Does your organization automatically “reward” High-Performing Individual Contributors by putting them into Manager positions? If yes, you are not alone. For example, recent surveys show that 70% of Sales Managers are promoted from within. But maybe we can persuade you to think again.
We hear a new story every week. A star salesperson has been “promoted” to sales manager in recognition of their individual sales success. The result is a double disaster – with declining sales numbers and their team members looking to leave. Or a wonderfully appreciated teacher who has been promoted to an administration management role where they hate their day job and are sorely missed in the classroom. We see the same in the medical professions. And again the survey numbers support this. One recent report shows 40% of new sales managers failing within 18 months. Another shows that 75% of sales reps promoted to sales managers did not last 2 years in the role.
But should all this come as a surprise? We think not.
The fact is that the skills, behavioral preferences, strengths needed to be a high performing individual contributor are fundamentally different from those required to be a great manager.
Take a typical top performing salesperson. They thrive on the thrill of individual selling. The scent, the hunt, the final closure. They are celebrated and rewarded as a “super salesperson”. Their individual success benefits themselves and the whole team and indeed the whole company. High performing sales people are motivated more than most by extrinsic rewards such as commission payments – but they also enjoy the classic intrinsic motivators of mastery of their profession, freedom in their role and a sense of connected purpose. They have honed their skills in a job that fulfils and energizes them as an individual.
Take a typical great manager. They succeed by getting things done via other people. They need to motivate, lead, energize and gain the trust of their teams whilst managing results, being on top of their team’s numbers, managing across functions, managing up and down, delivering performance reviews, managing administrative tasks. This is a particular skill set and behavioral set.
Many high performing sales people are so poor at managing because they cannot make the move from “super salesperson”.
As Frank V. Cespedes of Harvard Business School puts it:
“Every company has examples of people who persist in their behaviors as salespeople, and as a result they flame out as managers.
It’s all about the difference between learning to take care of yourself and learning to take care of others, from being an individual contributor in sales to being a manager who gets things done through other people. That’s a big transition that many people can’t make.”
So what is the solution?
At CONCHIUS we have recommended and implemented a 2-Part Solution Strategy with our Clients:
Firstly, create an Organizational Culture where top-performing individual contributors are celebrated and rewarded as an end achievement in themselves.
For them they have reached a pinnacle already. They do not feel that their individual success is merely a stepping stone to the “ultimate” reward of being promoted to a manager position.
It should be quite OK culturally for a top-performing individual contributor to earn significantly more than managers. And be regarded as at least, if not more, special than managers.
We have worked with clients where we have together measured the optimum period spent as a high performing sales person as being over seven years in the role! We have worked with them to analyze and define the specific traits and behaviors that characterize their long serving, high performing individual contributor salespersons. They can then recruit and select specifically against these identified mixes of traits.
Secondly, in parallel recruit, select and develop people who are going to become your great managers.
Recruit future managers against the traits and behaviors of your organization’s top performing managers – and then as part of their manager training, give them experience in an individual contributor role.
If we are talking about Sales then these future managers are probably not going to be individual contributor superstars. But this does not matter. What they need to develop is the management and leadership skills to be able to manage those superstars.
But the reality of the statistics is that organizations will likely continue to promote high performing individuals to people managers as some sort of “reward” for individual success.
And so what can you do if your organization persists in this reality?
Well we are potentially back to the problem that we started with and that can exist in any function or layer of a business – a star individual is tapped to become a manager, then fails on the next rung of the manager career ladder.
But it is in Sales where a company’s mistakes can cause most damage. A company depends upon sales for cashflow and profitability- and sales performance dictates the company’s direction and success.
We are then back to the identified key steps for moving Individual Sales Contributors to Sales Managers – strategies that could be applied in a variety of business departments.
- Managers must assume a new professional identity. It is crucial that they make the move to focus on their teams more than themselves.
- Managers must increase the performance of others and represent their unit to others on important issues.
- Managers must develop a wider business perspective and broaden themselves and organizational knowledge.
- Managers must be sure that they want to be managers. Salespeople spend their lives moaning about administrative tasks like entering data. So an individual who wants to be a sales manager also has to recognize that those tasks are exactly what they’ll need to do as a manager. And then they’ll need to decide whether to embrace the job at all.
It appears that there are opportunities for quick wins. A “STAR Sales” survey reports that only 32% of organizations provide training to support the transition from sales rep to sales manager. And only 23% provide a formal transition process.
At CONCHIUS we work with clients firstly to assess and identify “manager readiness and suitability”. And then we provide practical, organization related training in the mindset and skills of being a great manager
We then have a good chance to offset the reality of “when salespeople become managers, they often do a horrible job”.
CONCHIUS Case Study:
CONCHIUS has worked in China with a world-leading beverage company to optimize their 3,000 strong China sales team.
We used Harrison Assessments to analyze and benchmark the distinguishing traits of their top performing individual salespersons vs their average and low performing salespersons. They used this Job Success Profile to standardize country wide recruitment and selection.
They implemented a parallel track for future managers- which measured the traits of their top performing managers. These future managers are selected as “managers” – and spend time in the sales frontline as important formative experience in that journey.