I hope we can all agree that in sales, manager are better leading from the front than behind the desk. Yet despite the rousing and collective yes we just heard, and the fact that less managers manage from behind the desk, the reality remains that all too many managers still do not lead, or lead effectively. The major cause continues to be that managers come from the ranks of the best sales people on the team. In an attempt to keep them, companies will promote them to being managers, and without a managed and planed transition, they instantly create two problems. First a person not ready to manage who cannot get buy in from the team, becomes disillusioned and either leaves or becomes the ass hole manager from hell. Second, is a territory that flourished under the rep in question, now sits vacant while the “new manager is replaced”, risking customer satisfaction and retention.
Fortunately leadership can come from different corners of the team, and often in a way that does not threaten the managers, allowing the manager and the organization to make adjustments and develop the manager to assume their leadership role. In fact, even as the manager does grow in to their role as “leader” these other leaders do not need to go away or be silenced, they could enhance the leadership of the manager and the performance of the team.
These are leaders are sales people who exemplify the best practices captured in you company’s sales process, and their willingness to share their experience with other willing and open minded members of the team. These are the sales people who have made the decision not to pursue management, and continue to get a thrill from continuously improve their sales skills, and the improved benefit of money is just a spin-off of their pursuit.
These individuals are easily recognized but do not necessarily conform to the profile of many company’s HYPO programs. The non-conformity is usually on the social or corporate politics side; their selling usually exemplifies the prototypical person to execute and win, they just have an aversion to puckering up, probably because they know they can make more money and have greater career satisfaction staying on their own course.
They don’t rock the boat, they just sell, and as a result are an asset to revenue and team development and leadership. One example would be reinforcement, not in the ra ra sort of way, but by actually doing it, someone you can point to exemplify what it takes to succeed beyond, a real live example for willing reps.
In essence these reps are good leaders precisely because they are great sales people. They are able to lead prospect through a range of choices, challenges, noise and alternatives, cheaper and easier solutions, and get them to arrive at choosing them. The same qualities that managers need to lead sales people and sales teams, selling them on an outcome that meets their needs and that of their company.
As in sports, it is a good thing to have great coaching leaders and great teammate leaders, they can coexist and serve the greater good. Companies should encourage this, first step would be to talk to these reps and understand their aspirations, and not assume that they want to be promoted, just because you did when the time came. You hear about leaders in the dressing room, there is room for leaders in the sales room.