Why Do So Many Potentially Good Sales Managers (85%) Fail?

Yes, you read it correctly, 85% – as Dave Stein highlighted in his recent post – Promoting Your Best Salesrep to Manager? Not So Fast…

I have said it often enough, but it worth repeating – the single most common mistake that organizations make is promoting their number one salesperson into the role of sales manager, thereby depriving themselves in a single stroke of their best producer and hamstringing their sales force with an ineffective manager.

The skills required for managing, mentoring and developing a sales team are totally different from those required for selling.

Sound obvious? Yep, to me too, so why is not obvious to the 80% of the companies who invest so little time and energy in trying to hire and then develop the right man/woman?

As a result, it’s not uncommon to find newly promoted sales managers who regret having taken a management position and may even leave to get back into sales.

I spend quite a lot of my time questioning the motives of would-be sales managers: Is it the kudos that is attractive? The lure of a new car? The power that comes with authority? Increased responsibility?

The reality is that it can be one of the loneliest and most stressful jobs in the world. Being suddenly propelled from a situation where you are, by and large, completely responsible for your own achievement, into another where you are totally dependent on your team for your success.

Is it any wonder that so many managers fail so early, in what could have been such a promising career?

Traversing That Bridge Between Sales & Management

When a salesperson gains promotion to management the first thing they have to do is quickly acquaint themselves with a new set of working relationships – and a new set of rules – for which they are usually totally unprepared.

The salesperson’s primary working relationships are with customers. However, the sales manager’s is with the sales force i.e. his subordinates.

Essential attributes include:

Successful Salesperson:

– Personal drives (Ego).

– Needs to win battles (Individual sales).

– Able to work alone.

– Persuades customers to see his/her point.

– Needs selling skills, personal skills and knowledge.

– Able to work away from the office.

– Works well with people and numbers.

– Good at implementing sales tactics.

Successful Sales Manager:

– Submission of personal needs to the goals of the Company (Corporate drive).

– Needs to win the war (Meet corporate goals).

– Able to work with others.

– Persuades the sales team to see the Company’s point.

– Needs management skills and marketing knowledge.

– Needs to work at the office.

– Works well with people, numbers, paperwork and the corporate hierarchy.

– Good at developing sales and marketing strategies.

The most common danger in having sales managers who are basically super salespeople is that “relations with subordinates” including the critical tasks of development and supervision may deteriorate.

Insufficient Time for Sales Team Development:

The majority of sales managers – new and experienced alike – say they do not have sufficient time to train and develop their sales teams, let alone themselves. They are so focused on sales results – and so accustomed to achieving success through their personal pursuit of those results – that they overlook their greatest potential source of power, the power to increase sales performance by developing their people.

The end result? Poor sales results – in fact around 50% of frontline-sales professionals will miss quota this year – that’s 1 in 2!

All roads lead back to the sales manager because it is always she or he, who has the “opportunity to make a difference”

Every sales manager has a powerful role to play in developing and supporting their team members’ potential so that an increasing emphasis is placed on performance management to enable more salespeople to achieve more of their potential.

I have identified the eight most common reasons why salespeople fail i.e.

Wrong or no selection process = The wrong person for the position

Wrong or no training = Insufficiently developed

Wrong or no planning = Expected to do all of their own planning

Wrong or no supervision = Left without competent supervision

Wrong or no motivation = Not properly motivated to meet objectives

Wrong or no stimulation = Not stimulated by appropriate incentives

Wrong or no evaluation = Not regularly appraised against a set of agreed objectives

Wrong or no executive action = Not adequately supported by a competent manager

And you know what? The sales manager has control over all of these factors, including the final one!

So here is a very clear message to every VP Sales and every HR department; before you waste one more cent on sales team skills development, invest in your sales manager or sales management team – you must.

What is the point of having great running backs and wide-receivers, if your QB can’t throw or pass?

Jonathan Farrington is the CEO of Top Sales Associates, Chairman of The jf Corporation and Senior Partner at the JF Consultancy, based in London and Paris.