Is it time to provide some “adult supervision” for your sales people? Has your revenue grown to the point where you can make the business case to invest in having a full time sales manager? Congratulations! As you scale your business you’ll find the complexity of managing your pipeline, developing your sales people, expanding into new markets, implementing systems and processes, etc. will continue to increase and accelerate. If you’re ready to hire a sales manager, here are some common mistakes you will need to navigate to realize the full return on your investment.
The first decision you have to make is where to find your new sales manager. This article will focus on hiring from within or promoting one of your current sales people. Next week we will focus on hiring a brand new sales manager from the outside.
When sales managers get promoted from within they often struggle to be successful and the impact can hurt your business. Not only do you have an ineffective sales manager, you also lose the revenue that person used to produce. In many cases it’s as simple as helping your newly promoted sales manager remember the skills that made them successful when they were a sales person. Here are five common mistakes to watch out for:
Ask Questions: The number one thing we see is sales managers forget how to ask questions. Great coaching conversations revolve around asking questions. Getting your sales people to discover for themselves why they are getting in their own way, why they're not asking enough questions, why they're not discovering things with their prospects. Instead of telling people what to do, sales managers need to transfer their great questioning skills that made them successful as a salesperson to their new role as a sales manager. The questions they need to ask are going to be different, but the skill set needs to transfer.
Understand Differences: The second mistake we see new sales managers make is they assume everyone is going to be like they were. They assume that everyone should do what they did to be successful, instead of recognizing that everyone on their team has their own unique set of strengths, and challenges, and tailor their coaching around those. Instead of trying to build everyone in their image, they should instead take the time to understand what makes each person on their team effective, and how can they build on that rather than try to change it to match what they used to do. The faster a new sales manager recognizes that not everyone has to do it the way they did, the faster they're going to grow and develop their team.
Holding On: The third mistake that we see new sales managers make is they care too deeply about their old clients. It makes it extremely difficult for the new person who has to take over those accounts to be successful and to establish credibility, if the new manager is babysitting and checking-in with those old clients. You have to let that go. Give your new person space to establish a relationship and build rapport with those customers and serve those customers.
Too Friendly: The fourth mistake we see new sales managers make, particularly if they were promoted and they are now managing their former peers, is they're too friendly. They really need to assume their role as a sales leader. Be a little standoffish, be a little aloof, and establish that space. They're no longer a peer, they're a boss and they have to act accordingly. They have to maybe skip going out to that happy hour, or skip going to the ball game unless it's in a business function, and not be so friendly.
Avoid Tough Decisions: Finally, somewhat related to that, another mistake we see new sales managers make is an unwillingness to let go of mediocre talent. They're too patient and too tolerant. It may be in part because they know these people from when they were peers. I think this a problem that not only affects new managers, I think all sales managers struggle with this. They'll look optimistically at a person's pipeline and think, "Boy, they're right around the corner. They're going to turn this around," instead of setting high expectations and holding them accountable to it. Being ready to initiate a recruiting project when somebody's not performing up to par.
These are some of the common pitfalls you need to navigate if you hire from within. The advantages of promoting an existing team member are that they already know your business, markets, and customers. So if you can navigate through these pitfalls, promoting from within may be the shortest path for making a return on your investment. Then again, we’ve seen too many companies promote their top sales person to sales manager with disastrous results. As CEO make sure you are carefully considering these common pitfalls before looking outside for a new sales manager.
Not sure you're ready to take the big step of hiring a sales manager, but still need help holding your team accountable? One of our services here at Intelligent Conversations is our Accountability Coaching Program. This program helps sales teams that report directly to the owners/CEOs through regularly scheduled, structured accountability coaching calls with our Intelligent Conversations coaches. Learn more about that program here.