In the six months since my newest book was published, I’ve received a lot of questions about why the title refers to “greatness” (as in The Sales Manager’s Guide to Greatness).
The genesis of the title came from my own personal experience and my observations of thousands of sales managers. All of us were, at one time in our professional careers, outstanding salespeople. We got better results than the rest of our team, strove a little harder.
We excelled at both the science and art of wooing customers. We knew what questions to ask to get referred to higher-level decision makers, how to position our offerings to destroy the competition. We could navigate around objections like they didn’t exist, and say just the right thing to allay our prospects’ second thoughts. We were constantly striving to improve.
In a word, we were “great” at selling. And because of that, we were promoted into sales management.
Unfortunately, for the majority of us, it proved much harder to be as great at managing as we were at selling. And I want to quickly point out that it wasn’t really our fault. As summarized in a 2017 CSO Insights report, “most sales managers receive no driver education, no formal education, no practice simulations. … Organizations [routinely] invest more in their salespeople than in their sales managers.”
What I wanted to do with my new book is to point out this gap and help sales managers think about what it will take for them to be as great at managing a sales team as they were at selling.
A Holistic View of Greatness
Sales management is, in my view, one of the hardest jobs in any organization. Sales managers have to master a wide range of skills and talents. Here’s a small sample of what sales managers must understand if they want to achieve greatness:
• How their own mindset can limit their potential. Sticking with the thinking that helped us excel as sales people (what it takes to close big deals) is very different from the thinking needed to lead others (how can I teach others to close big deals). More on this topic here and here.
• Why they must be rigorous about enforcing their top priority, which is to develop their sales people. The most frequent complaint I hear from sales managers by far is the “lack of time” for coaching. The only way to break out of that trap is to become clearer about what’s important and what will help your team achieve more and manage your time accordingly. See here for some tips.
• What skills elevate coaching to its highest level. Every sales management course I know teaches coaching. But few of them link to specific coaching skills that are proven to increase revenue growth. More on this topic here and here.
• The importance of instilling links to customer buying. Salespeople will have a much harder time achieving and sustaining above-quota results if they don’t understand how customers buy and if they can’t link their selling process to the steps of a prospect’s buying process. More here.
Above all, sales managers have to recognize that their single biggest contribution to their company lies in developing their teams (more here), not in helping to close deals or succumbing to the dozens of distractions that get thrown at them every day. That’s what I mean when I talk about becoming a “great” sales manager. Do you have this within you?
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.