How do I make good managers?

Some of my best salespeople are moving into management roles, but are finding it difficult being more motivational and team-driven. At the same time, making sales is a harder job than last year and new recruits need more guidance. How can I aid their transition into management and maintain levels of enthusiasm, especially in these tough times?

A. Phil Jones writes:

These are challenging times and this might not be the best moment to pull your top performers off the road. Consider an alternative course of action for the time being, as many businesses learn that great salespeople don’t always make great managers, and in a recession you need your hunters hunting.

The people who will make the most successful transition from sales into management are those who can learn to think about the team, not just themselves. You can quickly identify them using simple psychometric tests available online at a surprisingly low cost. But ultimately, you must lead by example. Manage your new team in the same way you would expect them to manage theirs. Be positive and motivational, without being unrealistic, and offer them guidance. Feed back regularly and often on all aspects of their performance to allow them to adjust as they go along.

Start by bringing all your new managers together and asking them to discuss how they like to be managed and how you should monitor performance. You can then use the outcome to create a behaviour framework – people will change how they work much faster if the idea they’re being asked to adopt is self-generated.

You might want to revisit your incentive scheme and ensure it encourages managers to cooperate and share. Use it as a chance for you all to get to know each other and find out what really motivates them. Talking of teambuilding, you’ll need to make sure these new teams bond together as quickly as possible to fend off competition from the more established squads that your rivals may have. The easiest way to do this is probably via a social event – preferably one that encourages some healthy inter-team competition, like bowling, paintballing or a football tournament, something to drive some banter, which all sales teams need.

On balance, this could be seen as a good time to invest in your people, as the more you put into building a solid team, the quicker you’ll come out of your downturn – hopefully ahead of your rivals. However, you must balance the long-term rewards with the short-term risk of taking your best salespeople out of action.


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