One of the most common mistakes CEOs and owners make is promoting their top salesperson to sales leader based solely on the fact that they are the top salesperson. This can actually hinder your overall growth.
It starts with the need for a sales leader. Where do you look? The conversation often goes something like this: “Well, Liam has been a great salesperson for a long time, and he deserves the shot. After all, he is good at finding and closing business. He should be able to teach the rest of the team what he does and how he does it.”
Typically, the resounding answer should be “no.” Because essentially all you’re doing is taking a good revenue producer out of the field and putting them in a position to fail.
Research conducted by CEB shows that “60% of all new managers fail within the first 24 months of their new position.” With sales leaders it’s even higher, at an astounding 70%. Why is this the case, you may be wondering?
Why would your promotion cause the top salesperson to go from winning all the time to losing? Well, if you think about it, it’s all in the different skill sets needed for each role.
Good salespeople are good at:
There are many great salespeople that do well at selling but don’t have a documented process for it. These types of salespeople often say, “I don’t know how I did it. It was just a blur. I just start talking and somehow I know the right question to ask next, and then I close the business.”
These aren’t the salespeople you want teaching others. Yet CEOs promote people like this over and over again, expecting different results.
Now really dig into the skills of an effective sales leader:
They give direction to the team and keep them focused on the right prospects in the right markets with the right strategy.
This isn’t just talking about deal coaching — most sales leaders can do that. This is about making each salesperson better. That includes constantly developing their skills around asking questions, getting to decision-makers, negotiating, understanding the business need, etc. More sales leaders lack this quality than have it.
This includes holding people accountable to metrics and plans, helping them adjust, and helping them stay motivated.
This is one of the biggest jobs a leader has to do. They make the team better by developing and also by hiring effectively.
This is often overlooked and one of the top reasons leaders get fired. They need to be good at giving management a solid, realistic view of what is happening so executives can plan the business.
One of the few common skills both salespeople and a sales leader need to possess. Yes, it is extremely helpful if they know how to sell, but we believe this is not even on the top of the list of sales leader traits.
Now compare these two lists. These are very different skills that are required to do very different jobs. Just because someone is good at one does not mean they will be good at the other. Just ask Michael Jordan, Wayne Gretzky, Bart Starr, and a slew of others who couldn’t make the leap from player to coach.
The sales leader is one of the most important people in the organization when it comes to generating revenue. Often that position is filled by promoting a top salesperson without the right skillset. If you don’t have the right person in that role, your sales growth can become stagnant.
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