There comes a time in every career when it’s time to move up. Moving up may mean many things, depending on the career, company and organizational structure. Making the leap often means moving from technician, staff person or salesperson to management.
Some people believe the person with the most years of company service is the logical choice for a promotion. Showing up every day is an admirable quality, especially in today’s relaxed, flex-time obsessed workforce. But just showing up consistently isn’t enough to merit a promotion.
In the same way, the best-performing sales person may not be the best candidate for management. Unfortunately, upper management often uses those criteria alone to pluck someone from the ranks to fill a manager or supervisor position. It makes sense, doesn’t it? Not necessarily. It takes more than knowing how to generate leads or close a sale to make a good sales manager.
What does it take? According to an article in Business Insider, “Your Best Salesperson Isn’t Your Best Sales Manager,” it takes a combination of skills and strengths to make a good manager. In fact, the article suggests that the traits that make for a good sales person—money motivated, big ego and a bit selfish—are the very things that make a poor manager.
If you’re currently in a job search for a sales management position or want to move internally, you’ll need the following more than high sales volumes or close rates to get the job.
1. Strong coaching skills. This is the opposite of the big ego. Sales teams encourage competition to motivate and drive business. Getting ahead of the rest is good for your commission check and for the team and company. But managers have to be able to set aside personal success to encourage the team to achieve its goals. While sales managers have sales goals as well, managers have to fulfill their role as coach and support the team’s efforts. Coaching doesn’t mean criticizing when something goes wrong. Coaches give feedback and train and encourage the players to go back on the field and do it better the next time.
2. Leadership. Bosses are not leaders. Bosses like to tell everyone what to do and then criticize them when they make a mistake. Leaders are in the business of developing leaders from the ranks. Leaders show confidence in the team by giving them responsibility, authority and letting team members discover and build on their strengths. Instead of giving orders, ask questions. Helping people figure out how to lead is the mark of a good leader.
3. Accountability. This is a tough one for most new managers. It’s great when the team is working well. Most managers will delay or avoid giving negative feedback. The problem is, silence is also feedback. How is the salesperson supposed to know he’s off track, and how to get back on, without some honest, constructive feedback? Turning a blind eye to avoid confrontation not only hurts the team but your leadership as well. Managers are responsible for making everyone successful.
The leap to management takes a different set of skills and attitude. It’s a shift from a singular, self-focused drive to close the sale. Managers have to coordinate the sales efforts and abilities of a sales team to meet the company’s objectives. Measure your strengths, skills and abilities against the above management traits. If you have what it takes and the willingness to learn along the way, you may be the right person for the job.
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