To say the word fail out loud stirred Dave’s soul. He was a perennial ‘A’ player. Check out this resume:
- 5 time Presidents Club in 6 years as a sales rep; last 2 were in new business units
- 3 time Presidents Club qualifier as a District Sales Manager in 4 years
- On 2 cross functional company projects per year
- Led the task force for the reps on the salesforce.com implementation
- Described as a “total culture fit”
- Very popular with his reps
Why did Dave fail? This is a question we see the “manager of managers” ask themselves after they are fired. Below are the 4 fatal flaws, the root cause and a “tell” to help you identify each. Notice that each can be traced back to Dave’s time as front line sales manager. These will alert you that the front line sales manager is not ready to become a second line sales executive.
#1 Teaching – Dave was unable to teach his team the fundamentals of great sales management.
Root Cause – As a sales manager he didn’t use any. Dave spent his time parachuting in to close deals vs. teaching his people how to close deals. He was a “field guy” and figured if he got his reps paid, they would like him and stay with him as he was promoted from within. What Dave didn’t realize was each time he closed business for his team; he was progressively stifling his own growth as a leader. With low turnover and high numbers, Dave was able to convince his upper management that he was “running the store” so they left him alone.
Tell – How is a professional sales management cadence followed? Is there discipline that shows a focus on incremental improvement with the team through 1 on 1s, skill building, in field “on purpose coaching” and tailored development plans? Is the sales manager truly focused on making reps that were better than they were or does the sales manager want to remain known as the best sales person?
#2 Selection – Dave could not identify potential ‘A’ players in the interview process.
Root Cause – As a sales manager, Dave didn’t spend any time hiring people. When he became a regional VP, many of his districts had high turnover and were actively recruiting new sales candidates. Dave was the final interview in the process. Because he had no experience selecting, onboarding and developing net new people, he was unaware what “good” looked like. He would hire based on personal bias and likeability vs. proximity to an “A” player scorecard based on competencies. New hire failure was over 70%. He was unable to coach his sales managers on why some candidates were successful and others were not. His region did not conduct exit interviews and distill learnings from each failure and then use those to ensure they were not repeated.
Tell – how are new hires performing? Are they ramping slower, faster or at the company average?
#3 Problem Solving – Dave was a tactician, not a strategist.
Root Cause – As a sales manager, Dave solved everything by doing. He was not asked to take over an unfavorable territory or perform a turnaround with a struggling team. He was not asked to take new product to market. He managed in the same market where he sold.
Tell – Has the sales manager moved to a new market or taken on a stretch assignment and succeeded? Second line sales management is not color by numbers so you must test for this while in front line sales management.
#4 Develop – Dave was not focused on growing people. He kept score financially.
Root Cause – Dave was more concerned about making the number vs. growing the company through the development of people. He always sheltered his people when potential promotions in other regions came up. Dave didn’t want to take a quota hit. He was more concerned about the quarter than he was the person.
Tell – has the sales manager promoted 1 person per year? Have they promoted somebody to sales management who is excelling?
Call To Action – Do you resemble Dave? Fortunately, Dave had the business maturity to realize he was not a sales executive. Dave’s skills are allowing him to thrive as a major account rep. If you are looking for an example, call my friend Scott Mee and ask him how he successfully transitioned to senior leadership. In addition, take a look at what best in class sales executives possess. Share your thoughts with us down below.