Sales managers and the “mini-me” syndrome

Sales Managers

Sales Managers

I was talking with a new B2B sales manager about sales coaching. She was a super star as a sales rep and promoted to a sales manager just a couple of months ago. As a new sales manager, she was fortunate enough to inherit a young but very talented sales team.

As the conversation unfolded and we got to the part about how to coach sales performance, my colleague noted in a semi-serious tone, “If I could just get my team to do all this like I did, we could really set some records.”

Although as the conversation continued, it became clear she was being comedic. But the comment did remind me that the trap is real. If you are a new sales manager who was great at selling, it is easy to explicitly or implicitly coach your sales team to sell just like you did. After all it worked; you’re good at it and coaching is something you want to get on right away. So, why not? There are two answers to the “why not” question that deserve highlighting.

  • Individual Differences. The reason a specific set of ideas for selling work for an individual is in part based on the inherent merits of the ideas. After all there are good ideas and bad ideas when it comes to selling. It is also true, however, that each individual brings unique talents and a personalized set of experiences to the party. This means while an entire team can adopt a common sales process, there are individual differences that shape the path to excellence. It is not a good idea to assume that everyone on my friend’s team should try to sell exactly like she did.
  • Transformational Market Shifts. There are markets such as the healthcare sector that are undergoing transformational changes. In such markets what people buy, how they buy and what they are willing to pay for it are all changing. This means that the road to success yesterday may indeed be a wayward path today. Under such conditions the set of best practices used by a former sales manager when they were selling will need a bit of updating. Building sales skills to a high level of proficiency takes a fair amount of time. You need to make sure you are not building tomorrow’s sales team based on yesterday’s ideas.

Many new sales managers were great sales reps. But as those will tell you that made the journey, the transition is not an easy one. One of the traps is assuming sales coaching is primarily about your team learning how you did, what you did it so well.

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About Richard Ruff

For more than 30 years Dr. Richard Ruff and Dr. Janet Spirer - the founders of Sales Horizons - have worked with the Fortune 1000 - such as UPS, Canon USA, Smith & Nephew, Boston Scientific, Owens & Minor, Textron - to design and develop sales training programs. During his career Dick has authored numerous articles related to sales effectiveness and co-authored "Managing Major Sales", a book about sales management, "Parlez-Vous Business" which helps sales people integrate the language of business into the sales process, and "Getting Partnering Right" – a research based work on the best practices for forming strategic selling alliances. Dr. Ruff received his Ph.D. in Organizational Psychology from the University of Tennessee and a B.S. from Rennsselaer Polytechnic Institute.
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