Managing a sales team is one of the most important positions in a company. Great sales managers have a profound impact on the productivity of their sales teams and produce better sales results. Managing a sales team is also one of the most challenging positions in a company, and it requires a unique set of skills. Unfortunately, most front-line managers start their sales management careers ill-equipped to effectively manage a team of salespeople. So, where do great front-line sales managers come from?
I hear about the “Star-Athlete Syndrome” frequently in sales organizations. A star sales person grows tired of the daily grind of being an individual contributor and aspires to something “greater,” such as sales management. Meanwhile, the vice president of sales is under time pressure to fill a vacant sales manager position. The vice president assumes that the star sales rep will know how to produce great sales results from a sales team.
The challenge is that salespeople are frequently unable to make the transition from being an individual contributor — achieving results through individual expertise, effort and determination — to being a manager, achieving results through the performance of others. This problem is not unique to sales. Think of all of the great athletes who never developed into great coaches.
Key Sales-Management Abilities
While a sales manager needs sales experience in order to have credibility with the sales team, the key driver of long-term success as a manager is mastery of specific sales-management skills. In order to produce exceptional sales results from the team, a sales manager must excel in the following critical sales-management abilities:
1) Managing sales performance by focusing on the underlying behaviors that drive sales results.
2) Sales coaching to help salespeople develop their full potential.
3) Building a team of great sales professionals with the requisite competencies to succeed.
4) Leading and motivating the team.
Return on Investment
Often some training is needed to develop these critical sales-management abilities. I find the return on investment training sales managers offers truly exciting. A sales manager can leverage improved management skills over the entire sales team. For example, if a sales manager manages 10 salespeople, improving that manager’s effectiveness represents a 10:1 return on investment opportunity.
Just think about all that untapped potential.
Norm Behar talks about developing highly effective sales managers with Gerhard Gschwandtner, CEO of Selling Power.