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How to select a great Sales Leader

The cost of hiring the wrong person into a Sales Manager role can be a much as nine times base salary. Turnover of sales management is particularly high and at any time over half of sales managers are dissatisfied with their current jobs and looking for a new one.

Often we see the best salesperson being promoted as a reward for their sales achievements, only to fail in the new role, demotivate the team, then leave. So is vital to make the right decision first time and it is worth investing in doing it properly.

High performing sales people often make poor sales managers

This Critical Success Factor Checklist outlines the key areas to assess in an individual being considered for a sales management role. Some of these are at odds with those found in many sales people. Some of the factors are easy to assess, some can be measured using psychometrics or through a structured interview and others would benefit from a more in-depth process such as behavioural observation.

Does the potential sales manager have:

– A provable successful track record in sales and a demonstrable set of sales competencies and behaviours?

– Sufficient knowledge of the market, products and services offered.

– Sufficient knowledge of sales processes?

–  Capability or experience to use internal organisational processes, systems and resources?

– Sufficient intelligence and intellectual ability for the role

– Higher motivation to be a manager rather than to remain as salesperson.

– The motivation to work through others rather than compete with them?

– Coaching skills to help the team develop their own capabilities?

– The ability and desire to mentor and advise, rather than step in and do it themselves?

– The skills to build a positive, motivating and engaging culture in their team ?

– Ethics and values that fit with the organisation’s culture?

– Leadership potential, fostering commitment, team work, delegation, planning and organisational abilities.

All these factors are critical to the success of the new sales manager.

But what does good look like?

In essence, a good Sales Manager enables their team to sell more. They:

·  Know what sales techniques and approaches will work and where. They need to have a track record of sales experience, expertise and market knowledge of what customers want. Through this they have credibility with their team.

· Are able to understand the motivational buttons of their team members – and press them (i.e. they need to be a motivational, confidence building and inspirational leader). They have highly motivated and engaged team members.

· Are able to coach, to mentor, recognise and reward good performance and skills. The top 10% sales managers spend most of their time coaching. They have the skills and interest in developing their team members to do the best they can do.

· Understand the big picture. Not all sales people are able to make this conflicting transition from ‘me’ to ‘us’. This is often a key factor in who will and who won’t succeed in a sales manager role. They work through their team rather than compete with them.

·  Are able to learn quickly, implement and work smoothly with formal and informal organisational processes, systems and resources. They fit in well with how things operate in the company.

· Have Leadership Potential. They are able to demonstrate the key behaviours that good leaders use. We can measure this using the proven Sales Success Leadership Framework which has been researched and developed for over 20 years.

How to get it right first time

·  Firstly, know what good leadership looks like. There are key behaviours and competencies which make some people better sales managers and leaders than others – (see the Critical Success Factor Checklist above).

·  Secondly, identify which factors you are going to measure and what type of process you are going to use, taking account of not just the required skills, competencies and attributes of the individual but also the culture and strategic direction of your organisation.

· Thirdly, ensure you measure the sales person’s leadership potential in a fair and robust way. Doing this as thoroughly as your budget will allow will help you to be able to make better decisions.

· Fourthly, once identified, support your new managers and leaders and help them succeed. No one is ever good at everything, nor should they try to be. Leverage their key strengths while ensuring that neither the individual, nor their colleagues are hindered by any weaknesses. Coaching is an immensely powerful technique to help in this process.

Selecting the wrong person as a sales leader is a very expensive and regrettably very common mistake. We have proven tools and great experience to help you get it right, maximise results and avoid expensive mistakes.

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