Play Ball!

Slugger Joe hit 50 home runs last year. He also had a golden glove, snatching sizzling grounders and fielding slow moving bunts between his position at third base and home plate. At a management meeting that winter, the general manager of Joe’s team had a great idea – let’s move Joe over to coach third base. After all, he opined, Joe has all the skills, and as coach, he can share with the whole team.

Many sales organizations make the same mistake. They take their best salesperson and make them a manager, hoping the brilliance he or she shown as a salesperson will rub off on the rest of the organization. Many times, however, what happens instead is a reduction in production, and ineffective management. The new manager may see their role as helping everyone else in the sales department to close sales – after all, that is what they have been great at, selling is what earned them the promotion.

But sales management is more than just closing sales – it is assembling the right team, constructing the rules of the road, and building a great sales culture.

Selecting the right team is a particularly significant challenge. The universe of salespeople who can effectively build business-to-business relationships over the phone is small. Without the lack of visual clues and body language, many talented field salespeople struggle in the role. Individuals who are great at customer service may be to considerate to generate interest at the beginning of the call.

Constructing the rules of the road helps the sales manager take themselves out of the day-to-day decisions that need to be made. What discounts can be offered? How do we deal with a customer complaint? Some sales managers cherish the “fire fighter” mode, and therefore their day is consumed by rapid fire interactions with the sales group – interactions that could be significantly reduced by setting guidelines.

Finally, building a sales culture. A new representative will come into the department and take their cue from what the current sales reps are doing. If culture supports high performance, the new rep is likely to highly produce. A sales culture can be built through storytelling, sales meeting, compensation and adequate emotional nutrition. Emotional nutrition is provided by a sales manager who recognizes the investment of energy required to dial the phone fifty or sixty times a day, and to generate interest on every call.

Now, many managers were good salespeople in their day, but if you are choosing a sales manager, perhaps the best candidate is not the best salesperson. Perhaps your best producer should continue to excel at serving customers, while your best manager takes the helm. Look for an individual skilled at motivating others. Key your eye out for someone who can run a dynamic system by putting processes in place that will support the organization’s goals. Uncover someone who brings out the best in others.

Okay team, batter up!