Before you promote, think ‘recruit’ – because your best salesperson won’t necessarily make the best sales manager.
Many business owners are guilty of it: promoting good salespeople – often their best – to sales managers. But more often than not, it doesn’t work out, with business owners disappointed by the lack of results, and new sales managers frustrated with the lacklustre performance of their teams. That may be why more and more bosses are entrusting recruitment agencies to fill managerial positions – and it makes sense, especially with a fixed fee recruitment option.
The rule is simple: very few outstanding salespeople make good sales managers.
Take football, for instance. The most decorated and revered football manager of all time, Sir Alex Ferguson, has recently retired. But when it came to actually playing football, Fergie was nothing more than average. Arsene Wenger and Fabio Capello are the same. Then you have exceptional former players such as Bobby Charlton, John Barnes and Alan Shearer – despite being amazing on the pitch, they couldn’t quite grasp management. It just goes to show that, talented or not, job roles are not interchangeable.
But why is that?
Think about the unique mix of attributes and skills that make a great salesperson. Salespeople are two-a-penny, but exceptional ones are characterised by high standards and passion. Their focus is usually on the client, not the commission, which may irritate the rest of the sales team. Indeed, with their terse and demanding attitudes, it’s not rare for top salespeople to frustrate other employees in the business too – after all, if a good salesperson goes above and beyond to please clients, why shouldn’t they expect everyone else to do the same? And when these salespeople go into sales management, they will expect their staff to be just as hard working, driven and goal-orientated as they were. But in reality, only a minority of any workforce strives for such perfection.
In the first of two parts, here are some things to consider when it comes to filling those managerial roles.
Sales and management are different skill sets. It’s common to see outstanding salespeople get promoted to managers because they have ‘smashed’ targets, made money and continually impressed. Many employers will also argue that a stellar track record is needed to become an effective manager – yet, as we have seen in football, this is far from truth. In fact, if you list the attributes needed for both sales and sales management, you’ll find they differ vastly. Salespeople, like top footballers, are mavericks, renegades, who usually want to score their own goals, rather than undertake less-gratifying responsibilities.
Achievement through others’ results. This is probably the most fundamental and self-evident point. In their past roles, salespeople were clearly responsible for their own results. However, as sales managers, they now have to achieve their results through other people, which may result in less drive and passion for the job.
People can either motivate or be motivated. Just like footballers, salespeople thrive on closing a deal, scoring a goal. And although both play as a team, they are motivated by personal success. Sales managers, however, must be selfless, putting teams before their egos. According to reports, without proper managerial training, these are the typical pitfalls that salespeople-turned-managers often make:
• Not investing enough time to train and develop salespeople. ‘Learn on the job’ mentality.
• Impatient with those who underperform.
• Considering other departments of the company as hindrances to the sales force, rather than integral members of a holistic team.
• Not being able to set clear strategies; unable to strategise at high levels.
• Setting unachievable or unrealistic goals for others.
• Not including struggling performers in client meetings, etc, leaving them unfamiliar with certain techniques and situations.
Sales recruitment isn’t easy, but working with a good recruitment agency will make the process much simpler. Good recruitment agencies will be able to fill your managerial roles with the perfect candidates – people who have proven track records in the role.
Look out for Part Two of this article, which will discuss playing as a team and thinking strategically.