Promoting your best sales guy to a sales leader or sales manager role might seem like an obvious move. I’ve seen great sales people go on to become even greater leaders and directors, but I’ve also seen my share of management remorse because this hasn’t worked out as planned.
Research suggests that “leadership is 30% genetic and 70% a result of lessons learned through life experiences.” It figures then that simply giving someone a leadership title and expecting them to succeed, without the necessary framework, support and experience, is likely to have a 70% chance of failing! Here’s our take on how to dramatically improve those odds.
For someone that is new in role you need to have, set and communicate realistic expectations. That way both you and they will know that things are going well, or not, and provide a steer in the right direction. They’ll have to do the same for those that report to them and, obviously, expectations (particularly around figures, performance and reporting) need to be aligned.
For high-achieving, high-earning sales people used to their own performance generating reward, it can be a leap of faith for him or her to become wholly reliant on the efforts and success of reports. While it might be appealing to set them a personal sales target, and corresponding commission structure, not doing so will help them focus effort, support and coaching on their team. It will also avoid the temptation of reverting back to the old role and ways of working.
Being competitive is a natural trait of good sales people. This often engenders a fear of failing and a reluctance to admit to needing help. Feedback should be a two-way street and, during regular catch-ups and appraisal meetings, make time to listen for muted or hidden “cries for help” to determine if and where support may be required.
Sales management requires different and additional skills alongside the negotiation and closing skills associated with being out in the field. There are more practical ones, for example, is producing computer reports something you’ll expect? Will they now have to professionally present to the Board and so benefit from public-speaking training? Anything that builds confidence and effectiveness early on will prove a worthwhile investment.
Spending time with a colleague that has been similarly promoted or undergone a relatable career journey can be invaluable. Encourage mentoring or “buddying-up” as a mechanism to provide peer support and an outlet for frustrations or problems.
Professional coaching is a safe and risk-free way of helping new leaders explore their own personal path to success. It provides an environment to discuss any issues or obstacles and, particularly when the coach sits outside of the organisation, gives additional perspective and experience bound to be useful.
Finally, chances are that when they joined the organisation in their previous role they didn’t fly from the start. A transition or “bedding in” period while they find their feet is to be expected. Have the courage of your conviction to promote them and, if they don’t “hit the ground running” from day 1, remember that they have the knowledge and experience of your business that makes them an asset worthy of a little more time and investment.