If you had to decide between having a team of excellent salespeople with an average manager, or having a team of average salespeople with an excellent manager, which would you choose?
Many will argue for the team of excellent salespeople:
- "It's salespeople — not managers — who develop and nurture the customer relationships that drive sales."
- "Replacing one average manager is easier than replacing an entire team of average salespeople."
- "An excellent salesperson doesn't need managing."
Others will argue for the excellent manager:
- "Excellent managers consistently recruit the best sales talent. 'First-class hires first-class; second-class hires third-class.'"
- "Excellent managers motivate excellent salespeople, develop average salespeople to make them excellent, and keep the entire team engaged and aligned."
- "Excellent salespeople make sales today, but eventually they retire, get promoted, or get wooed away by a competitor."
Clearly, the best sales forces have both excellent salespeople and excellent managers. A team of excellent salespeople will win sales and make this year's goal, regardless of who the manager is. But the success of that team will be short-lived. Eventually, an average manager will bring all of the salespeople that he manages down to his level. On the other hand, an excellent manager will bring excellence to all her territories. An excellent manager may inherit average salespeople, but in the long run she will counsel, coach, motivate, or replace salespeople until the entire team is excellent.
In past experience, companies that have winning sales forces start with excellent managers. Most sales organizations focus considerable energy to build a team of excellent salespeople, yet regrettably, they focus too little attention on building the management team, which is truly "the force behind the sales force."