To Be a Better Manager, Get Out There and Sell

By Heather Baldwin

You’ve just been promoted to sales manager. Time to stop selling and start managing, right? Wrong. "It is a common notion that sales managers manage people," says Michael Malaghan, head of Malaghan Sales Management Development (www.malaghan.net) and author of Making Millions in Direct Sales: The 8 Essential Activities Direct Sales Managers Must Do Every Day to Build a Successful Team and Earn More Money (McGraw-Hill, 2005). "Sales professionals who think this way get the manager part right but forgot about the sales part." Here, says Malaghan, is why it’s so important to make personal selling your top management priority.

1. You’ll be a role model for your team. By continuing to sell, you create a positive and powerful model for your team. You send the message that selling is the job. You also will be leading from the frontlines, which is the most effective way to lead. "My best selling years took place after I became a sales manager," says Malaghan. "I felt a personal and professional pressure to maintain a high sales level. Why? I might have doubted my leadership abilities, but I felt confident that I could, and should, set a good example. This approach worked."

2. You’ll have the best training program around. Personal selling can be used as an exclusive method for training new recruits. Several times in his career, Malaghan entered a new territory by himself and had to recruit and train a sales team starting from scratch. He would not have been able to survive financially if he left the field to conduct classroom training for new sales reps, so he trained them by bringing them into the field with him. Between calls or at lunch he addressed how to handle the paperwork that comes with sales, such as how to fill out contracts and other forms. "No classroom simulation comes close to the genuine experience of a live sales presentation," he explains. "No virtual reality can effectively re-create the dynamics of one salesperson observing another salesperson in the field delivering a sales talk to a real prospect." Moreover, you’ll be establishing your role as a lead-from-the-front manager who cares enough to make sales calls with your team members.

3. Your income will continue to grow. Face it – we’re all in sales to make money. You’ll make more money if you continue to sell than if you stop selling. You’ll also be better positioned to weather a sudden decline in sales followed by a loss of manpower. When these circumstances occur, sales managers who sell won’t feel as acutely the decrease in personal income that occurs when others fail to deliver. "They can increase their selling time more easily when the need arises," says Malaghan. "A sales manager who loses the personal selling habit finds it difficult to get back in the saddle."

4. You’ll develop better rapport with your reps. What better way to communicate to your reps that you care about them and their professional development than by leaving the comfort of your office to show them how to close more orders? By showing team members how to make money in the field you send a clear message to them that they are important. Ultimately, this dedication translates to more competent and more loyal employees.