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Rock Star Sales Rep to Sales Manager

Benjamin Sanders started out, as most young sales people do, with ambitious dreams and a spirit to match. Sanders was a born salesman. His clients couldn’t resist his honest charm, his helpful attitude, and his ability to cut through the noise and give them what they needed. It was no wonder, then, that Sanders quickly […]

Benjamin Sanders started out, as most young sales people do, with ambitious dreams and a spirit to match. Sanders was a born salesman. His clients couldn’t resist his honest charm, his helpful attitude, and his ability to cut through the noise and give them what they needed. It was no wonder, then, that Sanders quickly became the company’s poster boy and a shining example of what a sales person should be.

It was inevitable – the constant meeting and exceeding of targets and the long client list had to result in an appropriate reward. His leadership responded, predictably, by promoting him and putting a large team under him. Sanders, who was never happier than when in pursuit of his next big deal suddenly found himself in unfamiliar territory. Instead of hitting the road every day, he now had to make sure his team was setting up and attending their sales meetings. Instead of spending time selling to clients, he now found himself managing his team’s sales performance. Instead of taking just his quotas in his own capable hands and pursuing them to success, he now had to help his motley crew of young sales reps to meet their individual sales quotas as well.

This story doesn’t have a happy ending. Sanders floundered. He missed his quarterly quotas twice in a row because he was busy trying to help his team. But he wasn’t even really helping them. They never seemed to understand all the things he so instinctively knew about how to relate to clients and he had no idea how to make them.

Sanders was a good sales guy, but as it turned out, not a great manager, leader, or coach. Most of us who have been in sales organizations know at least one Sanders. It’s a common mistake, or maybe just in the nature of our organizations to expect people to hit the ground running in new roles, without appropriate training or support. Sanders failed as a leader because he didn’t know how to coach his team to success. Also because he didn’t have enough time, given his own clients and targets. The result? A disillusioned former poster boy leading a team that was not set up for success.

Organizations need to develop mechanisms to help their people grow. Total reliance on managers, who themselves aren’t trained to coach their sales reps or simply don’t have time to prioritize that activity will lead to poor results in the long run. More often than not, it is a question of re-orientation of the mindset from being a sales producer to being a manager and organizations need to provide all the help required to make this transition. This change, however, is easier said than done. The tool that most companies resort to is coaching skills training. But just providing training to a new sales manager will never be enough to change a mindset. The new manager has to be mentored by a seasoned manager of managers. All this takes time.

While new managers are still learning the ropes, what does one do with the sales performance of the organization? Should a sales leader accept that there will be pockets of suboptimal performance because a new manager is learning? Fortunately not. There are ways in which one could provide support to managers who are yet to make the transition and this is where automated sales coaching tools could play a big role. Sales coaching has two sides to it – the left brain, science, side and the right brain, art, side. Analytics based sales coaching tools, can help automate the logical analytical side of sales coaching whereas the managers can still do the art side of sales. This kind of automation can greatly support and reduce the load on sales managers, while they are still coming to grips with the new managerial role. It will give them the breathing space required for them to become rock stars, as they once were.

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