So You Can Sell, But Who Says You Can Manage?


Yesterday I made the point that the role of sales management – dare I say “sales leadership” – is now pivotal in the success of every organization – if you missed the post, do please simply scroll down.

As I have said often enough here on this Blog, and also in recent live discussions, the single most common mistake that organizations make is promoting their number one salesperson into the role of sales manager, thereby depriving themselves in a single stroke of their best producer and hamstringing their sales force with an ineffective manager.

The skills required for managing, mentoring and developing a sales team are totally different from those required for selling. As a result, it’s not uncommon to find newly promoted sales managers who regret having taken a management position and may even leave to get back into sales.

When a salesperson gains promotion to management the first thing they have to do is to quickly acquaint themselves with a new set of working relationships – and a new set of rules.

The salesperson’s primary working relationships are with customers. However the sales manager’s is with the sales force i.e. his subordinates.

Let’s look at that a little more closely:

Essential Attributes – Successful Salesperson:

• Personal drive (ego)
• Needs to win battles (Individual sales)
• Able to work alone
• Persuades customers to see his/her point
• Needs selling skills, personal skills and knowledge
• Able to work away from the office
• Works well with people and numbers
• Good at implementing sales tactics

Essential Attributes – Successful Sales Manager:

• Submission of personal needs to the goals of the Company (Corporate drive)
• Needs to win the war (Meet corporate goals)
• Able to work with others
• Persuades the sales team to see the Company’s point
• Needs management skills and marketing knowledge
• Needs to work at the office
• Works well with people, numbers, paperwork and the corporate hierarchy
• Good at developing sales and marketing strategies

Completely different set of skills!

The most common danger in having sales managers who are basically super salespeople is that “relations with subordinates” including the critical tasks of development and supervision may deteriorate.

Even when they do recognize the importance of developing their salespeople, many sales managers find that they lack the skills and resources to do it effectively. It then becomes easier not to bother.

The majority of sales managers – new and experienced alike – say they do not have sufficient time to train and develop their sales teams. They are so focused on sales results – and so accustomed to achieving success through their personal pursuit of those results – that they overlook their greatest potential source of power, the power to increase sales performance by developing their people.

To make things worse, most sales teams consist of a number of individuals with differing levels of experience and ability, so the whole issue of team development becomes too daunting for the overwhelmed manager to contemplate.

Sadly, this is a common scenario, and goes some way to explaining why levels of sales achievement are declining so alarmingly.


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  1. says

    Well said! I think this is probably similar to the analogy that the best baseball managers were not necessarily the best baseball players (substitute cricket…). At least in the top three skills for sales managers has to be working with marketing. If marketing dumps poor quality leads on sales then the sales manager’s job is that much more difficult. A sales manager would actually be able to do their job well if a significant portion of the junk leads sales receives now were actually qualified, nurtured sales ready reads rather than poor quality, unfiltered low-level so-called leads. This is a chicken or the egg situation that really hurts performance in most companies today. But I digress. A great sales rep will not necessarily make a bad sales manager, but I have met very few truly great hunters who could also qualify with the essential attributes of a great sales manager as listed in JFA’s blog.

  2. says

    I’ve never had a great sales manager who was a top salesman. It doesn’t make intuitive sense, but the individual skills that make top salespeople for some reason conflict with what it takes to be a manager.

    The best managers are good, but not great sales people, but have inherent managing and talent evaluation skills. At least that is what I’ve found.


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