Where have all the great sales people gone?


I'm serious.

In organisations across the country, there's a phenomenon that causes a serious shortage of sales talent in teams.  It's the promotion of great sales people into sales leadership positions.

And it can cause problems:
a) Companies can lose great sales people which can create gaping holes in sales budgets without their expertise, experience and skill
b) Without support, great sales people promoted into leadership roles can make poor sales managers
c) That leaves an organisation with a hole in its sales budget and a rudderless sales team

What can go wrong, right!?

The key is support.  Just because someone is a high performing sales person, doesn't mean they'll be a high performing sales manager.  The requirements are different, the skill sets are different and for the transition be a smooth one, support is required.

What does this support look like?

1. Support for the new sales manager

  • Structure:
    - Understanding their new role in the scheme of the wider company, who are their new direct reports, who is in their team of peers and who they now report into
    - The number of direct reports should be no more than 10

  • Resourcing:
    - Access to reports, management tools and templates and a transition process will be important

  • Professional Development:
    - New leaders will know how to be successful at the sharp end, but to be successful in this new role will require an understanding of their new world: what is their role, what does good look like and how do they achieve that good?
    - For those who are "natural" sales people, it's even more difficult to then lead those who may be less "natural" as they may not have an ability to break down what makes someone good in a sales role
    - A program that develops the mindset and skillset of a new leader is important to help them to transition to their new role which is more about helping their team to realise their sales results
    - Mentoring and coaching will also be a key part of supporting the new manager to help them focus on the right behaviours and prevent them from slipping back into their old role where they were comfortable and performing well


2. Support for the remaining sales team

  • Structure:
    - Whenever a former peer becomes a leader, there needs to be good communication as to why and what the new normal looks like from a team perspective. It will also help for the new leader to work closely in the short term with client hand over in order to facilitate a smooth transition process and minimise any negative impact on sales results

  • Resourcing:
    - Replacements within the team will need to be made to ensure all regions are covered and that there is adequate coverage
    - Support the team to transition to new regions, customers with a blend of sales leaders infield to provide in the moment coaching

  • Professional Development
    - PD ideally should be ongoing and structured towards the team achieving strategic objectives
    - It's then up to the new leader to support this initiative and develop their own ability to coach and lead their new team to achieving their targets in a way that builds ongoing opportunities
    - Clarity around what good looks like helps not only the sales team have a clear pathway of behaviours that lead to results, but can help new sales leaders to focus on helpful behaviours and to break down the steps to success

A consistent flow of potential sales leaders is the mark of a great organisation, but without a focus on development, simply promoting sales stars to leadership positions could leave an organisation exposed and struggling.

Tips from John Buchanan, Beyond 19, Coaching Practicing Lead:

Being technically very good, e.g. sales, is not the only skill needed to run a sales team

The organisation must invest in educating and supporting its leaders

There are 4 other skill sets that give the leader best chance of leading a high performance team:

  1. Physical - the capacity to turn up everyday with energy to meet the demands of the day

  2. Mental - the ability to switch on and switch off throughout the day so that they have clear minds to deal with who or what is in front of them

  3. Tactical - knowing what resources are required to get the best outcome

  4. Team - creating vision, strategy, values and principles that are accepted and implemented by the members of the team

Recent Blogs