Transitioning from great sales person to great sales manager (part 2)


In part 1, I looked at why the best sales people don't always make the best sales managers.  But, it doesn't mean that with the right support that they can't become great.

So how do you provide the right support to ensure you provide strong sales leadership AND accelerate team performance?  In part 2, I will explore the following:

1. How to provide your new leader with a structured program that shows them how, why and what their new role encompasses

2. What to do before you promote them

3. Why ongoing mentoring and coaching is a critical success factor


1. How to provide your new leader with a structured program that shows them how, why and what their new role encompasses

Sales leadership is about the transition from creating customer value to creating stakeholder value, with those stakeholders including customers, but adding to that the wider organization and the team.  To do that, the new sales leader must take time to build insight about what will create value for each of these stakeholder groups.

Understanding team/individual team members' strengths and areas of challenge requires time dedicated to seeing them in action. Gathering examples of high performance will help sales people understand what worked and why in order to build on areas of strength.  Examples of challenge will help sales people pinpoint what's not working and why.  Specificity is key.

What does the team value in a leader? This will help the new sales leader to communicate and deliver a message with impact at individual and team level.

Shifting from sales person means a shift in perception. The new sales leader needs to understand that they now need to deliver value to the organization.  Results are a major component as well as understanding how to communicate value delivered.  

For example: how they are working with their teams to deliver targets and why this activity will work, examples of financial value (profit improvements, lower cost of sale, reduced sales cycles and improved conversion rates), functional value (systems and processes that make selling easier and remove barriers) and what matters to key decision makers in the organization.

2. What to do before you promote them

Transitioning is twofold here - 

a) Handover of the sales role:
Before they move into their new role, they need to ensure their own role is well and truly handed over to their replacement.  Client insights, call cycles, best practice and two up visits to AA and A clients to cement the new relationship.

b) Support from previous leader or line manager:
A solid introduction to the team as to why they've been selected and what the vision is will set a pathway for the new sales leader.  They need to spend time understanding each stakeholder group, especially their team and key people in the organization in order to establish what and how to deliver value to them.

3. Why ongoing mentoring and coaching is a critical success factor:

But simply doing 1 and 2 then leaving them to it isn't enough.  Without ongoing coaching and mentoring, new sales leaders over time can revert back to their comfort zone (selling) which means the team is left rudderless and their replacement will be feeling more than a little crowded or pushed aside.  Neither scenario is ideal.  So, whether that support comes from an internal sales leadership program or externally from a sales leadership coach/mentor, the focus must be on providing them with a place where they can grow into their new role, make mistakes and practice new skills.  They require observation in practice and accountability in order to maintain focus on what good looks like.

Helping great sales people become great sales leaders takes time and resources.  When a sales leader is great, so is their team.  The investment is worth it: to the organization, to the team and of course to your customers.

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