The most common questions I think I get, hands down, are: “Greta, where do I find a good sales manager?” or “Who on our team do you think would be a good manager?” Most of the time, they take their best salesperson and promote him, or they take somebody who has been in the field or sold before and hire her. What happens? Well, I’ll tell you: More often than not, it’s unsuccessful. To illustrate why, I’m going to tell you a story about Evan.
I work with a very prominent, high-end Web design company, one of the largest in the country. It has a wonderful reputation, and its salespeople are skilled, though they needed to learn some process. So the company hired me about a year and a half ago.
The sales manager they had was absolutely fabulous at sales – one of the best I’ve seen. And when I taught them my sales process, most of them – and certainly him – took to the process like a duck to water. The sales manager, named Don, took this process and made it his own. He totally got it, he understood it and he started selling like nobody’s business.
Well that’s great, but how were the others doing? They weren’t really hitting their potential. Why? Because they weren’t really being managed. Now, don’t get me wrong. Don was one of the best salesmen I’ve ever seen, but management and sales are two completely different things. So the owner and I sat down and talked. I said: “You know, I think you are holding Don back by making him a sales manager. He could be not only your top salesperson, but he could make a heck of a lot more money, and I don’t think he enjoys what he’s doing.” He said: “Well, what do you think we should do?”
Now, before I talk to you about Evan, I want to tell you a little bit about how the organization works. They have salespeople who will go out, cultivate the business, gather it, get it to a point where they have some technical conversation ready to happen, and then they have what they call “business consultants” come in to talk more on the technical side. That being said, their salespeople and their business consultants were both involved in my training and both learned the process.
But Evan, who was a business consultant, learned the process inside and out. Why? In my opinion, it’s because he’s a real process-oriented guy. Most salespeople believe whatever they want to believe, but Evan believes one plus one equals two.
So, when I suggested to the owner, Jeff, that he should make Evan the sales director, he almost fell over. He looked at me like I had three heads, and told me that Evan had never been in sales before. I said that’s precisely it. What I meant was that most of us think incorrectly about what we need in a sales manager.
A sales manager does not need to be the best salesperson because, unless you can teach someone through osmosis how to sell, that particular skill is not transferrable unless it is taught and accounted for. Even if they could articulate it, it really doesn’t make any difference because it can’t be repeatable and made accountable for unless it has steps to follow. Here is why Evan is a good sales leader:
- Strong coaching. He could coach because he didn’t have his ego all tied up in “when I was a salesperson, this is what I would do.” He was a coach because he understood that coaching through a particular process allows for repeatable, accountable success and a clear understanding of what went wrong if a sale isn’t made.
- It takes leadership. A leader is somebody who doesn’t tell someone what to do, but asks questions and gets them to realize what they should do. Evan was very skilled at this because the most intelligent people are the ones who ask, not tell. When someone self-discovers an answer to a question, it becomes theirs. When it is theirs, they learn.
- Keeping people accountable. This is the one that most sales managers miss on. Because they will allow a salesperson to say everything looks good when nothing is happening. So, the proper way to manage a sales group is by keeping them accountable by the activities they do. Coach them through each step of the sales process to get closer to the next step in the process, which is closer to the close.
After pondering this for a month or two, Geoff decided to make Evan a sales director for about 90 days to see how it went on both sides. It’s almost a year later, and it had to be the best decision they ever made. In one year, they went from $3.5 million in revenue to more than $5 million. I think I can take some credit for that, but Evan can take much more of the credit for keeping them accountable, coaching and leading them to success.
So, how are you going to find your next sales manager?
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