That is an age-old question, isn’t it? You can insert your favorite sports example here which typically involves a superstar/Hall of Fame-caliber athlete who fails as a coach because the game came too easy to him. But does this analogy work in the sales arena also?
This Sales & Marketing Management article approaches the topic with aplomb. The pull quote (emphasis mine):
Sometimes great salespeople aren’t as good at coaching and managing other people – they’re excellent at being individual contributors, they’re great at building relationships with customers and working deals from start to finish, but they lack the patience or coaching ability or intangible interpersonal savvy to be responsible for other people’s performance.
Intangible interpersonal savvy is a long way to say empathy. In assessing sales candidates for over a decade, some patterns become evident. Top salespeople are typically “hunters.” These hunters hopefully have some empathetic skills, but they are often used solely as tools to get to a close. And in so doing, the hunters will usually dial down their empathy to achieve their goal of winning the deal. This ability is what makes them so effective as a salesperson. They drive themselves to succeed and use their empathy, when needed, to simply get a read on the prospect before closing.
Now place that profile into a sales leadership role. This hunter may have some empathy, but they use it within a limited scope. When it comes to coaching their team, they drive on them – pushing the salespeople based on the inner drive they possess as hunters. Sometimes it works, most times it doesn’t. I’ve even seen other hunters push back against this leadership.
The author of the article offers 3 strong ideas to assist in finding the right sales leader. I like his summary from the first point:
Many of the best salespeople love to work alone – they pride themselves on being great individual performers and goal setters who hold themselves accountable for excellent results. However, sales management is not an individual job – it’s all about coaching and communicating and helping other people reach their goals as part of a larger team.
Sales leaders have to work through their team. What often happens is that the hunter turned sales leader will accompany his or her team on sales calls and actually end up doing the close for them. They insert their drive into the deal since that skill is more familiar to them than the coaching skill. I evaluated an entire sales team once that had a hunter sales leader who behaved this way. The sales team learned to simply get appointments, softly qualify them, then bring in the hunter sales leader to close the deal for them. This is an unsustainable model as was eventually born out at this company.
One closing thought – you do not have to guess at this behavior – it can be assessed with our tools. If you are interested, please contact us today to learn more.