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January 27, 2015

What’s the Difference between Sales Leaders and Sales Managers?

By LaVon Koerner, Chief Revenue Officer, Revenue Storm

While the terms “sales leader” and “sales manager” are often used interchangeably, there is a huge difference between these two roles.

Leaders rally employees around a vision. They have the ability to influence, motivate, and inspire others to contribute to the fulfillment of that vision.

Managers, on the other hand, are more adept at directing employees on how to systematically execute the leader’s vision. They can see all of the intricate moving parts and understand how to sync them.

Leaders aren’t always managers, and managers aren’t always leaders, but both are critical to the success of an organization. Properly pairing salespeople with either leaders or managers can have a significant impact on productivity, employee satisfaction, and revenue.

Consider, for example, the characteristics of hunters and farmers. 

Hunters

  • Assertive
  • Tolerant of risk
  • Hungry for recognition
  • Focused
  • Competitive
  • Impatient
  • Keen on variety

Farmers

  • Relational
  • Resistant to risk
  • Collaborative
  • Predictable
  • Dependent
  • Partial to known environments

Hunters are tasked with winning high-risk opportunities (i.e., opportunities that are competitively held, were previously lost, or are in adverse environments) or accelerating the acquisition of new markets, geographies, and accounts. Meanwhile, farmers are tasked with cultivating, growing, and protecting revenue in existing accounts while achieving high customer satisfaction and building valued relationships.

Based on these definitions, you can probably guess the best pairings: Leaders will be more productive if they lead hunters. Managers will be more successful if they manage a group of farmers.

So why is it important to distinguish between your managers and leaders? We all yearn to be understood and accepted for who we are, and working for a boss who has very different DNA can be unsettling. You can see this disconnect clearly when it comes to motivation. Leaders and hunters tend to become bored when things are too predictable or comfortable; they love to confront new, risky, and suspenseful opportunities. Conversely, managers and farmers tend to choose comfortable surroundings devoid of risk and have an orderly approach to resolving challenges. They prefer deep relationships.

It’s certainly true that some managers can inspire, and some leaders can execute systematically, but these are not their core strengths or dominant characteristics. Understanding who your leaders and managers are will help you create an organizational structure that builds strong morale and a culture that effectively addresses core business functions and needs.

LaVonKoener

Today's blog post is by LaVon Koerner, Chief Revenue Officer of Revenue Storm, a global sales consulting and revenue acceleration firm.