If I asked you what was the most valuable contribution you could make as a sales manager, what would you say?
A client of mine, Jackie, spent years developing into a stellar sales rep for her employer, a tech company. She had a well-earned reputation for producing results far beyond expectations. They duly rewarded her hard work by promoting her to the position of sales manager.
A few months into her new job, Jackie later told me she was working harder than ever before—and yet her team’s results were mediocre at best.
When Jackie was a sales rep, she was keenly focused on closing deals and getting results. As a sales manager, that instinct turned into what I call a “super-closer.” She had gotten into the habit of inserting herself into the sales process any time the potential to close a big opportunity was on the horizon, barging in as if to say “move over, Rover, let the great one take over!” Or she would turn her attention to a rep who was way under quota, swooping in at the last minute to try to help them close deals.
Following Instincts Down the Wrong Path
I don’t want to sound too critical of Jackie. It’s natural to rely on the skills that got you somewhere in the first place, especially when, like Jackie, you were very good at what you did.
But the way she was using her time was not the most valuable contribution she could be making as a sales manager. Think of it this way:
• The biggest deals are likely coming from her most experienced, highest-producing sales reps. So if she gets involved in their deals, she’s helping reps do something they can likely do on their own.
• If she uses her time to rescue a rep who is struggling to close a deal, she’s saving an opportunity that probably isn’t that great in the first place! If the rep had done a good job of identifying needs, the deal might not be in trouble in the first place—and if the customer doesn’t think they have big needs, they won’t agree to a big deal. Plus, the rep doesn’t learn anything that will help them avoid a crisis the next time around.
When Jackie follows either of these paths, the impact of her time is minimal and the rest of the team has to struggle through on their own.
What Job Can ONLY a Sales Manager Do?
In her previous life as a rep, the biggest value Jackie provided to her company was closing sales. But that was no longer the case once she became a manager. My task was to help her see that the job that ONLY she could do for her company was to help increase results through the development of her team.
In other words, Jackie had to switch her focus from “closing deals” to helping improve her reps’ skills. That is the most value that a sales manager can provide to their company, because that’s the best way to achieve long-lasting improvement in sales figures.
Kevin F. Davis is the author of “The Sales Manager’s Guide to Greatness: 10 Essential Strategies for Leading Your Team to the Top.” The book is now available on Amazon.com here.