This is the story of a superstar salesman we’ll call Jon. In his first year on the job, Jon hit the top 10% in his territory. In the second, he made the top 5% of his region. Then his company put together a superstar team and made Jon the sales manager. Within a year, the company lost more than half the star reps they’d assigned to this team. Here’s why…
Great sales reps and sales managers have different drives.
This Forbes article points out that great salespeople have a drive to achieve. Energetic and persistent, the sales profession plays to their nature. The quota gives achievers a clearly defined goal. The leaderboard gives them motivation. The commission/bonus structure give them rewards. Achievers care about personal success.
Great managers, on the other hand, have a natural drive to influence. They can inspire, train and motivate sales teams because they aspire to have an impact on the world beyond what any one person can accomplish on his or her own. They’re very happy to share the spotlight, or even give it over entirely to someone else on their team.
Mediocre reps can be great sales managers.
Fact is, only about one in six candidates who fit the profile of a strong salesperson also fit the profile of a strong manager. Even more counterintuitively, five out of every seven candidates who are poor fits for sales roles are strong fits for sales manager roles.
That’s not to say you should hire a sales manager who’s never sold. Reps will only respect a leader who feels their pain, who’s overcome many of the same obstacles they have.
How to identify the one rep with potential to be a great manager.
To find the great manager in a sea of “not so great” reps, simply ask, “Tell me about your proudest accomplishment in your career.”
Had Jon been asked the question, he probably would have talked about a challenge he faced and how he triumphed. In doing so, he’d reveal that he’s the type who needs to feel ownership. He may be the type to take a heavy-handed approach and steal the spotlight whenever possible.
An influencer will tell you how they helped someone else with a challenge and how proud they were about everything that person accomplished. That’s your new manager.
The influencer may not be at the top of your leaderboard, but don’t be surprised if he or she is popular with those who are. Great managers are team players and may have helped the leaders get there.
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