It was sometime during 1994 that my Sales Director came to me and asked me to take on the role of sales manager. For over 7 years I was a top performing sales rep for MCI, a fortune 50 company. My Director felt that since I was a strong salesman, I must automatically have what it takes to be a successful sales manager. Young and full of drive, I jumped at the opportunity to prove my managment prowess. In fact, nothing could have been further from the truth. Those traits which made me successful at sales; relentless perseverance, unwavering focus and a tenacious approach actually failed me as I attempted to manage the way in which I had been successful selling. The results were pretty predictable; I lacked delegation, focused on driving each sale and pretty much managed as a “Super Sales Rep.” I attempted to solve every problem, get tied up in tasks, and failed to embrace the incredible talent of my team. My team of 8 sales reps did not respond to my frenetic, task oriented approach. I sensed I was not doing well, but I had no mentoring, little oversight and no training or feedback. In retrospect, this was a major change in the way I needed to approach my job and I was ill-prepared.
The result: 18 months of hell for me, my people and as a result, the corporation.
Please understand that I am blaming no one, as I was young and energetic with a desire to achieve. I jumped at the opportunity, only to find that I was seriously ill-equipped to do the job. It was certainly one of the most stressful times in my career. But the lessons learned, while painful at the time, have made me a better leader. I can point to five valuable lessons learned as a new sales manager:
- EQ trumps IQ everytime
- PEOPLE are infinitely more important than TASKS
- Coach till it hurts.. then coach some more
- HIRE slow FIRE fast
- Metrics matter!
You may be saying… these are obvious best practices and should be adopted by all good managers, and you would be correct. But as a young green sales manager who had been a terror as a sales rep, these lessons are hard earned. The good news is that I did adopt these and other best practices, but it was an excruciating and humbling process.
I would like to share these Five lessons in the hopes it saves you PAIN and makes you a better sales leader
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