LisBiz Strategies: Great salespeople don’t make good managers

May 29, 2015

May 25/June 1, 2015; Volume 29/Number 4

By Lisbeth Calandrino

Screen Shot 2015-05-29 at 3.43.44 PMWhy do businesses put so much time and effort into training salespeople and not managers? It seems as soon as salespeople really hit their numbers, they get a promotion to sales manager. This is often the kiss of death because good salespeople don’t usually make good sales managers. In fact, they are notorious for being bad managers.

Why? Managing is an altogether different skill.

Being an effective manager requires a different set of skills that are not required as a salesperson. For example, great salespeople tend to have big egos; if they are going to manage they need to leave their egos at the door. Being a manager means transitioning from stardom to going behind the scenes.

A smart business owner should consider hiring someone who has experience as a manager and also has a good track record—someone who is proven to have the ability to “move the needle.” Promoting from within also has its benefits; you know the person can be trusted and he already subscribes to the culture of your company. Here are a few ways to turn a good salesperson into a great manager:

  1. Develop a job description that encompasses what you want done. Many times managers are just asked to “manage” like managing is in their blood. This is typically not the case; being first is in their blood and managing means taking a back- seat to your great players.
  2. Teach them good listening and questioning skills. If they can’t listen and ask questions, they won’t be able to understand what motivates their salespeople.
  3. Build goals for salespeople and regularly monitor them. People get better when goals are set, outcomes are measured and coaching is put in place. The needle moves when people know what’s expected and are trained on necessary skills.
  4. Educate and train sales managers to have good problem-solving skills. Why don’t salespeople improve? It’s not because they don’t know what they need to do; they just don’t do it. These behaviors are difficult to deal with for managers who may not have the necessary skills to determine and correct the problem.
  5. Spend money on teaching communication skills. There are simple testing mechanisms that can profile individual learning styles. Flexibility is one of the key points to success.
  6. Sales managers must live what they teach. Tom Hopkins, expert on training managers and salespeople, said, “If they don’t live what they teach, they will lose the respect of their salespeople.” They must be able to “walk the talk.”
  7. Help develop their leadership styles. Everyone leads differently and everyone learns differently. This is critical for sales managers; they must understand their own differences and those of the people around them.
  8. Sales managers must know how to be price protective. If selling is about dropping prices, you don’t really need a manager. A manager must understand sales difficulties when “I’ve got to drop this price to sell it” is the cry. If product can’t be sold at the marked prices, then one or two problems likely exist: Either the salesperson doesn’t understand how to use value to sell products or prices are too high.
  9. Managers should be masters of change and filled with enthusiasm. The sales manager must be able to accept change and use it to move the organization forward. This will build success for your team.
  10. Reward your sales managers for improving profitability and team spirit. Major league coaches are rewarded for these skills. If you’ve got someone who is good, show him or her how much he or she matters.



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