Don't be a first year sales manager for 10 years!

Dean Kelly

Sales manager telling

A comment made by a client of mine a few years ago rings in my ears every time I read or hear about the promotion of a sales person to be the "new sales manager". My client said, after a coaching session, "I now realise I've been a first year manager for 10 years!"

His observation was he had been doing the same things every year - like the proverbial ground-hog - using the same behaviours, same end of month and end of quarter "hockey stick" revenue curves, same issues, same challenges ... it was never ending,  draining and reactive.

The answer, I believe, is in your 'manager system'.  Like all great sports coaches, great managers all have a system that encapsulates their company processes, expected behaviours, clear performance expectations, the varying capabilities of their (players) people, and defined game plans and role definitions. A manager who is promoted will only become "great" when they have the ability to define, evolve and refine their "manager system" or are coached or mentored to this level of aquity. When this is achieved they will see the results as well as their own development as a leader.

Trust and respect.
Everyone has their own style and their journey to the manager role is different.  The keys often are NOT in big speeches, nor by the daring leap into deals with sleeves rolled up and making immediate and large changes.

I would recommend a simple first step to build trust and respect:   Apply / adopt a conversational coaching model - like GROW - (readily available and free) and have the 'right' conversation with each of your people, holding them accountable & responsible for THEIR plans and THEIR actions from Day 1. This starts the process of trust & respect building while assessing the state of the business and starting to plan for other changes and refinements in that business.

I ask the managers I coach... "when you were 18-22 years old, did you LIKE your Mum & Dad?" An often emphatic reply is "No way! Loved them? Yes. But liked them? No".

Why? So often this is because our parents told us what to do and then limited or constrained our ability to take responsibility for our actions. They always knew best. "In my day..." "What you should do is..."  Our commitment to, and quality of, execution of their directives was often shoddy or well below what we would have done if it had been our own idea.

If a sales manager is inadvertently behaving like the employees' Mum or Dad reminding them of when they were a young adult then the manager is making a significant mistake and undermining any trust and respect they were attempting to build.

I was reminded of my own folly here by a former country manager who reported to me years ago. Over a few beverages, he said, "You know Dean, for the first few years we did exactly the opposite of what you told us". After choking on my drink, I responded with "How did that work for you?" to which he replied, "We then realised you might have been right...!"

The issue wasn't whether the plans and instructions were right or wrong, I had made the fundamental manager mistake of TELLING them what to do, instead of COACHING them, holding them responsible for what they did and remembering that all the great sporting coaches have one big thing in common - they don't step on the field to play the game!

They have a manager system founded upon a coaching conversation that supports and empowers their players and holds the players responsible to pass, catch, kick, make the moves, retain the ball, reduce mistakes, make the plays, and score the goals and win the games - Just like a great sales manager should with their sales team.

"You can motivate by fear, and you can motivate by reward.  But both those methods are only temporary.  The only lasting thing is self-motivation."
- Homer Rice, Football


If you enjoyed this article please  share via your Twitter, LinkedIn, Google+ and Facebook social media platforms. I encourage you to join the conversation or ask questions so feel free to add a comment on this post. I promise I will respond - Dean Kelly.

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