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Commentary & Analysis

The Role of the Sales Leader

By Jerry Scher
Published: April 8, 2013

If your company is like so many that I’ve come in contact with, you most likely can identify the leaders within your organization that provide the focus, the planning and the execution of the operational components of your business. Whether we are talking about finance, manufacturing, administration, creative services and/or client services, you can usually assess the performance of the managers of these departments based on pre-determined criteria. You certainly know when they are not performing to your expectations. But how are you doing with the revenue component of your business; the management of your sales department?

“Not all great sales professionals make great sales managers; just like not all great athletes make great coaches" 

Quite frequently we hear about a top-performing salesperson that has been promoted or hired to run a sales department based on their past success with sales generation. If you identify with this approach; how has that worked out for you? Now, I believe that a great sales leader should have real, in the trenches, sales experience because they need to know what it’s like to identify and create sales opportunities and win business. They also have to know what it’s like to cope with the rejection that comes with being in sales. So selecting a sales manager with a successful sales background is perfectly logical but not all great sales professionals make great sales managers; just like not all great athletes make great coaches.

As with all other aspects of your business, your sales program requires a well thought out structured system that incorporates the following components:  (for more information about these components please read the WTT article from November 27, 2012 –  Managing Your Team of Business Developers)

  • Strategy Development and Planning
  • Sales Process Management
  • Resource Deployment
  • Coaching and Leadership
  • Sales Compensation Design and Implementation
  • Recruiting, Hiring, Training and Coaching
  • Technology Management

And the manager of this department is responsible for creating and implementing each of these components. In fact, I believe that your sales manager must provide Structure, Support and Accountability to your sales program and sales team. If you agree on these requirements I think you will also agree that your typical sales person or even your superstars are most likely not eligible (experience, etc.) or suitable (behavioral competence, soft skills) to fill this position. Now if you have a great sales management system in place and you need someone to manage your system, you can introduce a less experienced sales manager (behaviorally suitable for this position but lacking experience) to take charge. However, if there is no system in place, you will require someone that can design and implement an effective sales management system in addition to coaching your sales staff. This becomes a real recruiting challenge, and for the record, sales managers that carry a large book of business will typically spend their quality time managing their business (and growing it) and not building your overall sales program.

So how do we select a great sales manager? Well, we begin by carefully defining the job requirements so that as we search for the best candidate we know exactly what we are looking for. We must determine in advance what type of an individual will fit, behaviorally, within your company’s culture and what soft skills they require. We have to seriously consider how they should be different from your top sellers. If you do not have successful experience with this process then you should consider the research and knowledge that has been developed over the years and apply it to your search and decision making process.

There are numerous traits, competencies and work preferences to look for that are in common with a top performing sales professional/business developer including:

  • Takes Initiative
  • Wants Challenge
  • Interpersonal Competencies
  • Creative Persistence
  • Self-acceptance and Self-improvement
  • Assertive and Helpful
  • Warmth and Empathy

And while many of the traits are similar, the degree of importance and priority will be different. Additionally, based on validated research and experience, there are numerous traits, competencies and work preferences that are either essential or desirable to look for in candidates for this critical position. They include: 

  • Systematic
  • Wants to Lead
  • Finance/Business
  • Public Speaking
  • Influencing
  • Pressure Tolerance
  • Effective Enforcing
  • Handles Conflict
  • Numerical
  • Open-Reflective

Furthermore, there are numerous Traits to Avoid for sales manager candidates including:

  • Authoritarian
  • Harsh
  • Insensitive
  • Impulsive
  • Permissive
  • Dominating
  • Skeptical

When you take all of this into consideration it’s quite obvious that a lot of thought must go into creating your job description and requirements for this position. You must also consider how you will be able to determine and predict which candidates will not only meet your eligibility requirements but also your suitability expectations. While effective interviewing will enable you to uncover some of these traits, leveraging new assessment technology to predict suitability is a more sophisticated approach.

As you continue your journey towards re-inventing your business it will become obvious that your talent requirements will change. And if you are attempting to rebuild your sales organization please give careful consideration to your sales management system as well as the leadership necessary to implement your program

If you would like more information about designing your sales management system and learning more about assessing and hiring sales management talent, contact Jerry Scher at jerry@peakfocuscoach.com or 404-931-9291.

To learn about the Harrison Assessment Technology, visit:  http://www.peakfocuscoach.com/harrison-technology/

Stay tuned to this continual series – as we continue to focus how to build a dynamic sales team.

Jerry Scher has been engaged in the graphic communication industry for over 35 years, Jerry's primary goal - make those around him more successful.

 

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