I’ve written quite a bit about sales management — my personal philosophy on it, and some hints on what you can do to be a better sales manager. But in addition to the things you should be doing, there are some things you shouldn’t be doing. Here are the top four that spring to my mind.
1. Your best salesman ≠ your best sales manager
It is a tempting and seemingly sensible idea, to promote the best of your sales reps to become the leader. But it almost never is. Taking your best salesman out of his friendly waters and placing him into a leader’s chair may lead to the unintended extinguishing of your hottest iron in the fire. Putting the best performing salesman into a higher position without testing their leadership, management and tutoring skills first may be a regrettable decision in the long term. And even if their leadership skills are decent, it still may end up as a downgrade. (And if you’re a high-performing sales rep considering jumping into management, think twice).
2. Do not make just anyone your salesman
I’m not suggesting you aren’t good at hiring — but I am suggesting you should look closely at your hiring criteria. Remember to distinguish between trainable and not-trainable traits and skills, and always think twice before choosing a “tabula rasa” employee that you can shape to your own needs vs. an experienced veteran in the field who may have their own, stubborn ways, but will most likely deliver greater results right from the start. Both have their advantages and disadvantages, and the choice is very case-specific, so put some though into exactly who the perfect rep is before you start interviewing.
3. Don’t leave them without any rules
Most good sales people have at least a little loan wolf in them. To mix metaphors a bit, if you try and force too many rules down their throat, they’re liable to chafe at the bit. To mix metaphors a lot, if you give them too much rein, they can become rudderless and underachieving. Simply put: outlining the day-to-day job of a salesperson, from market division to sales procedures to compensation policy, is very important. A little bit of structure makes most salespeople calmer and that’s a great environment for success. Everyone should know exactly what to do, how to do it and what they get in return. You don’t want to get down into micromanaging their itineraries and schedules, but a clear articulation of everyone’s job and function in the team will benefit the effectivity of the team as a whole.
4. Don’t do their job
My last point is closely related to the previous point, but it aims the position of a sales manager directly — you need some rules and boundaries for yourself. The company owner should not act as the sales manager, and the sales manager should not wear the hat of a seller as well. If you’re the company owner, the CEO or the general manager, stick to being just that, and don’t take on the jobs that should be done by others. Period.
By having your cake and eating it, too, you will only create a competitive and uncomfortable environment that will take its toll on the team’s performance as a whole. The leader’s role is to lead and mentor their team to reach its best potential, and not to intervene and get overly involved in the team’s job themselves. Plus, it only makes the whole team structure and organization from point 3 messy and confusing.
OK, maybe there are some scenarios where being a “bag carrying sales manage” is acceptable, but think very very hard about it before you go down that road.
Being a manager is a tough job, and making mistakes comes with every job, no matter the nature of the job or the position. Avoid the four above, and you’ll be well on your way to having a great, high-performing sales team.