To meet that challenge, leadership skills must evolve. Your sales manager’s number one job now is to teach and refine the skills of sellers to help them hit their peak and stay there.
So what’s the best way to make that happen: Simply turning your existing top sellers into leaders? Not so fast!
A great manager isn’t just a sales performer with enhanced decision making authority. There’s a crucial yet overlooked fact about these two roles in your sales organization: Their skills are not automatically transferrable. You don’t create a great leader just by promoting a top seller.
Unless you distinguish selling skills from leadership skills, you can put your entire sales team at risk of underperforming.
Prioritize Mindset Over Sales Performance
Selling is not a team sport -- most top sellers do their best working solo. Managing people, on the other hand, is all about working with others.
When scouting for a sales leader, be on the lookout for a team-focused mindset ahead of their personal sales record. Why? Because a great leader is persuasive in winning hearts and minds. They’re selling to your team, not to your customers.
They help each member understand his or her responsibility for overall results: The performance of one seller can either lift or sink everyone. They’re gifted in their flexibility -- able to modify, reshape and rebuild a sales group to suit changing conditions or requirements.
Look for Collaborators, Not Competitors
Top leaders show up for others. Top sellers show up for themselves. That’s not a criticism of the latter: Self-interest is a powerful quality in sales. But it’s poison in the business of managing people. Leaders are invested in their team. They show up at sales meetings and training events, ready to contribute and share what they know. They sit in on coaching calls. And they prioritize that type of work ahead of all other activities.
Your top sellers, when left to their own devices, are likelier to keep their distance. They’re thinking about when they will make their next sale, rather than who they can help next. This tendency is valuable in a sales position but potentially lethal in a leadership role.
Find People Who Can Measure Success Differently
Your best leaders understand and accept it’s not their job to be the best seller on the team. They succeed in their job only when their staff are outperforming what they once achieved as sellers themselves.
They communicate generously: Sharing wins, giving credit to others, and ensuring everyone has the resources and support necessary to win. They don’t horde information. They lead by example where loyalty is concerned. That means they fully support each seller in their team -- even the struggling ones. They take decisive action to cut and replace only when it’s clear every other avenue has been exhausted.
You can teach someone to harness that sense of presence, to adopt a team mindset, and to look at success differently than as a seller. It’s a mistake, however, to assume all this will just appear on its own once you put them in a leadership role. Far too many companies -- even after they’ve made a great pick for a sales manager -- don’t invest a dime in training them. That’s a surefire way to wind up with a frustrated manager and a demoralized sales team.
Distinguish people skills from selling skills. Be ready to train and refine both. All this will put your organization on the path to success.
Originally published May 30, 2017 6:30:00 AM, updated July 28 2017