Leaders in Sales: Failure Disguised as Success

leaders in sales

Leaders in Sales Who Sell vs. Coach

I’m certain many leaders in sales can relate to this: After enjoying success as a salesperson, I was approached by my company with a promotion to sales management. From the company’s perspective, the logic was clear. They knew me. I knew the company and its products and services. I had a decent relationship with my co-workers. And most importantly to them, I could sell. For me, not only was my ego stroked, I was planting my feet firmly on the next rung of the corporate career ladder. I accepted the offer quickly.

When I asked for a job description, I was told that there were no significant changes in my responsibilities. My boss was very matter of fact. “It’s simple. You still have to hit your targets, except now they are multiplied by the 6 salespeople you’re responsible for. And you know those weekly, monthly, and quarterly reports you so hate? Well, you’re responsible for those, too.”

The findings:

So here’s what I found out. If I hit or exceeded the numbers, the reports weren’t nearly as critical to the boss. As a matter of fact, they were often late (hey, man, I was out selling something!), inaccurate (I had long ago mastered the art of sandbagging), or not submitted at all (I’ll catch up next week).

While I held the position the company got what it wanted: higher sales and a happy sales staff. I got my new business cards and a little extra cash in my pocket, all while not changing a whole lot of what I did. As a matter of fact, I did the same things I did before, just a lot more of it.

In short, I sold…for everyone. That means each day I was in the car with my salespeople, going from appointment to appointment, conducting qualifying calls, doing presentations, and handling objections.

Neither the company nor I knew I was a complete failure as a manager until after I moved on to another job and company. Do you know how we found out? Well, what do you think happened when I left? That’s right, the company’s sales ground to a virtual halt. Sales reps’ income declined, morale sank, and turnover became a problem.

Give a man a fish or teach him to fish…

I’m not taking full responsibility, but the company was out of business a few years later. No, I’m not claiming to have been “all that” to this company. As a matter of fact, it was what I wasn’t that caused the failure.

Leaders in sales: I was a miserable coach.

I was so focused on results, I failed to give my sales team the skills necessary to thrive on their own. The truth is we could have produced significantly higher sales and margins had I coached my six people to become self-sufficient, hired six more, and done the same with them.

Unfortunately, I thought that salespeople watching me sell were actually coaching. How wrong. It would be the equivalent of a golf instructor doing nothing more than taking a club and demonstrating her perfect swing over and over, all without me ever picking up a club. How much do think my game is going to improve watching someone else play?

golf- leaders in sales

The moral of the story?

I’m not saying a good coach shouldn’t demonstrate knowledge and skills as a teaching tool, but coaching and teaching FAR override selling when it comes to producing high-performance teams. If you or your sales managers aren’t focusing on this critical element, I promise your sales teams aren’t producing to their fullest potential. If your sales manager is selling more than coaching, long-term it’s failure disguised as success. Trust me, you’ll find out when they leave.

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