It can be a normal temptation as your business grows: turn your top performing salesperson into your Sales Manager – but continue to expect this person to sell and service key accounts. Especially if your organization has not had a dedicated Sales Manager before, it can seem like the logical, fair and right thing to do. After all, you’re acknowledging a valued sales performer by promoting from within, sending a message to your sales team that results and dedication get rewarded, and minimizing disruption for those key accounts. So why is this apparent win-win-win almost always a losing proposition? Read on to find out:
When thrust into the role of Sales Manager while still keeping one foot in the role of salesperson, it is critical to find and maintain balance. When should you sell? When should you manage the sales team? How much time is the right amount for each? In the best of situations, it can take time to find firm footing for the best balance. Often, however, the new Sales Manager tries to do too much and devote full time to each role. This might be sustainable in the short run, but ultimately something has to give or burnout sets in.
Before the new role of Sales Manager is assumed, however, there are other balance considerations. First, it can be difficult to find the right attributes of a competent Sales Manager in your sales team. Make no mistake – the skills necessary for success as a Sales Manager can be quite different from those required for success as a front-line salesperson. While it is possible that a top sales performer has what it takes to manage the Sales team, it can still be difficult to switch hats at the right time.
It can also be tough to craft a compensation plan that motivates excellent performance – and proper time allocation – in each area. What often happens is that the new Sales Manager holds on to key accounts due to their commission potential and ends up neglecting opportunities to coach and mentor sales team members. After all, there is only so much time available and customers come first.
Simply put, interpersonal conflicts can arise when you try to manage a team while still being part of it. Look closely at the world of sports and you see that Player/Coaches seldom achieve or maintain personal greatness or championship form for the team. So before you promote a top sales performer to Sales Manager, ask yourself if this person can:
- manage him or herself – and others – fairly and equitably?
- invest the necessary time and energy in developing management skills (or will this person fall back into using that time to maximize his or her personal sales results)?
- handle no longer being the top salesperson due to lack of time to dedicate to sales?
- maintain authority and respect if no longer performing at the top level in sales?
- give up key accounts for the good of the organization even if it results in lower incentive pay potential?
- be counted on to teach, mentor and coach in critical sales situations rather than stepping in personally to “fix” these situations (thus, undermining the salesperson’s authority and self-esteem)?
Why are these considerations critical before promoting a salesperson to Sales Manager? Great managers know their primary responsibility is to place those they manage in the best possible position to succeed. Selling against the team, however (by keeping good leads, for example) destroys cooperation and respect within the team and creates a toxic, under-performing sales environment.
As you can see, fragmented focus is no focus at all. Expecting someone to continue to service sales accounts while managing other salespersons will almost surely lead to unclear priorities, sub par performance, and team conflict. These problems can put careers – and your company – in jeopardy. The better choice in almost all situations is for the leader of the organization to maintain the sales management role until a full-time, total-focus position can be economically justified. Another alternative, of course, is to contact a Sales Xceleration Advisor to learn whether an Outsourced VP of Sales arrangement makes sense for your company.