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The leap from salesperson to sales manager

Liz Wendling //November 15, 2011//

The leap from salesperson to sales manager

Liz Wendling //November 15, 2011//

Are you taking your best salesperson and making them your new sales manager? If so, that move could be a costly mistake if your selection is based on sales performance alone.

Sales management has little to do with managing and everything to do with leading, teaching and coaching. Is the new person leading your team the right person for the job?

It’s not uncommon for top-producing salespeople to be promoted into the position of sales manager in the hopes that they’ll manage and lead others to be equally successful. I see it all the time; great salespeople with no experience in leadership and management being thrown into a position they’re not prepared to play. The move often fails because they’re being promoted for the wrong reasons! Just because they’re great sellers doesn’t mean they’re great leaders!

Motivating and leading a sales team requires a completely different skill set than just the Monday morning sales meeting. Many sales managers lack basic coaching skills and tend to use coaching techniques – such as pep talks, high fives, knuckle bumps and motivational messages that are more appropriate for little league than the major league.

Sure, pep talks and motivational messaging have their place, but they’re not going to produce the type of high-level results that are expected of great sales teams. As manager, you will have a new set of responsibilities, from finding and selecting good people, teaching them skills, keeping them motivated, creating goals, analyzing their performance, and holding them accountable.

In order to maximize profits, your salespeople must be performing at their best, operating at peak performance and led by managers who possess the skills to empower a team. The result? Employees who feel valued and confident in their sales skills are more effective in the sales process, which leads to more profit and growth for your company.

To have – and to hold – a high-level sales team, a sales manager needs to learn the communication skills that keep a team focused and successful. Positive feedback is crucial to maintaining an encouraging work environment in which all salespeople can thrive. Negative feedback and nagging is not a form of motivation and not an environment that breeds success. Some inexperienced sales managers use those tactics because they lack the leadership skills necessary to manage effectively. No one is ever motivated by nagging!

Productive sales managers have the ability to identify, define and improve sales skills for all members of the sales team. They possess the proper tools to maximize the strengths of their team, and address the weaknesses, through coaching and constructive communication.

Is your sales manager a true coach, or just a salesperson with a fancy new title? Can he or she motivate and inspire or just nag and criticize? The skills required for managing, mentoring and developing a sales team are different from those required for selling. A great sales manager leads by example and commands with authority, but in a way that draws respect rather than contempt. These managers keep morale high, set real, but challenging goals and then do everything necessary to assist the entire team in reaching and exceeding those goals. Your salespeople want to be recognized as individuals, shown appreciation and given opportunities to grow.

Before you promote your top salesperson into a position he or she might not be ready for, I recommend instituting a “test drive.” Lay out the rules of the game and help the manager understand what the role entails so you are more equipped to make an informed decision. A management “test drive” is an effective way to see if a salesperson truly possesses what it takes to step into that role.

Finally, give the candidate the skill set needed to lead, manage, motivate and inspire. If you don’t, you’re throwing someone into the position that isn’t equipped with the right tools for the job, and it will cost you sales.
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