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Sunday, 9 May 2010

Don't Promote Your Top Salesman to be Sales Manager!

A man goes shooting on a regular basis and each time, he has a dog from the local kennels, one called Salesman, a quick witted, enthusiastic dog with an unerring eye for the retrieve. After one shoot, he goes back to the kennels with a complaint.

"What's gone wrong with Salesman?" he says "All of a sudden he's useless!"

"Ah yes" sighs the kennel master "Some idiot called him Sales Manager instead of Salesman and now all he does is sit on his ass and bark".

One of the most common issues raised by Vistage members is the problem of promoting their best salesman to be sales manager. By the way, I use the word "salesman" in a non-specific non-gender manner simply because I find the word "salesperson" to be clumsy and unattractive. I trust that my female readers will forgive me.

Promoting your top salesman can lead to two undesirable consequences - firstly that you lose the benefit of a top salesman and also there is a distinct danger that you gain a bad sales manager.

Really good salesmen are individual, entrepreneurial, self centered and very often, a law unto themselves. In general terms, people skills are not at the top of their agenda, other than knowing how to handle customers.

On the other hand, the role of the sales manager is totally different and angled always to managing the sales effort and the sales operatives to derive the maximum benefit for the business. It takes a special person to be able to combine the two roles and few achieve it effectively.

In fact, this does not only apply to the sales function. In fact I was talking to a Managing Director this week who was bemoaning the fact that he had promoted a very good designer to be Design Manager and it had been a disaster. Extricating oneself from such a situation can be costly and time (and emotion) consuming.

It is interesting to consider, in political terms this week in the UK, how a reasonably competent Finance Director worked tirelessly to gain his promotion to Chief Executive, and when it happened, it was certainly not an unqualified success.

The roles are different and until there is a realisation of that fact, mistakes will continue to be made. Make sure that it is a trap into which you do not fall.

For more information visit www.vistage.co,uk and www.vistageblog.co.uk
To contact us, email ivan.goldberg@vistage.co.uk


Gill said...

Very interesting and so true! Do you think that someone can be a great sales manager without being a particularly good salesman? I have known people who can lead a team of specialists very effectively without having the specialist skills themselves. The right people skills and the ability to focus on results can drive any team to success - or is the sales function unique? Would be interested to hear what others think...

Ivan J Goldberg said...

Thanks for your input. I am quite sure that the great sales manager doesn't need to be a great salesman although it can obviously help. As you say, the most important facets of the function are people skills, team building and overall, leadership. In that sense it does not differ in any way from amy other function.