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Over the last several months I’ve had multiple conversations with growing companies facing pivotal decisions in their businesses. They are considering taking the exciting step of adding a layer of management by creating a new service manager or sales manager position.
This can be a very emotional decision and many unexpected challenges may arise any time we add a new management position or make changes to the existing structure. However, with proper planning and execution, the transition can be fairly smooth and very rewarding.
Unfortunately, our industry has the habit of making generally poor promotion choices. Fortunately, these mistakes can easily be avoided with a little strategic planning, a better discovery process and increased clarity.
The biggest issue is the person who gets promoted in most contracting companies is seldom the best candidate for the position. He is typically being promoted because he is the longest tenured team member or, sometimes even worse, he is the top-selling person in the organization.
We tend to think because someone is exceptional at sales, he will automatically be an effective manager. Let’s become crystal clear about something right now. The specific traits that make a salesperson or selling technician successful are very different than the skills effective managers possess. Just because someone can sell doesn’t necessarily mean he can lead others. It also doesn’t mean he can simply teach others how to be an outstanding salesperson.
With that being said, there are a few exceptions to the rule of promoting a top performer. But as you ponder your own hiring or promotion decisions, I’d like you to be fully aware of what history has taught us. I realize and have witnessed firsthand that certain skills can cross over between winning in sales and winning in sales management. However, many of us overlook or fail to consider core competency differences when promoting from within.
Think about some top traits of a great selling technician or in-home salesperson. Don’t overthink it, just capture the first three or four things that come to mind immediately. More often than not, when I do this exercise with our clients, I’ll hear responses referring to top sellers as “having big egos, being hard to manage, loving the spotlight and always wanting to win the top spot,” along with various others.
Based on my experience working with some of the most talented selling technicians and salespeople in this industry, I won’t argue any of those traits. But they aren’t all-encompassing; they are simply things to consider. However, if you take someone who has a need for the “top dog on the sales board” spotlight or if he is really difficult to manage, how do you think he’ll excel as a manager?
As you weigh your options regarding who to promote, take a good look at the traits of the people you are considering. How do they interact with their peers? What are their best qualities? Are they open to change, training and development? How do they handle criticism?
These things will have a huge impact on their ability to lead others. You need to consider aspects of who the person really is to figure out if a management position is a good fit. You should not simply promote someone based on tenure or sales ability alone without considering what it really takes to be a great manager.
Abilities of top sales managers
Top sales managers possess a few key abilities I’d like to focus on. There are definitely more than the three we’re discussing in this column, but I want you to think about the fundamentals before you worry about training all the other competencies with a new position. Most of the time we get it wrong from the beginning, so I’d like to help you avoid all the mistakes you can when it comes to creating or replacing any management position.
- Effective sales managers must be willing to give up the top spot limelight.A top producer who is promoted into management has to be willing to put his best salespeople on a pedestal. As a manager, he needs to feed the sales staff’s egos of being the best at what they do. This presents a huge challenge for a lot of top performers because they are used to being the ones getting all the praise and attention. Typically, managers don’t get as much praise as salespeople.
- Effective sales managers must learn to focus on others.Top producers are usually self-motivated, driven and accustomed to looking out for No. 1 before considering other people. Once they assume a management role, their focus has to shift from me to team. I hear too many managers still talking about what they did in the field, how great they were when they were in the truck and so on. Sorry, but nobody cares. I only care about what you can do to help the team improve today and in the future, not necessarily what you did in your glory days.
- Effective sales managers must learn to delegate effectively.In our field, anyone who gets great results on their own is usually self-reliant and self-focused. They view themselves as the best at everything they do, which translates to a desire to do everything by themselves so it gets done correctly. We see this same issue with every level of management (as well as ownership) but in order to grow any department, delegation must be mastered. That doesn’t mean coaching and follow-up are ignored; those are crucial as well.
Think about these three foundational keys as you consider your next management promotion or hire. There are many other aspects of these decisions, but getting clear about these fundamentals will put you on the right track. If you can find someone who is truly fine with giving up some recognition, can foster a positive team environment and is willing to delegate, you have a great start.
When you consider these three abilities along with key management traits important to your own business needs, you will be much more informed as you are making this key decision.
The goal is to make your management transition as smooth as possible. When you consider the three key fundamentals in relation to your company’s specific needs, you are well-positioned to gain a productive new manager who will increase the overall effectiveness of your business.