This week’s guest author Philippe Le Baron of LB4G Consulting, Inc has over twenty years of experience in consulting, sales, and sales management in Europe and in the USA. As selling habits have tremendously changed over the last 2 years, Philippe’s background in solution selling and large complex sales has also led him to design and run various sales workshops on consultative selling, solution selling and value selling to complement his unique 1+1+1=4 !® front line sales management workshops.
These days, I am getting tired of all these articles and discussions I see where the main point seems to be “STOP promoting your best sales people to become front line sales managers. You are making a huge mistake. Top players never make great coaches. If you are a great sales person then you are doomed to become a lousy front line sales manager because sales people are “wired” differently than sales managers…etc…etc…”
It sounds like the better sales person you are, the less chance you have of being successful as a sales manager because these 2 jobs supposedly require very different skills…
I have seen many sales managers fail at making that transitional step and there was a time I was tempted to think this analysis had some substance, but today I could not disagree more.
Over the last 10 years, the skills I have seen the BEST sales managers apply with their team to drive growth and successfully assess and influence their reps on a daily basis are PRECISELY the same skills they were using when they were selling to their customers : questioning skills, listening skills, and influencing skills.
The other thing I hear all the time is that TOP sales reps are the worst coaches which is why they can not become TOP sales managers who need to be excellent at coaching.
Again, I could not disagree more today.
Great sales people and great sales managers have a lot in common, including coaching skills.
If you are a TOP sales person today in a VALUE selling environment, there is a great chance you are a master at CONSULTATIVE selling because this has become the only way for you to survive as a sales person in this buyer’s market economy. You can’t push your solution fwd, you have to make it fit into your prospect’s problem and you have to discover these problems first (which is why you need to be a great questioner and listener, …)
Well, guess what ? Coaching is all about consultative selling. Renowned Author Steve Schiffmann, America’s corporate sales trainer and author of numerous sales books, says that his definition of selling is “finding out what your prospect does, where he does it, when he does it, how he does it, who he does it with, why he does it that way and then – and only then- helping him/(her) do it better”.
Well, my own definition of coaching (a rep) is “finding out what your rep does, where he does it, when he does it, how he does it, who he does it with, why he does it that way and then – and only then- helping him/(her) do it better.”…
Sales managers need to apply the exact same skills as sales people, but to very different clients…their REPS!
The main reason TOP sales people do not always become TOP sales managers is not because of skills mismatch, it is because of PROCESS mismatch and lack of TIME and SUPPORT before, during and after the transition into the new job.
Managing, or leading sales people, is not about managing your reps’ sales process, that should be your reps’ job! For you as a sales manager there is a whole new dimension and a whole new process by itself that will eventually help you manage yourself more efficiently on a daily basis.
The process of leading sales people is something that most sales managers and their own managers do not fully grasp yet. Without help from their VP sales guiding them to apply the same skills (their strengths at selling) to very different habits (sales managers habits) and to very different clients (their reps), RISING sales managers’ only hope is leading by example as their best coaching technique and you are left trying to get a mom teaching her kids the habits of brushing their teeth by showing them how well mom brushes her own teeth (good luck …).
Sales management has unique management challenges because sales people are unique people to manage and the ART of influencing sales people -to do something different- is the same as the ART of influencing prospects -to buy-. If you don’t believe me, try hiring an “experienced manager” not coming from sales and put him/her in charge of a couple of hungry sales people and see what happens…
Sales management, however, is also a SCIENCE – the science of sales management productivity – and as such, has its own processes and therefore its own metrics to help sales managers stay on track.
Now, the good news is that the art of leading sales people can be mastered and the science of sales productivity can be taught. The recipe is simpler than you think. Cooking it right starts with the sales manager : it requires focus from him/her on understanding, practicing and reenforcing these new habits with his/her sales team and ends with dedicated support from his/her VP of Sales in terms of time, coaching and budget for external help when needed (that’s me…).
So if you are a very successful sales rep who wants to become a sales manager for the right reasons (not because your ego only demands it, that’s not good enough…), then don’t lose hope because YES, you certainly have the skills to do it and if you benefit from the right support it is worth becoming a TOP sales manager instead of just an average one : the rewards for you and for your company are : a team who is ready to follow you anywhere because you make them successful year over year and +50% to your TOP LINE (difference actually measured with the comparable performance of average sales managers (also called reactive firefighters…)).
So, who wants to start cooking?