Making The Leap From Sales To Sales Management

By: Jonathan Farrington


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.

Essential Attributes Include:

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

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
Good Salespeople Don't Necessarily Make Good Managers:

The single most common mistake that organisations 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.

Insufficient Time for Sales Team Development:

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.

An Overwhelmed Manager:

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.

The Important Role Sales Directors Can Play:

Sales Directors, who recognize that the different roles played by salespeople and managers require different skill sets; factor those differences into their recruitment and selection of sales managers. Instead of promoting top-performers purely on the strength of their sales performance, these Sales Directors look for management candidates who can demonstrate an ability to help others strategise, work effectively with customers, and build their self-confidence. These Sales Directors recognise that coaching competence is absolutely pivotal and feature it highly in managers' performance reviews and remuneration packages.

Additionally, successful Sales Directors ensure that some sort of training and development program is in place to help sales managers continually improving the way they coach and develop their team. Equally important, top-performing Sales Directors look for ways to provide sales managers with the resources they need to perform effectively. This may mean, for example, giving managers tools with which to identify each individual salesperson's strengths and development areas, providing them with an easy-to-use framework to address development areas, and putting a process in place that helps their team to implement new skills.

2006 Jonathan Farrington. All Rights Reserved.

The moral right of the author, Jonathan Farrington, has been asserted. All rights reserved. This publication or any part thereof may not be reproduced or transmitted in any form or by any means electronic or mechanical including photocopying, recording, storage in an information retrieval system or otherwise, unless this notification of copyright is retained.

Jonathan Farrington is the Managing Partner of The jfa Group. To find out more about the author, read his latest articles or to subscribe to his newsletter for dedicated sales professionals, visit: www.jonathanfarrington.com.