January 18, 2007


Many business leaders and entrepreneurs I meet say the most difficult role to hire and retain is that of the Sales Team Leader. The failure rate they describe is astonishing. For example in one company, they've given up and not employed a sales manager for ten years. Another has turned over a sales manager over every ninety days like clock work over the past five years.

The "public" reasons for these failures were varied; the person hired oversold their skills and abilities, and when on the job they failed. Or the new hire sales manager was great at selling and weak at leading. All valid, but in my opinion there are three hidden causes for the revolving door.
I've listed them below together with suggestions to improve the survival odds for new hire sales managers:
  • Weak recruiting and interviewing practices: The temptation is to post the position on employment sites right away and commence interviewing candidates. Don't! First invest the time to establish the key competencies and experiences required to succeed as a sales manager in your organization. Review and categorize the resumes received. Interview the ones with the best fit. To maintain a level of objectivity make sure that other people are involved in the interviewing. Finally make sure to ask for, and call employment references;
  • Founderitis: The founder/owner/operator/president logically understands the need for a sales manager yet sabotages the new hire at every opportunity. This creates a self fulfilling ("I told you so") and validating ("See, I'm the only one that can do this") attitudes by the individual afflicted with Founderitis. This person has typically built up the company single handedly...they are the reason for its success. The downside is the new hire failing or leaving. If you're the new hire facing founderitis, there isn't a quick fix, except to watch for it's symptoms (micro-management, large ego, etc..) during the pre-hire interviews. Meeting with people that will be your peers in the business can also provide insight;
  • Setting impossible to attain expectations: Sometimes we set high goals and objectives for newbie leaders and then follow up with a "let them sink or swim" attitude. There is so much to discover about a new a business. The key is ramping through the discovery phase with help. But too much oversight can be stifling. Find the right level. My approach is to meet once a day with the new hire during the first week then weekly or biweekly thereafter for the first 3 months.

If you like this article you may also want to go to the Sales Delivery category for this website to read more.

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