Who’s the best person to head up your IT staffing firm’s sales team? The obvious choice is whoever your best sales rep is. That’s what you’d think, anyway. But you’d be wrong.
One of the most prevalent sales mistakes in the IT staffing industry is firms promoting their top sales rep to the role of sales manager without first training them on how to be an effective leader and more specifically how to coach and develop talent.
Second, most IT staffing firms fail to put the proper compensation and performance management plans in place that are designed to drive and foster leadership, coaching, mentoring behaviors. In other words, these newly-minted sales managers are given the title of “manager” but they’re actually be asked to continue to carry their own books of business and not develop talent.
You can see where this is going. Sales managers end up focusing their energy and time on their own sales, neglecting the development of the rest of their team.
This is exactly what happened to me when I first became a sales manager for an IT staffing firm. My compensation plan depended on the overall profitability of the office. Because my company, like many IT staffing companies, didn’t train me how to coach and develop talent,, it was easier for me to focus on on my own book of business and earn the income I needed to earn from my personal sales than it was to develop the talent on my sales team and improve their sales effectiveness.
Just because someone is good at sales, it doesn’t mean they have the skills to lead a team, coach and develop talent and make difficult decisions. In fact, most sales professionals have a need to be liked by others. This is actually a horrible trait for your sales manager because sales managers have to make tough, unpopular decisions.
But if your sales managers are former top-performing reps who are now struggling in leadership positions, there are ways to turn them around.
Here are 3 ways to turn a good IT staffing salesperson into a great leader.
1. Give Them a Training Program That Will Get Results
When it comes to building a sales culture, your sales manager is the heart and soul of that culture. Your sales manager is what sits between your sales strategy and execution. Who they hire, how they coach and develop talent and how they hold sales reps accountable is what determines sales performance and quota attainment.
Most managers in the staffing industry have never received leadership or management training and many of those who have think that managing is about telling, directing or exerting control out of authority.
What IT staffing sales managers truly need are the skills and strategies to get real buy-in from their sales reps and to provide feedback based on observed behaviors to improve skill development.
Just like sales reps need a call plan and call strategy, IT staffing sales managers need a strategy and methodology to follow to coach and develop sales reps and hold them accountable. Sales managers need to be taught a methodology to follow in which they know how to empower their people to make their own decisions and take ownership for their personal actions and results.
Most importantly, sales managers need the skills and framework to follow for structuring one-on-one coaching sessions with a proven path for uncovering obstacles (hindering sales rep performance) and gaining commitment and buy in from their reps on action items to overcome those obstacles.
In short, sales managers must understand how to identify, and diagnose issues hindering sales performance and provide the necessary coaching to overcome those issues in such a way that the sales rep fully buys into the solution and necessary action items.
If your sales managers are going to be effective in building a sales culture in which success is repeatable and scalable and generates sustainable revenue growth , they need to know how to build and deploy a sales training program that is consistent, structured, and easy to follow and retain. For tips on building such a sales training program, read my recent article,“A 5-Step Plan to Boost the ROI of Your Sales Training (for IT Staffing Firms).”
2. Pay Them to Train, Coach and Develop Talent, Not Revenue
In IT staffing, the compensation of most “player-managers” is based, at best, on an even split between the revenue they bring in themselves and the revenue their team generates. This makes it far too easy for managers to focus on their own sales efforts and neglect coaching and developing team members. I’ve seen hundreds of compensation plans and all of them fail to drive and incent the right leadership behaviors.
This is one of the main reasons sales managers spend so much time and effort on their own sales and so little effort on their team members’. Their compensation plan doesn’t incent them to focus their time on coaching and developing talent.
The more sales reps that achieve or exceed quota, the bigger bonuses sales managers should get. This way, they’ll want to spend time developing their team and won’t feel like the only way to make a good living is to focus on their own sales.
3. Measure the Right Things
So if you aren’t measuring and paying your sales managers on their own sales, how should you measure them?
Think about metrics like:
- How much coaching time they’re spending with their reps each week.
- How much training they’ve delivered each month or each quarter.
- The overall quota attainment of their team.
- The improvement in overall sales effectiveness by rep, such as improvement in win rates and shortening the sales cycle or number of face to face meetings
These things are the true measure of a great sales manager.
How Else Can You Improve Your Sales Organization?
If you’re making the mistake of promoting your top sales reps to sales manager without enabling them to lead an effective sales team, how else could you be holding your firm back?
And as always, if you have any questions or ideas to share with other IT staffing professionals, please leave them in the comments section below. Let’s get the conversation started!