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Why do smart companies promote or hire new sales managers and not train them?

August 1, 2007

I was recently asked by a former colleague if he could get some coaching on managing a sales team. Turns out that he did not want to let his company know that he needed coaching. I asked him why and he said that they promoted him to sales manager – so they must have thought that he could do the job. I told him that it was an excellent idea to get some professional sales management expertise but that he should let his company know that he needed it. I advised him that he is not alone, that most new sales managers are not trained for the position and need a mentor or coach. In fact, almost 75% of all new sales managers don’t perform to expectations within the first 6 months and many fail at the job and are replaced in the first year. The shocking thing is that the company generally does the same thing all over again. This all could all be avoided if companies offered the candidate proper training up front and gave that person a number of options for training that would be received over a period of time. As a new manager encountered issues over the course of say a year he/she could contact a mentor/coach to discuss how to handle the situation. This allows the new manager to grow into the role.

By the way, I was also asked by a senior executive how this still could be happening with all the new MBA’s now in sales positions and moving into sales management. There are a lot of misconceptions out there regarding MBA’s as sales people and sales managers. Let me make it clear, just because one has an MBA does not mean they know how to sell or that they know how to manage. In the past couple of years the technology sector has hired MBAs in sales because there’s a plethora of MBA’s out there. However, MBA’s like sales people with undergraduate degrees have very few opportunities for sales courses in school. A few universities are now offering courses and others will be soon. All sales professionals need on going training throughout their career. From a direct sales standpoint it’s about learning a number of different sales methodologies and applying them. For sales managers is about learning how to manage a successful sales team.

Here are some major mistakes made by new managers

1. Not knowing how to coach and evaluate

2. Not stepping out of the sales role as a manager but instead making sales calls with a salesperson and taking over the job of selling to the prospect.

3. Inability to manage time for management tasks including administrative, financial, personnel, sales management & marketing

4. Inability to train sales team

5. Hiring the wrong sales people (no technique developed, no knowledge of what to look for in a good fit)

6. Still trying to be one of the guys with the team

7. Not buying into managements objectives

8. Not getting rid of non-performers in time

9. Not knowing how to manage disruptive and troublesome sales people

10. Not forecasting properly for a team effort, and not defining goals and measuring results

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