The role of sales management and sales consultancy are obviously different. Organizations often blur this distinction – one the warrior on the front line and the other the worrier supporting this effort in the background.
When sales managers devote effort to actual sales, that effort is not being devoted to effective management of the front end of the business, enabling sales support systems and allied functions such as marketing and delivery the very systems that allow sales consultants to maximize their account development. And possibly most importantly, opportunity for team leadership, coaching and mentoring sales consultants to their maximum potential is missed. This is besides the fact that it is unlikely that the best sales managers make the best sales consultants.
Erin Everhart, director at 352 Media Group in an article Your Best Salesperson is Not Your Best Sales Manager, states if your sales team isn’t hitting their full potential, neither is your business. In her article she says that Cisco Systems estimated that bad bosses cost firms $12 million annually. “Imagine how much you could grow your business if even just a fraction of that was filtered back into your businesses?”
Companies can and do suffer if their employees are under the thumb of a mean manager, says Christine Porath, assistant professor at the McDonough School of Business at Georgetown University in Washington, D.C., and co-author of The Costs of Bad Behaviour: How Incivility Damages Your Business and What You Can do About It, in an article Paying the price for a horrible boss – The Globe and Mail.
Whether it’s lower productivity or a damaged reputation, Ms. Porath’s surveys found that firms have a lot to lose if they don’t deal with toxic managers. It is also found that in almost half of the cases surveyed, employees will intentionally decrease their efforts at work, losing time worrying about incidents with management. They spend a lot of time and energy thinking, ‘What does this mean about me? Should I go about getting even?’”
“Often top performers get promoted into leadership,” she points out, “and top performance doesn’t necessarily equate with strong leadership.”
Succession planning in most organizations identifies candidates early enough so that their personal and career development makes them eligible for a higher position. This practice is prevalent in most departments and all the more so with more senior positions. My experience has been that this does not appear to be the case at the front end of the business – in Sales. The first person considered at the time of promotion, especially when attrition happens suddenly; pure logic dictates that the best person on the team gets the job i.e. the best sales consultant, effectively and immediately making a negative impact on the sales pipeline. Not a good move, I say.
Also, I suggest that the top sales person is possibly the worst sales manager candidate. Consider that management talent may still lay in the sales ranks and this talent may not reside with the most successful sales consultant.
“The characteristics of a good salesperson are money motivated, large ego, and a bit selfish,” says Greta Schulz, founder and CEO of Schulz sales consulting. “These are the opposite of what a sales manager should be.” I say good sales managers tend towards introversion and good sales consultants tend to extroversion; character traits that certainly impact differently.
So, what are some of the key competencies of an effective sales manager?
Strong Coaching and Mentoring – a sales consultant is essentially an extrovert and a pioneer who does their most important work by themselves. A sales manager is a coach, whose only success is derived from the success of the team. A sales manager’s best work is always done, not with the client, but with the sales consultants he/she empowers to perform mutually agreed results. Mentoring is key as sales consultants need support from someone who not only knows from experience what to potentially do, but can convey that experience to individual sales consultants in a non-patronizing manner.
The sales manager needs to respect the sales consultant’s relationships in their account(s). He also understands that a sales manager has a responsibility to know and be known by each of the major accounts. He represents “management” to those accounts, and is to know and be known by all the key clients within the accounts of all sales consultants. However, this must be done in a way that does not detract from the sales consultant’s standing in their account – not dis-empowering.
Understanding that a professional sales manager is only successful when his team is successful, an excellent sales manager supports, encourages and gives his sales people the credit.
Strategic Leadership: Sales may be more tactical, here and now, whereas account development strategies assure sustainable business from that account under the direction of the sales consultant. The sales consultant is essentially the “managing director” of his account(s). Sales management needs to be more strategic in terms of the entire account portfolio. The sales manager’s role entails the strategic alignment between the income generating front-end of his company and an ever-changing market and account base. As such, the sales manager’s relationship with the executive management of his company is different from that of a sales consultant. The sales manager has to be more sensitive to the direction provided by the organization’s leadership, and more supportive of the company’s efforts to do things that may not be immediately beneficial to the individual sales consultants.
Leadership is more about how managers perform in their role rather than what they actually do. Sales leadership is about adopting a development style of management whereby sales consultants are empowered to perform against mutually agreed and achievable results. They self-actualize by being allowed to do this.
However, an excellent sales manager is ultimately measured by his quantifiable, sustainable results. Much like a team captain in sport, leadership style does not out-weigh the respect earned from a winning team. Ultimately, an excellent sales manager produces excellent numbers for his company and is held accountable for these results.
Accountability: Sales consultancy often beckons a do-it-yourself, “live by the sword, die by the sword” warrior mentality, but even though they’re on their own, they don’t need to be alone. Ultimately, a sales manager is worried (hence, the worrier) about and is measured by the results achieved by the sales team, as a whole. Sales order cover of gross profits, market share in relation to key solutions, competitive intensity are measures of the sales manager – this over and above the individual sales consultants contribution against target that cumulatively make up quarterly and annual sales.
Being accountable for the success of the income generating, front end-end of the business also implies marshaling the right sales consultant team. A sales manager empowers sales consultants to achieve their full potential, but he also makes sure that he can trust their commitment, character and competence to do exactly that. This starts with recruitment and on-going performance management through to personal and career development. A sales manager, then, understands that when it is clear that a sales consultant is not right for the job. He acts decisively and expeditiously to terminate, thus freeing-up the individual for alternative opportunities and the company an opportunity to find a better match. This is both good business and ethical. To allow a mediocre situation to worsen is to the detriment of the company, the sales consultant, and particularly the client.
Clearly the sales consultant is the Warrior and the sales manager the Worrier, in the world of Client Engagement at The Edge of the Wedge.