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Metamorphosis Sales to Management

In the world of Sales, many salespeople go to bed on Friday nights and are mysteriously transformed after three sleeps; emerging on Monday mornings as fully formed Sales Managers. Caterpillars and butterflies look and behave differently because they are totally different, even though in some species they retain latent characteristics of their former selves. Salespeople emerging over a weekend into Sales Managers look and behave the same as they did on Fridays because they are the same person – apart from being richer, wiser, and a good deal happier.

The problem is that what makes you successful at selling will not necessarily make you successful at sales management and in many ways can be a significant disadvantage. One of the biggest mistakes that companies make is the belief that because someone was good at sales that they will be good at managing salespeople. Yet there is clear evidence that the most successful salespeople find it extremely difficult to relate to other salespeople. Successful salespeople are often loners. Whilst they are extremely comfortable dealing with the challenge of converting none-buying prospects into buying customers; and buying customers into repeat purchasers; the challenge of converting average and/ or underperforming salespeople into sales champions leaves many of them cold.

We see it time and time again in sports. Spectacularly successful footballers are often spectacular failures in management and coaching. Why should sales be any different? Additionally, many companies, worried that they will lose the revenue of the newly promoted salesperson have them retain a client portfolio citing the white lie that clients would not accept a different salesperson dealing with them. Player-Coaches doesn’t work in Football and it doesn’t work in Sales. You’re either a caterpillar or a butterfly; you can’t be both.

The knowledge, skills, and behaviours of sales managers are different to those of salespeople. In football these days, in order to become a coach you have to undergo a significant amount of training and development, and many footballers enter a coach training programming at or near the end of their playing careers prior to becoming a coach, usually with a lower league team in order to learn the trade. So why can’t companies insist that salespeople who are identified as potential sales managers undergo sales management development prior to taking up a sales management role? Enlightened companies adopt processes for management roles which include:

– Identifying the knowledge, skills and behaviours which are considered to be required to be a successful manager in the company
– Breaking this down into small development events, study tasks, and simulations
– Defining the criteria for inclusion on a pre-management development programme that includes workplace tasks
– Delivering a modular training programme candidates attend over an agreed period
– Running a final selection process hosted by a panel and at which candidates are rated as either ready now; ready soon with development; or significant development needed