A Sales Manager’s Responsibility Does Not Focus on Selling but it Does Focus on the Promotion of Sales
Sales managers are often promoted and then expected to continue to handle their most lucrative accounts. This decision is often made by management for the fear of losing major accounts. The new sales manager hardly ever protests as it is an affirmation as to his worthiness and ownership of those accounts. These decisions leave little time for coaching their sales teams or strategizing about future sales initiatives. Field sales people may end up with the perception that their personal growth potential may be limited. The sales person replacing the sales manager that was promoted may feel that the company lacks confidence in their ability to handle major accounts. This is not the kind of orientation you want to adopt when assigning new sales personnel.
What are the Sales Managers Real Responsibilities?
A fair question and the answer may apply universally across the majority of industries. The answer focuses on four key concepts:
1. Developing the Sales Strategy — Creating a discipline within the sales force to identify specific growth targets which include:
o Increased penetration of existing accounts
o New account development , pipeline management
o New product introduction and promotion
2. Developing the Sales Force — This key responsibility includes self development and required leadership skills.
o Coaching and mentoring
o Providing training resources
o Hands on buddy calls
o Monthly territory/account discussions and review sessions. (one on one)
o Policy & procedure enforcement
3. Managing Activities – Measuring Results — Defining key activities and then managing those activities is a prerequisite to success.
o Designing a sales effectiveness process that requires account action plan activities that include but are not limited to:
— Goal setting
— Opportunity reporting
— Pipeline management
— Performance scorecards
4. Advertisement & Promotions — This is budget based and may be coordinated with marketing in many companies but should include the following:
o Open house
o Lunch & learn
o Client seminars
o Social and event selling
o Public awareness, speaking and writing articles
o Testimonials and referrals
Although the scenario outlined in the opening paragraph (Sales managers are often promoted and then expected to continue to handle their most lucrative accounts.) was very common ten years ago, it has slowly been changing as companies recognize the importance that needs to be placed on developing the sales force. Being the number one sales person is no longer the primary criteria used to determine who the next sales manager should be. Many companies now acknowledge that the skill sets required to be a good sales manager are different than those of a good field sales person. Sales managers today must be focused on coaching their sales staffs, strategizing about creating new business and delegating day-to-day operational issues to other staff members.
The Truth Is Simple
You can not effectively manage a sales force and have primary responsibility for the maintenance or development of specific accounts. It is like trying to win the super bowl with player coaches on the field and nobody on the sidelines looking at the big picture and taking care of the overall game plan. Quit scrimping. If you promote someone to sales manager; let them manage and pay them according to the profitability performance of the overall sales team. You also need to invest in skill development in the area of coaching and mentoring for your sales managers. In fact all managers need this type of skill development. Everybody talks about it but very few companies actually train their managers on coaching and mentoring.
Gaining the Respect of the Sales Team
I often hear the argument that a sales manager needs to gain the respect of the sales team by demonstrating their skill at selling by handling some accounts. That is a myth. More precisely; that is Hogwash. There is no correlation between a manager’s sales ability and leadership skills. That is why promoting your best sales person to sales manager more often than not falls short of expectations. Indeed, if you were to adopt that theory you may initiate an ego contest between the sales manager and the sales team which could do irreparable harm. Think about this. How can a sales manager live up to the responsibilities outlined in this article and support his sales team through coaching and mentoring if he/she is out in the field selling directly to an account base? Sales managers gain respect and trust by demonstrating respect and trust in the sales team; not by trying to outsell or sell along side of them. The sales manager’s job is to be the coach and strategist. If the job is defined accurately as being a coach, then he/she doesn’t need to prove their sales ability. They just need to gain the trust and respect by becoming a good strategist, coach, mentor and problem solver.
The Professional Sales Manager Characteristics:
The next time you are faced with hiring or promoting someone to the position of Sales Manager, use the following characteristics as a baseline for your selection process.
1. Highly Self Motivated
3. Excellent Relationship building Skills
4. Skilled at Team Selling – Team Building
5. Calculated Risk Taker
6. Listens Well — 80% of the Time
7. Plans Well
8. Ability to Think Outside the Box Because They Know What Goes on Inside the Box
9. Always Lives Up to Their Commitments
10. Always On Time With Assignments
11. Exceptional Positive Attitude (Does Not Whine or Make Excuses)
12. Excellent Communicator
13. Inspires Excellence in Others
14. Strong Social and Interpersonal Skills
15. Commands a Presence
18. Develops Trust and Respect by Showing Trust
and Respect for others
19. Embraces Accountability – for Self and Sales Team
20. Knowledgeable of Selling Concepts and Best Practice