Do You Really Want to be a Sales Manager?

Do you want to be a sales manager or an individual contributor?
  • Being a sales manager requires a different set of skills and motivating behaviors to be effective. As it has often been said, you manage things, and you lead people. So being a great territory or account manager won’t make you a great sales leader. Then there is hiring, onboarding, and coaching. Are these activities you want to be engaged in? You might not have nearly as much customer contact when leading a sales team, are you OK with that?
  • Me vs. We: It is not uncommon for top sales pros to be driven by personal versus group or team accomplishments. As an individual contributor that’s usually okay, as a leader your job is to ensure that your team members get the support they need to be successful.
  • Compensation: In many cases a successful individual contributor sales pro will actually earn less as a sales leader, especially if taking over an underperforming team. Often the at-risk portion of a sales leader’s comp is based on the region attaining its sales goal. That means that if four of six reps are above quota and getting nice commission checks, but two are well below quota and on a performance improvement plan or PIP the sales leader might not receive any bonus. It can also be frustrating for a sales leader that is spending much of her time with the under performers — the squeaky wheel gets the grease — when devoting time to the better reps would actually help grow their sales. Unfortunately, many companies don’t pay an override commission to their sales leaders. Moral: Be sure to thoroughly understand the comp plan before you accept a sales management position.
  • Coaching: Do you have the patience to work with people that lack your skills? It can be quite frustrating for an experienced sales pro to coach folks to whom the skills for effective selling don’t come readily. What’s easy for me might be a real struggle for someone else. The reality is that not all of your people will have your drive and strengths. Or, they might be smart and hardworking, but simply aren’t comfortable with conducting a needs analysis, or making presentations, or closing.

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