Top ‘Billers’ sometimes struggle to support the team

I’ll state right at the start, the headline is clearly aimed at getting you to read the article! But there is a strong argument to say that just because a sales person can sell, hit targets, manage accounts etc. It doesn’t mean that they can manage a team of individual sellers to do the same.

In fact, I would go one step further. I think, at least in my experience, and for most of the time, the BETTER the seller, the worse they would be as a manager.

Speaking from personal experience I am a far better sales manager than I ever was as a sales person. There clearly are exceptions and most of the sales managers I’ve worked with (or even employed!) have all been great sellers and perfectly capable sales managers too.

Its just that the qualities one looks for in the recruitment of the sales management will differ from the qualities one looks for in a field sales person especially. For instance:

Sales people are focussed on individual target – Managers focussed on a team target

Sales people who become sales managers often see the sales teams individual targets as adding up to their own personal target. But few can see the bigger faceted picture of how to build a target plan from individuals and departments. Understanding the tension between support functions for instance and recognising that one will often cannibalise the other in order to win, and knowing which one to support and which one to depress, is a skill that requires a sophistication not prevalent in basic target achieving sales people.

Sales People are in competition with the team – Managers must be fair

Sales people often find this the hardest step. Going from the number 1 biller to the person that supports and nurtures the whole team is difficult. Learning to love and bring on the department ‘basket case’, instead of taking every opportunity for personal advancement is almost impossible. Sharing the leads out, playing favourites, and most importantly, stepping aside to allow your team to shine do not come naturally to the high performing seller.

The easiest person to sell to is a sales person

They recognise and are programmed to respond to features / benefits. And more than that, they love to deal! Sales people love to close and often agree a sale even when it’s not perfect, just to get it. To keep inventory moving or to maintain a winning momentum.

This is of course an excellent idea from the sales persons perspective, often less good from the management perspective. It can lead to falling rates or even worse, inconsistent pricing structures as the sophistication of the seller versus that of the manager dictates the level of discount a client might receive.

Sales people duck and dive – Managers must be ‘by the book’ 

Both managers and sales people need to be the ultimate entrepreneurs. But there is a danger that team members can perceive there to be an inherent unfairness in the team. This can happen where the sales managers decisions are volatile and dependant maybe on the emotion of the moment. Or perhaps inconsistent with everything other than winning the deal. A manager needs more discipline than the sales person, and to ensure that discipline at all costs.

Becoming the coach / trainer is often not natural for sales people 

Just because a sales person is a great seller doesn’t mean they cant teach someone else to do it. Even worse, sales people usually have ‘one way’ of doing things and often revert to teaching that way to their people. This is a problem as all sales people have different approaches. Trying to demonstrate a closing technique that works for you to a sales person with a totally different approach and set of skills is a fast way to frustration. For both paries

So what do you think? Is it as cut and dried as I say, or am I over looking something? Were you a great seller that became a great manager perhaps?

Let me know in the comments, I look forward to hearing from you.

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3 replies
  1. Lize Rudolph Stroebel
    Lize Rudolph Stroebel says:

    So true! Iam scared to analyse my skills as manager, as I get so frustrated if sales people dont follow up, that I just want to take over. I warned them that I will close the deal if they dont get cracking. Oh boy! I have now learend that some sales people, need another job description. Rather, help me with the proposals(the knitty and gritty lay out etc) while I do some cold calling and get deals. Its difficult!

    • Tony Dowling
      Tony Dowling says:

      Hi Lize! Thanks for the comment. You are describing the sales management trap! It’s so easy to end up short cutting the process because the sales people are by definition lacking your own skills and experience. It’s essential to remember that your task as a sales manager is to multiple yourself through the sales team, not fall into the trap of doing all the work for them!

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