Tuesday, July 5, 2016

Why do you want to be a Sales Manager?

It happens on every sales team, in every industry.  We typically see the 80/20 rule, where the top sellers bring in the lion's share of the revenue (Pareto Principle).  These top 20% also get paid top commissions.  They receive the highest accolades, earn club trips, are thanked by the executives, and receive recruiter calls like flies around a rib roast.  Some are given luxury cars to drive and minions to do all of the dreaded administrative stuff they hate (e.g. opportunity management and forecasting).  Seems like a pretty good gig, right?

When a sales management role suddenly becomes available, many of these top performing salespeople show interest.  Granted, many do not (they see all of the challenges/issues they escalate to their sales manager and realize the truth that they will be taking these problems on - along with everyone else on the sales team).  After they come to grips with this concept, there are other downsides to being a sales manager.  For the sake of brevity, here's a list of some of the big ones:

  • You inherit all of your team's problems and escalations (already discussed above).  This adds up fast.  On a typical sales team of six to ten salespeople, you'll have a mix of a couple of totally independent salespeople; however, when they have a problem - its enormous.  Other reps will have a steady flow of challenges week after week.  Then you have the salespeople that are either going to be leaving the business and those that are being ramped-up.  This set takes up a signifiant amount of bandwidth.  It's very difficult to manage tactics vs strategy and proactive vs reactive activities.
  • You typically make less money.  Beware strangers bearing gifts here.  Yes, it is possible for sales managers to have a blow-out year, but it comes rarely and is usually unpredictable.  Savvy sales organizations know exactly how to set quotas based on multiple criteria.  Their objective is to set a target that you could achieve if most of your team is performing above target.  They want to set the bar higher than you'd expect, so you'll stretch to perform.  This usually means that in any good year, you'll over-achieve just a small amount (around 10-15%).  This usually amounts to total annual compensation that is still around 20% less than top performing salespeople.  Only when the quota is set a little lower than it should be, and everyone on your team blows-out their numbers, can sales managers really rake in commissions.  This rarely happens two years in a row, as your company will take note of the success and try not to let this happen again.  It's not that they don't want you to be successful, they just don't want to pay more than they need, to achieve success.  As sales leaders are promoted, the same principle applies.  Sales directors, area VP's, regional VP's, etc. all get incremental increases in base salary, but the target is more difficult to overachieve and the payouts are less (percentage-wise) the higher the role.  There reaches a point where executives are compensated more on the performance of the entire company rather than any particular team/group.
  • Hitting your target is expected, but NOT the most important criteria of success.  I know many of you reading this think this one is a myth, but I've seen this one time and time again.  You'll have a good-to-great sales manager, who gets to 70-75% of target, and really knows what sales management is about (hiring right, on-boarding, coaching, performance management, political management, knows how to internally block and tackle, etc.).  These type of managers don't blow out the number, but they also usually don't create problems.  The opposite sales manager, who does 150-200% of target, doesn't really do anything to help his team, hire good people, create succession, nor create excellence.  These sales managers create "broken glass," are negatively perceived for bypassing process/protocol, rely upon star players, can't really develop talent and usually these managers cannot maintain this level of success. 
  • Sales Managers have LESS customer contact and MORE administrative work.  Unfortunately, most sales managers get pulled into customer engagements when there is a problem, reactively.  Administrative work goes up dramatically as a sales manager, including forecasting expectations, strategic planning, demand generation events, and documenting performance and escalations.
With the challenges of being a sales manager so large and many, why would anyone purposefully want to leave their individual contributor status and move into sales leadership?  While some of you may need to ponder on this for some time, there's only one real answer - and it comes down to motivation.  For a certain type of individual, helping others to be successful is a key motivator (sometimes heavily weighted above making more money).  The idea of creating success in a team consisting of different personalities and styles is a challenging one.  Some people thrive on this challenge.  This is why finding great first-level sales managers (full time leaders managing salespeople with individual contributor status) is so difficult, and many agree that this role is one of the most challenging (and rewarding) of all sales leaders.

If you're thinking of making the leap to management, or if you're already a manager, it's likely you are this type of person.  You gain satisfaction out of creating excellence with a team and with other people.

Happy selling.

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