It’s not uncommon for a salesperson to want to be a sales manager. In fact, one could easily see a promotion to sales manager as an indication that one has excelled in his or her sales career. If you’re thinking you should pursue a position in management because you are a successful salesperson, I’d like to propose an alternate idea: being a great sales manager has much more in common with being a parent of small children than it does with being a great salesperson.
At The Center For Sales Strategy, we have proof that not all salespeople are meant to be great sales managers. The talents required to succeed in each position are very different. It’s a big mistake to think that just because you have been with your company for a long time and have “paid your dues," you will be happier if you were suddenly promoted to manager.
Ask yourself: On a scale of 1 to 5 (5 being the highest), how do I rate my desire to do the following?
1. I want to sacrifice my time for others.
Why is it that I don’t mind waking up at 3:00 am and walking through the day ahead half asleep—if I know it comforts my 7-year-old son? I do it because I understand that if he knows I am there for him, no matter when, he can trust me and lean on me when he needs me most.
Every great salesperson wants a manager they can trust and a manager that will give them undivided attention when needed. Whether the time is to discuss account development during an individual focus meeting or there’s a big close the salesperson wants recognition for, a good sales manager should be willing to make the investment, make the sacrifice, and be there for that salesperson.
2. I want to take time regularly to be with salespeople in the field.
I would rather be the parent that chauffeurs six 12-year-olds to the mall and stay there while they shop for 5 hours versus letting another parent take that job. Why? I feel the need to observe my child’s behavior first hand to see if any issues arise and to ensure her needs are met.
As a manager, it’s impossible to know how to develop a salesperson if you don’t observe their behaviors in the field. You can’t simply rely on So how’d it go? and expect a salesperson to succeed. A salesperson’s perceptions of how a call went may not be in sync with reality. If you don’t like the thought of being in the field and managing in the moment, then you’ll be doing a disservice to the people on your sales team.
3. I do not want to sell. I will let my salesperson sell.
I recently kept my mouth shut in a parent/teacher/student meeting as my daughter asked for forgiveness from her Social Studies teacher so she could retake tests she failed. The outcome? The teacher felt she was sincere and really wants to do better, and therefore offered the opportunity to retake her tests. The same goes for a sales manager: the reason for the manager to hold back is not that the salesperson will achieve a better outcome without the manager’s help, but rather, in spite of the fact that the salesperson may very well not achieve as good an outcome, but it will have been worth it for the learning experience.
When in the field, a salesperson needs to take ownership of the sales process in order to learn and improve their sales skills. If you are always the one jumping in to do the selling, all they will learn is that they should take you out more often to do the work for them. If that’s the case, you should be in sales, right?
At the end of the day, it’s not about how you would handle a situation as a salesperson. It’s about how your salespeople handle it. It’s your job as a sales manager to help them continuously improve their sales process. Knowing each person’s strengths and weaknesses will help you to develop a plan that coaches your salesperson to maximize their strengths and steer around their weaknesses.
This is the fundamental difference between sales and sales management. As a salesperson, you are identifying within yourself what it will take to get the job done. As a manager, you need to identify in others what it will take to get the job done and coach accordingly.
What Was Your Score?
The higher you scored yourself on our little quiz, the more likely it is that you would enjoy the sales manager role. Whether you have all it takes to excel in a job like that requires more extensive consideration, of course.
Remember, while managers supervise others, it’s not necessarily indicative of a promotion (and it’s not so uncommon for a manager to make less money than a top-performing salesperson). Rather, it’s simply a different role for a different set of talents. Your natural talents may be ideal for sales, and if that’s the case, do your best to be number one in sales. Or if helping others grow and develop is the best expression of your talent set, then go for that management job!
Editor's Note: This post was originally published on February 20, 2014 and has been updated.