Why Your Best Sales Person Isn’t Always the Best Sales Manager

Great sales managers are hard to find.  They are the one hire that can either elevate your sales teams to the next level and beyond, or almost instantly destroy a sales culture.  More than half of the sales managers that we inherit when we work with a client are ineffective, and half of those cannot be fixed or helped-and we are experts at fixing sales management.  It is both normal and natural for a company that is not an expert in finding and developing strong sales managers to struggle in this area. 


For some reason, it seems normal to think that a great sales person should be able to evolve into a great sales manager.  They know the client, they know how to sell, they know the sales process, and they know the recipe for success.  So why wouldn’t they work out all of the time?


Does being a great race car mechanic mean that they can drive and win the race?  They understand the car, how it works, how to set it up to perform, why not how to drive it? There are not any examples that I know of where this has happened.


On the other hand, does being a great player make you a great coach?  Tony Dungy did pretty well.  In fact, every NFL coach except one was an NFL player at one time.  But not every NFL coach was a good coach, and most of the worst coaches ended up coaching for more than one team despite their horrible record.  So it is possible that the NFL has the same problem as the CEO.  While it should work out that a player can be effective as a coach/manager, it just doesn’t always work out the way that was expected.


Luckily for us in the sales world, Objective Management Group has done the research to know what the formula is for identifying and developing a sales person into a sales manager.  They get it right more than 95% of the time.  Here are three of the key areas that make the biggest difference from my perspective.


Will to manage sales people


While is seems logical that a sales person wants to move into management, it isn’t always the case.  To be successful as a manager, they must want to do it, commit to doing it, and be willing to accept responsibility for the effectiveness of the team.


A sales manager cannot accept or make excuses for performance.  They cannot blame their people for what isn’t working while taking credit for success.  They must take on the burden that if their team isn’t getting it done, it is on them.  This is a very big burden to take on.


On top of this, they must focus their efforts on building the team, and not on themselves.  That means that they not only cannot take credit for victories, they must never take out their superhero cape and save the deal for the sales person.  That is hard when you know how to save deals, but it doesn’t help your people get better.


They must be a great coach


Sales people often are great consultative sales people.  They know how to ask the difficult questions.  They know how to change the prospect’s paradigm.  They know how to shift an entire conversation with one well-timed question.  This skill set often makes them a great coach when those skills are applied on a sales person.


However, many sales people have a ‘non-transferable skill set.’  This means that they know what they do, but they don’t know why it works.  Because they don’t know why it works, they don’t know how to teach it or guide others to those behaviors, or even when those skills should be applied.


So they say things like “Here is what I would do….” Or “It’s time to…..” instead of helping the sales person realize on their own what is appropriate and how things should be handled.


You end up with a sales manager who has no idea how to coach and train others to sell like they do.



They must be great at relationship building


The best sales managers are people who focus all of their efforts on the development of their people.  That means that they are thrilled when people are getting better, even if selling isn’t where it needs to be. They know that development today means more sales later and they are willing to have the appropriate amount of patience to fuel development while taking their eye off of the sales scorecard.  This is an extremely difficult thing to manage, especially if they are under pressure to sell.


To be able to develop people, to be a great coach and mentor, you must know how to develop and maintain personal relationships with your people.  This doesn’t always mean that you are friends, but that you manage with the hand of a friend vs a boss.  Too many sales managers see their role as authoritative and that is often met with the responsibility to hire and fire.  The boss mindset can enter the picture very quickly and cloud their role and the relationships they have with the sales people.


18 other factors


These are the top three factors, but there are 21 total that predict effectiveness.  If you are missing in these top three areas with your sales manager, there are likely many more reasons that they will not be successful.


If you would like to know how to find, hire, or develop a sales manager into the one you need to grow the business, let us know.  We will be happy to guide you down that path.


Brian Kavicky

Connect with Brian Kavicky

For 25 years, Lushin has guided business leaders toward intentional, predictable growth.

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