I was asked recently to answer the question, “How does a company find a good sales manager?” I’ve been asked this question hundreds of times in the past, usually by alarm company owners who were stuck in a sales/production rut. Their company wasn’t growing, and the company owner/president/CEO was trying to do everything, wearing all the hats in the company. The classic symptoms of a company badly in need of a sales manager is a company that has between one and four salespeople and cannot seem to grow beyond that point. When the company hires the next salesperson, they almost immediately lose one and are right back to where they were previously. Sales are flat or worse, dropping month to month and they just can’t seem to get past the sales rut. This company badly needs a sales manager to recruit, hire, train and motivate additional salespeople and, most importantly, increase sales production.
To properly answer the question “How does a company find a good sales manager?” we must first ask a few other questions. They are: What are a sales manager’s responsibilities? What should he or she be doing on a daily basis? When is a sales manager successful? How do you measure sales management success? What experience should a sales management candidate possess to be considered? There are many more questions that could be asked, however, these five represent a good start in narrowing down the search for a good, or better yet, great sales manager. Starting with the first question: What are the responsibilities of a sales manager? I must tell you that in my experience, I have met with companies whose sales managers were really mini-general managers based on their job description and what was expected of them. These sales managers spent the majority of their time managing reports, and in one case, the manager also managed the installations of the sales made. The problem here is that the manager’s time was spread so thin, he or she didn’t have time to focus on the elements of sales management that really make a difference between sales success and failure.
If you dig into sales management, I believe you’ll find that the primary responsibility of a sales manager is to “grow sales.” All the reports ever conceived are worthless if the manager doesn’t grow sales. So then, if you agree the sales manager’s job is to grow sales, then you have to ask, how does a sales manager accomplish that task?
In my humble opinion, a sales manager grows sales by recruiting good salespeople, knowing what a successful salesperson should be doing on a daily basis to be successful, managing and measuring the daily activities of each salesperson in their charge to assure they are completing the needed daily activities, providing personal, one-on one coaching to salespeople when deficiencies are discovered, boosting the morale of the sales force on a regular basis, spending time in the field with each salesperson with the goal of uncovering any weaknesses, praising success, and helping the salesperson become a better salesperson. This is done by setting daily, weekly, monthly and annual expectations for the sales force tailored to each individual salesperson’s personal goals and ability to achieve corporate goals and expectations, conducting regular, productive sales meetings designed to educate, and recognizing sales success and leading through example.
This takes us to question number 3: When is a sales manager successful? The answer is simply when he or she achieves, meets or exceeds the goals and expectations set by the company.
But the bottom line is when he or she grows sales. I received a call recently from a company owner who asked for my help as a consultant. The problem he said he was having is as follows: he said he hired a sales manager approximately a year and half earlier with the goal to grow sales. The problem, he said, was that sales had not increased since the manager was hired.
I asked him how he selected the sales manager. He said he picked the manager because the manager worked for the company as salesperson first and was very good. He went on to say that the sales manager had experience in sales before joining his company and was successful in that job also. So he figured the successful sales person would be able to be a successful sales manager. He was partly right. The successful salesperson could become a successful sales manager because he had some of the qualities needed. He certainly demonstrated an ability to sell. We could assume he knew what a successful salesperson should do on a daily basis to be and remain successful, although I’m sure you know the danger in the word ASSUME. The company owner assumed the sales manager would then be able to hire, train, motivate and manage other salespeople for whom he was responsible.
Experience has taught me, and I’m sure many of you, that just because a salesperson is successful selling, it does not mean he or she will be successful as a sales manager. There are enormous differences between a great salesperson and a great sales manager.
To be successful selling on a consistent basis–facing the negatives, the turn downs and the no’s salespeople face on a daily basis–requires a thick skin, the ability to bounce right back up when knocked down, a positive can-do attitude, a strong work ethic, a polished professional presentation, the ability to read people, prospecting skills, and certainly, closing skills.
Some of the best salespeople have what I describe as an inwardly-driven ego. That ego says, “I’m the best, I’m better than the rest and no matter how many times people tell me no, I will prevail.” Self preservation requires a great salesperson to feel that way in order to counter the daily negatives he or she faces. However, that inwardly-driven ego is not a recipe for sales management success.
Conversely, a successful sales manager most often has an outwardly-driven ego, which is just the opposite from a great salesperson. While a great salesperson takes pride and satisfaction from his or her own skills and personal achievements, a sales manager takes pride in the achievements of the salespeople for whom he or she is responsible. He or she knows that much of the success his salespeople are experiencing is a result of good sales management. However, he or she doesn’t need to be told that. The sales manager just knows that the salesperson’s success was partly, if not entirely, due to his or her guidance and is satisfied knowing it.
A great sales manager is a recruiter, trainer, coach, motivator and leader who have an outwardly-driven ego. He or she can lead by example, taking new hires and existing salespeople in the field and demonstrating how it is done. He can observe a sales presentation and provide good, constructive feedback to the salesperson to help improve his or her sales ability.
Great sales managers remain focused on corporate goals and know that their job hinges on achieving the goals set by the company, not by making excuses why it could not be done. A great sales manager’s job is to grow sales.
So given all that, we’re back to the question: How do we find a good/great sales manager? We now know that part of the answer is identifying someone with an outwardly-driven ego. In my experience, when I’ve been responsible for sales departments, I could almost always spot the salespeople within the company who had outwardly-driven egos. Those were people who were always trying to help a team member who was lagging behind in training or whose sales were below expectations or quota.
In the field, the salesperson with the outwardly-driven ego wouldn’t think twice about helping another salesperson on the team close a sale or make a presentation. When I discovered a salesperson exhibiting that type of ego, I did everything I could to encourage it. As soon as possible, I would promote that person to a team leader position which included a bonus, commission or override for helping team members. That way, I could monitor his or her progress to determine if I had a sales manager in waiting.
Just as I believe salespeople, no matter how long they’ve been in sales or how good they are, still need on-going training, I believe sales managers need training as well. They need to improve their coaching skills, their training skills, and their ability to critique sales performance without discouraging the salesperson or stifling his or her spirit.
A great sales manager is like the head coach of a football team. We’ve all seen how big a difference a change in a coach can make to a football team, even when the team members remained the same as the year before the new coach took over. The same is true with sales management. A strong, goal-driven, outwardly-driven ego sales manager can turn around a failing sales force almost overnight.
So, to find a good sales manager, first look within your organization for a candidate that possesses the qualities I’ve mentioned. If you can’t find a candidate within your organization, don’t give up and don’t settle for just anyone who happens to be around.
Look outside your company. You can bet that there are “potential” sales managers working in your area who haven’t been presented with the opportunity to lead a team and are looking for a chance to advance as a sales manager with another company.
There are enormous differences between a great salesperson and a great sales manager.
To properly answer the question “How does a company find a good sales manager?” we must first ask a few other questions. They are:
1. What are a sales manager’s responsibilities?
2. What should he or she be doing on a daily basis?
3. When is a sales manager successful?
4. How do you measure sales management success?
5. What experience should a sales management candidate possess to be considered?
Lou Sepulveda C.P.P. is a 30+ year industry veteran in sales and sales management.
He has managed very large and small sales teams selling in 30 countries around the world. Lou is a published author. His books, “The Formula for Selling Alarm Systems” and “Surviving in the Security Alarm Business,” are best sellers. Lou’s company, Lou Sepulveda Consulting, provides consulting services, sales and sales management training, and motivation seminars designed to help companies grow. Lou’s web page is www.lousepulveda.com. You can contact Lou by emailing him at firstname.lastname@example.org.
By Lou Sepulveda
I was asked recently to answer the question, “How does a company find a good sales manager?” I’ve been asked this question hundreds of...