I’ve been thinking about what it takes to be a truly great sales manager and about the handful I’ve known over the years. The problem is – it’s just a handful. So how does that happen?
Maybe a sales manager was once a phenom of a sales rep. Maybe someone is trying to be both business owner and sales manager, which is an almost-impossible endeavor. Maybe, once upon a time, there was the best sales manager ever, but then business and life took a twist and through no fault of their own, the sales manager and then the team lost their magic. Maybe the sales manager has checked out, leaving the sales people to fend for themselves, mentor each other, or just be happy with the status quo.
Meanwhile, there is often a leadership fantasy that sales managers don’t have that much impact on sales people. After all, we all know that sales talent grows on trees and can be easily replaced!
Now, those of you who know me understand that I don’t suffer fools when it comes to selling, and I support moving non-producers along if and when the time comes that they can’t get back on the success track. I actually believe these folks will land where they should be, will be happier and more productive somewhere else, and that sometimes you just need to shake things up.
But, and this is a big BUT, it is more than difficult to find great sales talent. It doesn’t actually grow on trees; it has to be continually developed. Frequently, I see the needed talent sitting right in front of me, but the sales managers don’t know how to develop it or won’t invest in the resources that can –often because their egos or fear of admitting they need help gets in the way.
The big question is what happened to the sales managers’ development? It was never there. Sales managers are in one of the only management/leadership positions charged with leading people whose jobs can have huge upsides but also be emotional and financial roller coasters. Sales managers need to be coaches, mentors, straightforward managers, therapists, and skill development gurus. Plus, for sales people to believe in their sales manager, the manager needs to retain and develop their own sales skills and show they have the chops to teach the sales reps what they need know. That’s a hell of a job description!
So why don’t organizations rush to give the sales managers what they need? What I know to be true is that great sales managers are the ones who know how critical it is to surround themselves with amazing resources. Each one of them has coaches themselves. Each one of them hires top-notch sales trainers to help them train. Each one of them has enough self-awareness to know their strengths and to shore up their vulnerabilities. Hats off to those gutsy enough to become great sales managers – and hats off to the organizations that support them!