Many sales organizations have a tendency to promote their highest-performing rep to manager. The thinking is simple. Let your best player show others what they do, and you’ll have a team of MVPs. However, as any basketball fan can tell you, Michael Jordan and LeBron James would make terrible coaches. Though they possess the most talent, their personalities are not suited to coaching. In fact, a glance at elite NBA coaches shows a similar pattern. Many were, at best, average players, and some never played professionally. The same may be true in sales. A star rep with Hall-of-Fame numbers might never lead a team to the playoffs or even more wins. Obviously, in basketball and sales, there’s more to being a great coach than talent, and you may have one sitting right in front of you. Here are some tips to help your organization find a diamond-in-the-rough sales manager:
Gets Along With Everyone
Every sales team has that one rep most respected by both peers and superiors. They may not be the longest-tenured, most experienced, or even your top seller, but they’re the one to whom everyone turns when sales questions arise. Others look to him or her for approval and guidance, perhaps even over their manager. In meetings or office interaction, members of the C-suite have a closer relationship with this rep, sharing similar interests personally or in business. Also, this is the rep who seems to lack ego, who defers all praise onto his or her teammates and manager. When lauded for landing a big client, they’re the first say, “I had a lot of help, and Walter’s tips were spot on, even down to the blue shirt!” Keep an eye on this one, and don’t let them get away.
Demonstrates Leadership Qualities
It’s been said teaching, like the clergy, is a calling. Sure, anyone can go to school, take the right classes, and ace the required exams, but the best teachers are in it for something larger than a paycheck. It’s the same for potential sales managers. Nobody had to tell this rep to mentor the green rookie in phone etiquette. They did it because they enjoy sharing their tips and success. Often, this team-first mentality cannot be taught. While those itching for a promotion can fake it for a while, you’ll know when it’s inspired by a genuine love for sales and dedication to the organization. This is the selflessness, integrity, and leadership you want in a manager.
In basketball, some are said to be playing three-dimensional chess when everyone else is playing checkers. While it’s true, most star athletes have been conditioned to react more than think during a game, some have the ability—an intuition—to see several plays ahead. This situational vision is another intangible quality that gives these players a true advantage. Some sales reps have it as well. It’s the rep, consulting on a call, whose one question unlocks a solution for the lead rep. In the same way, this rep sees patterns and meaning in an organization’s metrics and understands how, within these complex numbers and permutations, people are making decisions with real-life consequences for individuals and their organizations. Perhaps, most of all, it’s the rep who loves the process of these things more than the reward that marks them as a potential future leader of your sales team.
Of course, many of the characteristics that help sales pros engage their clients, such as being personable, charming, and good listeners, also help sales managers lead their teams. However, not all successful sales pros are suited for manager positions. Though many may want to move up for pride, prestige, or even financial reward, these should never factor in promotion. In fact, like the NBA, where coaches earn far less than star players, sales managers often make less than top-performing sales pros. Much like teachers, nurses, and other professions that help people, top sales pros are driven by their desire to help their clients. In addition to the qualities above, sales managers should also possess a genuine drive to inspire and lead their teams to success for the benefit of their reps, their clients, and the organization as a whole. For more on being a being an effective manager, see our white paper How to be a High-Performing Sales Leader in Today’s Marketplace.