The most common questions 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 take somebody who has been in the field 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 prominent, high-end Web design company. 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.
Their sales manager was absolutely fabulous at sales — one of the best I’ve seen. 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, Don, took this process and made it his own.
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. 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, and get it to a point where they have some technical conversation ready to happen. Then, they have “business consultants” come in to talk more on the technical side. Their salespeople and 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.
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.
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 transferable unless it is taught and accounted for. 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.”
• 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.
• Keeping people accountable. This is the one that most sales managers miss, because they will allow a salesperson to say everything looks good when nothing is happening.
So, after pondering this for a month or two, Jeff decided to make Evan a sales director for 90 days to see how it went on both sides. It’s almost a year later, and it turned out to be the best decision they ever made. In one year, they went from $3.5 million in revenue to more than $5 million.
So, how are you going to find your next sales manager?
Greta Schulz is president of Schulz Business SELLutions in West Palm Beach, FL. She is the author of "To Sell is Not to Sell" and a columnist for business journals around the country. Greta does corporate training for Fortune 1000 companies and she has an on-line training course for entrepreneurs.
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