I am often confronted with CEOs who have sales managers that often performing under par. Why? Well when I ask a CEO why they decided to put “Steve” in that position the answer is almost always something like this; “Steve was by far our best sales person. He works hard, he bonded with clients right away and he could close sales. He seemed a natural”. Really? A natural?
The criteria for a great salesperson is almost completely different then that of a star leader. I say leader because anyone can manage since you manage things. A leader leads people.
A sales person, at least a good one, in my opinion, has some traits that are throughout almost all of the superstars I have met over the years.
1) Ego. Yep. They sometimes drive us crazy but they have a super ego. They want to be number one and will do whatever it takes to get there. Their decisions are centered around what is going to benefit them first, the company second.
2) They aren’t your best “Team Players”. Not that they won’t help others and be a part of a team, but they see doing a team project or team goal as just a hindrance to get to their own.
3) They are typically workaholics. They tie who they are closely to what they do. They look the part with the fancy clothes and cars, they try to impress and love all of the toys that money can buy.
A great sales leader is quite different.
1) Their ego is tied directly to the success of others. When going in the field with a sales person, the sales leader sits back and listens. They don’t jump in to try to “close the deal”. They let what would naturally happen without them there occur. They do this because they understand the importance of the teaching opportunity to create good and consistent repeatable habits later, not the instant “rush” of closing the sale. It isn’t about going in and closing an account for the salesperson, it is about using a process to assess the skills that the sales person needs and help them self-realize what they did well and what they should work on for the next time.
2) They enjoy the satisfaction of training and motivating. Telling a sales person, or anyone, is an example of ego. Asking their thoughts on the meeting and using it as a teaching opportunity is leadership.
3) Sales leaders have a strong work ethic but also understand how to work smart as opposed to just hard. They
delegate well and create a culture of autonomy as opposed to dictatorship.
There are other things that are important when deciding on a sales leader including consistent processes for everyone to follow when it comes to the sale and recruiting being an on-going behavior, even when you think you have a full sales team.
I posed this question on the linkdin group “MY Sales Community” to get some sales professionals opinions. Here are some
“Training should happen before that person actually takes over the responsibilities of that position. Ideally, that person should be recognized as a potential sales manager before the need arises and groomed for that position over time. Good supervisors know that talent should be recognized early and developed for the security and continuity of good customer service. If someone leaves abruptly, for any reason, the company doesn't miss a beat”-D. Brown North Carolina
“Being a former High-Tech recruiter that specifically placed Sales Management in Pre-IPO, Venture Capital and Angel Investor backed companies in Silicon Valley, I would like to comment: In my experience, founders and executives always asked for an excellent bag-carrying Sales Manager from a competitor to build, lead and motivate their respective new sales forces. In most cases, these "Sales Superstars" were excellent in the early stages of these company's growth - they had to be the first sales person - but as they added staff, they became overwhelmed with the day-to-day management responsibilities, and were not experienced enough in management to make up for their weaknesses. They had never trained or hired a sales force (they would hire their "friends" from their previous companies to compensate for their lack of recruiting skills), were not able to convey or transfer their skills to their staff, or manage these people because that's not what their skill set happened to be. They were great Salespeople, not great managers. They could manage their accounts or geography, but that's totally different than managing people. So, as the companies tried to get bigger, the VP/Director became a liability, and eventually, was either demoted to a Regional or Major Account’s position, or in worst case, terminated, and a seasoned Sales Management veteran was brought in to lead the sales team. So, in closing, a great salesperson does not automatically guarantee a great Sales Manager. Exception: If that person were groomed for that position, given management skills over time, evaluated as to those skills, then it's always best to create from within the organization. –B. Goldfarb, Florida
Remember your best sales person is your best salesperson. Period. Stop trying to fit a square peg into a round hole.
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