If you think becoming a sales manager is easy, here's the lowdown from seasoned sales managers who look back at what they learned - the hard way.
Dave Anderson has something to say to the first group of sales reps that he managed 13 years ago. "I am so, so sorry," he says. "I didn't know what I was doing."
Like many new managers, Anderson was promoted to his position based on his sales ability - but he didn't have a clue about dealing with people. So he held reps accountable but didn't communicate what was expected of them. He managed by intimidation, instead of motivation. Rather than coach his team, he stayed aloof, locking himself in his office and immersing himself in administrative tasks.
"I could close deals and do budgets, but I was just horrible when it came to leading people," he admits. "I didn't teach anyone anything - I managed by command control and whips and chains. I don't know how anyone could stand to work with me."
Nowadays, Anderson is a lot savvier about sales management. In fact, you could say he wrote the book on the topic: he's the author of Selling Above the Crowd
(Horizon Business Press, 1999) and No-Nonsense Leadership
(Creative Broadcast Concepts, 2001), and he's president of LearntoLead, a sales and leadership training company in Los Altos, CA.
As Anderson's experience proves, being a top rep doesn't mean you can manage people. But what does it take to succeed? We asked managers who've built great teams, reps who report to them, and executives who direct the whole sales organization. Here's what they said.1. Become a master of change.
The biggest and most challenging task of a sales manager is to prepare the sales team for the constantly changing marketplace. "Every organization," says Peter Drucker, "has to prepare for the abandonment of everything it does." Great sales managers are the arch role model for change. Business is never a straight series of predictable evolutions that will produce a happy, boldface chart pointing north. Today's business is the result of uncontrollable, unpredictable eruptions of simultaneous financial, technological and economic revolutions. The ideal sales manager will calmly face chaos, enthusiastically embrace change, and always adjust to whatever tough challenges lie ahead.
That's why great managers set the bar high with their own work ethic, and they lead in change management. Leilani Lutali, a rep with Comforce Technical Services, a Woodbury, New York-based consulting and staffing company, says her first manager did just that. "Diana expected as much of herself as she did of her sales force. And she wasn't afraid of her reps surpassing her - in fact, she encouraged it. Through her mentoring, she helped us rise to our highest levels of excellence."
Troy Berns, a rep with All Copy Products, a Denver, Colorado-based dealer for copiers, printers, facsimile machines, postage meters and scanners, says he appreciates that his current manager works just as hard as - or harder than - the reps he oversees. "My manager gets in the office before I do, and when I stay late he's right here strategizing with me. He won't ask me to do anything that he wouldn't do himself."
"When we're faced with change," says Tom Miller, a sales-training consultant, "salespeople will automatically focus on what they must give up. To them, virtually all change will be perceived as loss. That's why good sales managers add value when it comes to selling the pain of gain. They help the salespeople vividly imagine the raisins in a huge cake, and then they will tell them that they will lead them personally through a potentially unnerving gauntlet that ultimately gets them unscathed into a big cake factory." 2. Earn their trust.
Salespeople do not pay so much attention to what their sales manager says; they judge their managers by what they do. Trust is the foundation of any relationship. Trust means that your word is as good as gold, that salespeople don't have to second-guess anything you tell them, and that they can count on you. Trust is not what you preach to your team, it is what you do when nobody is watching.
"Managers who have a reputation for changing their views based on who was in their office last have no credibility," says Lawrence B. Chonko, a professor of marketing at Baylor University in Waco, TX, and founder of the school's Center for Professional Selling and Sales Management.
That means if you set rules and deadlines, you'd better enforce them. If you schedule meetings, you must hold them. "Otherwise you become a joke," says Doug Stevens, a sales-and-marketing consultant with Carrera Agency, a talent management firm in Aliso Viejo, CA.
Most importantly, reps must believe their manager is (continued on page 2)