Business can be filled with a lot of shoulds and the sales profession is no different. “A top sales producer should ask for a promotion to sales management.” “You should keep climbing the corporate ladder.” “You should aspire to lead and manage a sales team.”
It’s easy for salespeople, particularly top producers, to fall into the “should” trap only to end up miserable, wondering why they asked for and accepted a promotion to sales management.
If you are a top seller considering a change to sales leadership, slow down and carve out quiet time to ask, think and reflect on these three questions.
Question #1. Will you enjoy your new role as a sales leader as much as you do that of an individual contributor?
Top salespeople often are promoted because of their ability to open up new business opportunities. In sales terms, they are good at hunting. They love the thrill of opening and landing new customers.
You still will be hunting in your role as a sales leader, but the target changes. You now are hunting for top sales talent to fill your sales bench. So the question to ask yourself is: Will you be as jazzed about landing a new salesperson on your team as you are about landing a new prospect?
Also consider that your sales activity plan will change. Instead of just meeting with prospects, you will meet with prospective candidates weekly and monthly in order to fill your people pipeline.
Do you feel energetic when thinking about this important sales-management activity or does the idea of interviewing drain you? If the answer is the second, be aware that you will end up just like a below-average seller that doesn’t enjoy prospecting. You’ll be inconsistent about your recruiting activities , end up in desperation mode, and hire any candidate because you have an open position and no salesperson to fill it.
The best sales managers enjoy prospecting for salespeople and are consistent about filling their people pipelines.
Question #2: Are you willing to put in the time and practice needed to master the new skills of sales management?
Training and coaching skills are different than selling skills.
Skills such as helping salespeople uncover self-limiting belief systems that hold them back from taking action. Skills such as giving feedback in a manner that doesn’t elicit defensive responses.
The acquisition of these skills requires enrolling in sales management courses, reading coaching and leadership books, listening to podcasts or even hiring your own coach. You will have to invest hours and hours of practice in order to master these new skills, just like you did to become a top sales producer.
Are you ready and willing to apply your delayed gratification skills and put in the work needed to acquire and hone these new sales leadership skills?
Great sales managers are great because they’ve learned transfer the knowledge that made them a top producer. They’ve learned how to train and coach their sales teams to new levels of achievement.
Question #3: What are your blind spots? This is always a tough question to ask because blind spots are, well, blind spots. A common blind spot I see in sales management is lack of a sales playbook. Without that, a sales manager can’t coach at all or to the level at which she should be coaching.
I hear and see these blind spots in statements such as, “Well, I hire veterans. They know how to sell.” The problem with that thinking and blind spot is that business is changing at the speed of light. What worked yesterday in sales may not work today based on competitor innovation, customer demands or changes in technology.
Study any high-performance athletic team, group of talented musicians, or award-winning actors and actresses. The common denominator is that they all have a playbook, musical score or screenplay to direct their actions.
Developing a sales playbook is the sales leader’s responsibility.
Time for another reality check.
Do you get excited about documenting steps, stages and scripts for your sales team or does the idea make you want to put a fork in your eye? If the answer is the second, stay in your role as a top sales producer. You won’t end up taking the time to document your sales playbook and as a result, will end up coaching 10 different sales playbooks. This approach produces inconsistent sales results and missed sales forecasts.
Before you give into the shoulds of asking for a promotion to sales management, carve out quiet time and apply self-awareness. Ask yourself the introspective questions.
Will I enjoy the role of sales management as much as that of an individual contributor?
Am I willing to put in the work to acquire and master the new skills of sales leadership?
What are blind spots that could derail my success in sales leadership?