A Career in Sales Management
The Good, Bad and the Downright Ugly
You have earned the respect of upper management and have been offered a promotion into the wonderful world of sales management. Along with the promotion comes an increase in base salary, the ability to pick and mold your sales team, added stress and responsibility and, as a final bonus, higher expectations and a few sleepless nights!
Before you accept the promotion, there are a number of things you need to consider and to be aware of. While sales management positions vary wildly from company to company, there are several commonalities, each of which will affect you to some degree.
It's No Longer Just You
In a sales position, you have only yourself and your results to concern yourself with. While you may be the greatest team player in company history, your co-worker's performance, good or bad, probably has little to no effect on your income. How many calls you make is up to you and whether to take a vacation or not affects only you.
Not so when it comes to management. Sales managers are judged by the overall performance of their entire team. If the team does well, your senior leaders will feel that you are effectively completing your job. If your team is not doing well, the opposite is often true.
This creates an obvious and universal problem for sales managers: No matter how hard a manager works and no matter how talented of a manager she may be, if the team is weak, uninspired or simply are struggling, the sales manager takes the heat. Once a sales professional accepts a promotion to sales management, she is no longer fully in control of their level of success. Sad, but very true.
It's Hard to Find Good Talent
One of the most challenging and important jobs that most sales managers are responsible for is recruiting. Since most sales organizations have upwards of 15% turnover rates, recruiting is something that should occur all the time. A manager knows when a sales professional of his team is not going to make it and can begin looking for a replacement as soon as a rep begins to fall below the minimum expectation levels. However, that same manager usually has no warning when an average or high performing rep may turn in their notice.
Surprise job openings are the enemy of a sales team's results.
Beyond career fairs, internal and external recruiters and open houses, successful managers often use the "5-foot rule." Essentially, the 5-foot rule means that anyone that a sales manager comes in contact with, who shows promise or interest, should be added to a "people pipeline." This pipeline should always be filled with potential candidates, and each should be contacted frequently. Having a full pipeline greatly mitigates the effects of surprise vacancies and also allows for quicker replacements of terminated reps.
Going into management with the idea that your sole task will be to manage your team to deliver expected results is a sign of either nativity or improper recruiting from senior management. Managing is just one part of a sales manager's job. Effective managers understand that they must be leaders, coaches, managers and, at times, therapists.
For clarity, it is important to understand that you manage processes, you lead and coach people. Everyone on a sales team is a person, with their set of skills, strengths, weaknesses, goals, desires and personal issues. Trying to "manage" people is like herding cats. Leading and coaching take character, skill, patience and respect.
With most sales organizations, the jobs with the highest earning potential are sales positions, so moving to sales management can be somewhat of a pay cut. However, most sales managers earn a higher base salary and an override on their team's performance. The better your team does, the more you will earn. Train, manage, lead and coach your team so that they are all high achievers and your bank account will bring a smile to your face every morning.
While there are several other rewards besides the income, the most commonly appreciated reward that sales managers receive is when they see their efforts pay off for someone else. Helping a struggling rep close a big deal, overcome a fear or build self-confidence is a tremendous feeling. Doing so is not only rewarding in the moment, but it pays dividends that last a career.