A minor league baseball club was in the hunt for a new sales rep. One candidate on the short list impressed managers with how she would approach clients in a face-to-face setting. But she struck out on how she would deal with clients via telephone, which plays a big part in how the baseball team generates its revenue.
“She didn’t present herself very well on the phone,” said Lee Salz, president of Sales Architects, who would not name the baseball organization. “The [team] never had a formal way of evaluating sales candidates, which created risk to the company. In the past, they would have erroneously hired this candidate, but they decided to put a sales talent screening program in place so that they could more scientifically hire the right people. It all started with the development of the profile of their ideal sales person. With the profile in place, they created the evaluation steps to compare the candidate to the profile.”
It all seems to come back to that pesky word: process. We’ve been discussing process quite a bit lately and the utter lack of it in many crucial areas of sales, particularly sales training and sales hiring. Salz, author of “Soar Despite Your Dodo Sales Manager,” and a columnist for Sales and Marketing Management, said promoting sales reps to sales managers also suffers from a good deal of ad-hockery and little to no process.
“There is a disconnect in thinking that all great sales people have the potential to make great sales managers,” Salz said. “And, often times, it isn’t until after the new sales manager has failed that it is realized that this was a mistake for all parties.”
To use another sports analogy, take Isiah Thomas. He’s arguably one of the greatest shooting guards in NBA history. But when he reached the management ranks, he proceeded to destroy first the Continental Basketball Association and then the New York Knicks. Sometimes, it’s good to accept your limitations.
Think of a couple of hackneyed expressions to describe successful salespeople. Say, “The Killer,” or “The Closer.” Neither of them have any business near sales managers’ offices. “It’s a total change in mindset and philosophy,” Salz said, adding that smoothing the transition from sales rep to sales manager requires a fundamental change from ‘I-centric’ to ‘We-centric.’
Indeed, shifting from a sales rep on the floor to a sales manager with a beeline to the C-suite requires changing one’s mindset altogether and resetting the relationship meter. “One key consideration for rainmakers is that they are going from directly generating income to having their earnings generated by their sales team,” Salz said. “Not everyone can stomach that change.”
He added: “It is incumbent upon companies to first develop a profile of their ideal sales manager and then determine which candidates fit within that profile. Even though the candidate got on your radar screen because of his or her sales success, their sales management candidacy should be evaluated based on management criteria.”
However, candidates for promotion should share the burden when faced with an opportunity to go to another level within the company. “Candidates get themselves in trouble when they get blinded by the numbers,” Salz said, referring to the expectation that an increase in salary will accompany the promotion. But that may end up being a wash: Sales reps who are promoted may very well get a bump in salary, but they may also face a significant loss in commission. It’s not uncommon for top sales people to out earn their sales managers.
The key to successful hiring, Salz stressed, whether a sales person or a sales manager, is the development of your profile of the ideal candidate for the role. “With that documented, formulate your sales talent screening program to compare and contrast the candidates to your profile,” he said.