and adapt what we liked or respected about them. This is often done unconsciously as well as consciously. Entering a new role with more responsibility carries different pressures. These will cause most people to feel some degree of under-confidence. To overcome this, it is natural to do some things which will help to reinforce confidence. For many, this will mean finding opportunities to prove they are worthy of the new role. Where are these? Dealing with customers, chasing the large order and proving to the sales team why the manager should have been given the job!

This latter approach may help the manager feel more confident, or give then the buzz they had when they were a seller. It will probably also start to diminish any respect they may have from the team, especially if some of these orders are taken from their customers. It hardly does their confidence any good as they will feel undermined!

The root of the problem is frequently something as fundamental as the actual job description. How well does it set out the range of responsibilities and tasks? Does it define the competencies required to do the job well? The key outcome for a sales manager is to achieve the required sales targets and margins. This should be done by using the resources effectively, especially the sales team! Taking a few orders might help in the short-term and reinforce the ego of the sales manager, it will not provide an ongoing solution for under-performance with team members.

What can be done to improve this and make sales managers operate more effectively? Begin at the beginning with a clearly defined job description as mentioned above! This can be a great help with recruitment or promotion and might reduce the classic tendency of promoting the top seller. (A frequent recipe for disaster as they may not succeed in the role and end up leaving, or being asked to leave. On the way to this, they may have upset a number of the sales team who do worse and might leave!) This job description needs to emphasise that the role involves a variety of activities which are not connected with their own face to face selling. When it is clear what the competencies are and the sales manager can assess themselves against these, some form of development plan can be identified to close any gaps.

The sales manager needs to understand the overall strategy and know how to plan – especially in developing a sales plan. They have to be able to analyse the current situation, market and competition as a starting point. As part of their plan they need to evaluate the capabilities of the sales team and decide whether they have the appropriate structure to deliver against the strategy and plan.

If there is no clearly defined sales process, it will help if they can identify one and break it down to the main steps. From this, they can identify the critical areas to monitor and control. Knowing these points can give the early warning signals if their might be problems in achieving the results later and can also help with more accurate forecasting. There are plenty of software systems to help with this aspect, from the top end such as Oracle and Seibel through SalesTrak to ACT or Golmine.

From this, you can see that a key part of the role is desk-bound, making time to think, assess and make decisions. This is only part of the whole! While the desk time can help in identifying areas to set targets and goals, it is not the best place to evaluate the skills and potential of the sales team. The job description should establish some key performance indicators about time spent with the sales team on field visits.

Days spent with the sales team will usually have multiple aims. The primary one is to support and develop the sales person. Observing them with the prospects or customers, reviewing how the call went and then coaching them to improve. A key part of this is to provide useful feedback and support. (Not just blaming or criticising or saying how you, the manager, would have done it!) There is also an element of communication and relationship building to keep the seller informed of things within the organisation and also getting to know more about them. None of these is really achievable working from a desk and trying to manage by telephone and email! A minor part of the day is to also meet with customers and find out what they are thinking about the organisation and its service.

If the organisation has a key (or major) account strategy, there might be valid reasons for the sales manager to have direct contact with some of the personnel in the accounts. This should be at the direction of the account manager or sales person as they are in charge of the account. The sales manager is there to support them not to take over!

There will be some other time with the sales team, whether one to one or at sales meetings. The sales manager can use these to review performance, communicate, deal with problems and agree the way forward. The balance of the sales manager’s time might be spent between doing their own administration activities and also interacting with other functions in the organisation.

Across all of these there is no emphasis on being the super seller!! The role is to be the sale manager. This means getting the results through the resources available – and the main resource is the sales people, whether in the field or on the phone. The sales manager needs to develop their management skills in analysis, planning, monitoring and then grow their leadership skills alongside these to develop and support their people. Learn to get motivation through seeing the team achieve rather than getting that deal! The job can become more enjoyable, the sales people are more successful and positive, and results improve. Do this and everyone is happier from the top down and through the sales team!

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Why Sales Superstars May Not Become Sales Management Superstars – 10 Qualities of Top Sales Managers

The following job promotion ritual is repeated in numerous sales organizations every year:

Step 1: A sales management position is vacant due to growth, attrition, or the dismissal of an existing sales manager; Step 2: The top sales representative in the organization (or department) is selected to fill the vacancy; Step 3: The top salesperson doesn’t like to (or is unable to) manage the sales performance of other individuals, so he keeps focused on personal selling initiatives, but in doing so, is failing in his role as sales manager; Step 4: The cycle repeats itself.

Although sales representatives and sales managers both work within the realm of selling, many of the strengths required for success in the roles of sales manager differ than the strengths required for success in the role of sales person. Therefore, few top-performing salespeople will become top-performing sales managers. This is important to know if you’re looking to hire a new sales manager in your company, and you expect this individual to be successful filling that role.

This isn’t a phenomenon that’s unique to selling. There are many highly-skilled and successful physicians, for example who are unable to effectively manage a staff of other physicians. There are many prized athletes who are not able to successfully coach a team of other athletes. There are skilled kitchen designers, plumbers, and attorneys who are unable to manage respective groups of other kitchen designers, plumbers, and attorneys.

Before I offer support for my thesis, allow me to confess that there are two situations where I will not argue with the individual who says the top salesperson in an organization will become a successful sales manager:

(1) The first is where where the new sales manager retains the responsibility for personally generating sales revenue. This individual is, in effect, either a part-time sales manager, or a sales manager in title only; (2) The second is when the sales manager’s role is to be almost exclusively a rain-maker (a generator of new business opportunities). That is a selling role that some sales managers play, but it is not a management role per se.

The following is a list of strengths (skills) that are required to achieve phenomenal success as the manager of a sales team (or any team, for that matter). However, none of these skills are substantially required for phenomenal success in front-line selling. This doesn’t mean that a top sales performer will never be a top sales management performer, but it means that the strengths required to fill the two roles are substantially different.

Strength #1. Delegating.
The sales manager certainly cannot do the front-line sales activity for his entire sales group himself. Meeting a sales quota requires the contribution of all members of the sales team. The successful sales manager must possess the ability to delegate responsibility to others so the group can achieve its goals. Delegating is quite a different skill than, say, closing skill, which is required of top sales performers, but the skill of delegation is not a skill which is typically required for top sales performance.

Strength #2. Willing to give up the top spot.
Top sales performers who become sales managers must be entirely willing to give up the position of top performer in a sales organization. For those who can’t, disaster awaits. Sales managers must be willing and able to put their top salespeople on pedestals so their egos can be adequately fed, while also keeping their own egos in check for the sake of the advancement of their team. In a larger organization there is still opportunity for competition between several or many sales managers, but a top sales manager has to be able to point to his top performer and give her credit for being the top salesperson in his group. He also has to encourage other non-top-performers to become top-performers. Since many salespeople have been ego-driven in their successful sales careers, this transition from achiever to encourager is critical. The skill of allowing someone else to be the top dog is not a skill required for success in selling, and in fact, can be antithetical to it. Many sales managers who have previously been a top sales performer who have been driven throughout his entire career to achieve “pedestal” status will not work tirelessly to put another individual on this same pedestal.

Strength #3. Focusing on others.
Sales management requires an outward focus on others’ sales performance, whereas successful selling requires an inward focus on one’s own sales performance. Being in control of your own sales is one thing; but it’s impossible to be in control of an entire team’s sales. Therefore, a loss of direct control of the sale is required in favor of a focus on the sales manager’s team members.

Strength #4. Supervising.
Sale managers must possess front-line supervisory skills. They need to know how and when to step in to discipline or change behaviors in an employee. They must possess wisdom about when to support subordinates versus when to discipline them. Top sales performers do not need supervisory skills to achieve top dog status.

Strength #5. Managing.
The key skill of the manager is to utilize every subordinate’s special strengths to achieve the goals of the sales group. Weaknesses in employees exist, but assembling a group of team members who have strengths in the right areas, and knowing how to put those strengths to work, is not required of top sales performers. It is, however, required of sales managers who wish to achieve top sales performance. These management concepts are described by Marcus Buckingham in his book “The One Thing You Need to Know About Great Managing, Great Leading, and Sustained Individual Success” (Simon & Schuster, 2005).

Strength #6. Coaching, training, mentoring.
Successful sales managers should be able to coax salespeople to improved performance, both in one-on-one coaching events and in classroom training environments. Although there may be some of these elements present in all selling top performers, these elements are crucial for top sales management performance.

Strength #7. Leading.
According to Marcus Buckingham, again in “The One Thing You Need to Know,” successful leaders have two key attributes: (1) They have the ability to create a vision for the future; and (2) They have the ability to get subordinates lined up within this vision, so that individuals’ efforts will support, and not hamper, the group’s progress. Successful sales managers have these leadership attributes. Leadership skill is not required of top sales performers.

Strength #8. Filtering directives.
The sales manager will receive many directives from her superiors. To be effective, she must know when to filter out or adjust these directives, and when to take them on with reckless abandon. This is a delicate balance, and not knowing when to do which one can wreak havoc in a sales organization. The wisdom to know when to embrace upper-management directives, and when to subtly give them secondary attention, will help determine the success of the sales manager’s team, and therefore, the success of the sales manager.

Strength #9. Hiring and Firing.
Top-performing sales managers must make be able to accurately predict sales performance during the interviewing process, and must leverage that ability in their hiring of subordinates. Without this ability, sales performance will suffer. Top sales performers do not need this predictive skill. Successful sales manager must also know how and when to remove an employee from their team so that negative repercussions are minimized.

Strength #10. Deciding.
There’s no question that making good decisions is important in successful selling. But in a sales management role, all decisions are magnified because each decision affects more than one individual. The sales manager’s decisions affect an entire staff of sales professionals and their customers. This means decision-making skills are vital for the sales manager.

There are many skills required for sales success. Among them are the ability to prospect and create business opportunities, the ability to identify prospects’ needs, and ability to close the sale. But the sales management qualities listed above are not substantially required for individual selling success.

While there’s some overlap between the required skill of the peak-performing sales manager and the peak-performing sales person, here’s my advice: if you’re looking for a sales manager who will succeed, hire one that possesses the strengths of a sales manager (those listed strengths above). Many peak-performing salespeople don’t possess those strengths.

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3 Reasons Why Sales Managers Don’t Coach

Reason 1. They’re Focused on Selling, Not Coaching

Because many sales managers rose through the ranks to become the “uber” salesperson in their company, their instincts are always to go after the big deals. They have never been trained on the sales management skills needed to develop an elite sales team. So they do what they feel comfortable doing and what they have become very good at: selling. They see something going wrong (or at least not going well) in a sale and they step in to “fix” the problem for the sales rep.

This fix-it-myself mentality may solve an immediate problem (no guarantee) but even if it helps close one sale, it has serious downsides in the long run.

It undermines the salesperson’s credibility with the customer when the boss intervenes. Why would the customer ever want to do business with the salesperson knowing that the real power lies with the boss.
It undermines the salesperson’s self-confidence. Not good.
It does nothing to help the salesperson improve their skills. “Sales interference” from the sales manager just makes it more likely the problem will recur the next time around.

As a sales manager, one of the kindest things you can do for your people is to not be there for them. If a rep asks you a question, respond with a question: “What have you done about it so far? What do you think ought to be done?” Involving your salespeople in solving their own problems is what will break the cycle of constant need. That is what will help them develop their own skills so they become more accountable.

In short, stop seeing yourself as a problem solver, and start seeing yourself as a solution facilitator.

Reason 2. They Under-appreciate the Need for Coaching

A lot of stellar salespeople are building on natural talents and instincts. They needed only minimal coaching to reach the elite levels. When they become sales managers, they don’t pay much attention to coaching because they never needed (or received) much coaching themselves. They leave inexperienced sales people to sink or swim on their own, expecting their reps to pick up good techniques through osmosis, just like they did. They don’t recognize that coaching could be a way to break an experienced salesperson out of a slump or rut.

Think about how you spent your time over the last week, the last month. How much of it was spent helping your reps develop their skills or think through what they need to do to move a client forward in the buying process? If you can’t answer at least 50%, you are mis-spending your time as a manager. (See the next point.)

Reason 3. They Don’t Have the Time

Recently I was retained by a Fortune 500 company to examine their job description for the sales manager position. Fully 85 percent of the duties were directly linked to coaching salespeople. (I’ve reviewed many sales manager job descriptions over the years, and this was one of the better ones.)

I then conducted face-to-face interviews with a number of the sales managers and found that less than 5 percent of their time was actually spent on coaching. Five percent! Another way to say this is that sales managers were spending 95 percent of their time focused on 15 percent of their job responsibilities. Why such waste?

One big reason was that these sales managers were spending three hours each day responding to about 150 emails, virtually none of which came from their sales team. And that’s not counting all the meetings, paperwork, and fire fighting. The list of “urgencies” for sales managers today is endless.

With all the distractions sales managers face, the first thing to go out the window is developmental coaching-time spent helping their salespeople improve their skills (not just closing one sale). They haven’t observed the salesperson selling, or intervened at key points of the sales process, so when a sales rep is 75 percent of quota, they’re not sure why.

The solution? Start by stopping unproductive interruptions. Make a list of the top five interruptions you experience and come up with specific steps you’ll take to minimize their disruptions to your workday. Maybe it’s turning off the your Smartphone, or closing your office door, or simply ignoring that little “you’ve got mail” sound from your computer. Maybe it’s a salesperson who is “Needy.”

Next, take just 30 seconds to quickly write down your top three goals for your sales team. Then take a few minutes to identify the six tasks that you as a manager need to be doing, day in and day out, to help your team achieve those three goals? For lack of a better label, let’s call this your “3-6-No List.” Carry this list with you throughout the day. If anything comes up that’s not related to what’s on this list Just Say No. Yes, that’s going to be hard at first. Most sales managers are unwilling to say no. But you need to spend the vast majority of your time working on either sales development or business development tasks, and anything that eats into that time is a very low priority.

High-Leverage Coaching

Based on my contact with thousands of sales managers over the past 30 years, one of the most common mistakes I see is sales managers who spend most of their time with either their poorest performers or their top producers.

Focusing on the poorest performers is misguided. Suppose your coaching efforts result in a 10% increase in production amongst your bottom-producers. How much better off are your numbers? Not much.

Focusing your one-on-one coaching time on your top performers also is misguided. How much of a difference can you really make in their sales effectiveness? Should you talk to them about their career goals? Absolutely. Recognize them for their valuable contributions to the team? Yes, for sure. But don’t spend all your hands-on sales coaching time with them because they have less room for improvement.

The solution is to steal a lesson from the medical profession and “triage” your sales team. Chances are, your peak performers and highly experienced/tenured people will survive regardless of how much time you spend with them. Praise and recognize them – continue to motivate them – but don’t spend precious hours with them in the field conducting one-on-one coaching sessions.

The same is true in reverse with your bottom performers: chances are they won’t make it, so why give them all of your time. (Come to think of it, why are they still on your team?) But you can’t ignore them. It’s the middle performers who have potential to become high performers that deserve most of your attention.

Therefore, the high-payoff strategy is: Spend group time with your bottom producers. Spend most of your precious one-on-one field coaching time with your “emerging contributors” – those salespeople who have the best chance to develop into peak performers, if they could learn what you know.

This strategy of focusing on your emerging contributors can pay you multiple benefits in your sales management career. You may start to see emerging contributors sprint past your senior salespeople! Another benefit is that you’ll have more top producers, so the gap to the bottom producers will widen. The bottom producers who are committed to survival will fight harder to pull up their production.

No More Excuses

There are many similarities between selling customers and coaching salespeople. Both require understanding another’s problems, diagnosing the cause of that problem and helping the other person to understand the complications/ripple effects if they don’t solve the problem. Sales managers already possess many of the abilities that they need to become a great sales coach-but habits or misconceptions have prevented sales managers from utilizing these skills to develop an elite high-performance sales team.

For those sales managers who want to become a better sales coach, the implication is clear. You can’t achieve that simply by learning how to coach. Your solution must also solve the obstacles that prevent proactive, hands-on sales coaching from actually happening.

Kevin Davis is president of TopLine Leadership, Inc., a leading sales and sales management training company serving clients in diverse sectors. He has 30+ years experience as a salesperson, sales manager, and consultant. Kevin is the author of “Slow Down, Sell Faster! Understand Your Customer’s Buying Process and Maximize Your Sales” (Amacom Books, January, 2011).

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Sales Management – Should You Promote a Top Sales Performer to Sales Management?

A question I hear frequently is, “Should I promote my top sales performer to a sales management role?”

To answer this question, I suggest you consider the following three questions:

Does the individual have the TALENTS required to succeed as a sales manager?

WHY are they interested in being promoted?

What sales management TRAINING will they receive?

Let’s examine each of these questions in some detail.

1. Does the individual have the TALENTS required to succeed as a sales manager?

During the past nine years I have examined sales assessment test results for thousands of salespeople and sales managers. My conclusion? Top sales performers and top-performing sales managers share many of the same talents. However, there are a handful of characteristics where top-performing sales managers differ from top-performing salespeople. For example:

Top-performing sales managers have slightly higher scores for Verbal Skill, Verbal Reasoning and Numeric Reasoning.

Top-performing sales managers are slightly more Assertive, but they are also slightly more Manageable, have a slightly more positive Attitude and are slightly less Independent.

But, probably most significant difference is that Financial/Administrative (which indicates the individual’s interest process, procedure, administration and financial tasks) is one of the top three interests for top-performing sales managers, whereas 80% of top sales performers have very little interest in these activities. I feel this is a key differentiator because the sales management methodology I teach requires a manager to be willing to:

Hold salespeople accountable for following a predictable, repeatable sales process

Frequently and consistently inspect the quantity and quality of their salespeople’s activities (especially for new salespeople and those who are not performing up to standard)

Analyze sales opportunity pipeline reports, profit and loss statements and other data and reports

If managers are willing to do these things, they can create a predictable and repeatable sales culture that can be scaled rapidly. If they are NOT willing to do these things, they are likely to suffer 80/20 sales team performance, where a small fraction of the salespeople produce most of the sales results and successes are hard to replicate.

2. WHY are they interested in being promoted?

My opinion is that the desire to be promoted is often implanted in us by our parents, other adults and educational institutions. This makes perfect sense, as in many (if not most) career paths the only way to make more money and enjoy more perks is to earn promotions. However, in sales this is usually NOT the case!

If you are a top-performing salesperson, often you will take a pay CUT if you accept a promotion to management. That is certainly what happened to me when I was promoted to sales management in 1991. I walked away from a $6 million pipeline that would have paid me hundreds of thousands of dollars a year for the next several years. While I still earned a six-figure income as a manager, my income was a fraction of what it would have been had I remained a salesperson.

When a salesperson is considering a promotion to management, I advise that they make a very sincere effort to identify the reasons why the idea of being promoted is attractive to them. I also suggest that they give some thought to the following realities:

Money: Unless you eventually make it all the way to executive management, chance are you will earn LESS as a manager than you would earn by remaining a top-performing salesperson

Attention: As a manager you no longer get to be the star. Instead, you need to shift your focus to helping the members of your sales team succeed.

Administration: As we saw in the first section of this article, a key component of being a successful sales manager is frequently and consistently inspecting the quantity and quality of your salespeople’s activities. How do you feel about doing this kind of work…over and over again?

Training/Coaching: How much interest do you have in training, coaching and mentoring others? How do you feel about participating in repetitive role plays, which is a critical component of changing your salespeople’s behaviors?

Sometimes I hear salespeople say they would like to move to management because they are tired of the day-to-day grind of prospecting and managing sales cycles, or they are tired of the ups and downs in income, or they really enjoy coaching and mentoring others, or they would like to eventually have an opportunity to contribute in other areas of the company. These are all perfectly valid reasons, and there are many more.

All I ask is that you take the time to verify that you (or your salesperson) are pursuing a promotion to management for the RIGHT reasons and that you (or your salesperson) are ready to deal with the realities of being a sales manager.

3. What sales management TRAINING will they receive?

Just because someone is an effective salesperson does NOT mean they will automatically be an effective manager. There are specific skills and concepts that a new sales manager needs to learn if they are going to be successful. These include:

Sales Recruiting

Sales Compensation

Sales Training and Coaching

Sales Activity Inspection

What is your plan for teaching your new sales manager how to perform these critical activities?

Conclusion

Sometimes it DOES make sense to promote a top sales performer to a sales management role. However, before you promote, please be sure to give careful thought to the following questions:

Does the individual have the TALENTS required to succeed?

WHY are they interested in being promoted?

What TRAINING will they receive?

If you are not confident in your answers to these three questions, you may be on the verge of making a very expensive mistake. Not only will you lose the promoted salesperson’s individual production; if they fail as a manager they are likely to leave your company and go sell for someone else!

On the other hand, if a salesperson has the talents required to succeed, if he or she is pursuing promotion for the right reasons, and if he or she will receive training in critical sales management skills and concepts, the stars are aligned for a successful…and profitable…promotion!

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