managing your practice | By Andris A. Zoltners, Prabhakant Sinha and Sally E. Lorimer
Hiring and Training Sales Managers
Finding and developing the right sales manager is a key to sales
First-line sales managers play a critical role in keeping the sales system aligned and functioning. While a strong sales manager leads his team to meet current
objectives and build strong customer
relationships, an ineffective sales
manager can hurt the sales team and
the firm’s overall performance.
However, many firms often engage
in “warm-body” hiring to fill sales-manager positions or promote their
best salespeople (rather than those
with the best managerial potential)
into those roles. Since the success of
the first-line, sales-management team
hinges on the right manager, companies should devote significant resources to defining the role of a sales
manager and to hiring and developing effective ones.
develop the competencies required.
To determine the best candidates for
■ Evaluate a candidate’s past performance, but don’t look at sales
■ Test candidates for behaviors and
skills they will need to succeed,
using assessment tools such as
case studies focused on common
management issues or dilemmas.
■ Involve successful sales managers
in the selection process to communicate the firm’s values and
■ Give internal candidates responsibilities that will prepare them for
Define the role
A sales manager recruits and hires
financial advisors, develops advisors’
skills, capabilities and values, and
motivates and inspires employees. In
addition, the sales manager guides
sales and marketing efforts, shares
customer insights with advisors and
the firm and, in many cases, develops
his own book of business.
The person who will thrive in this role
may not be one of the firm’s top producers. Sales managers succeed by developing others, while advisors succeed by
creating results themselves. Identifying
the firm’s priorities for the sales manager role will enable executives to select
and develop sales managers who are
most likely to succeed.
Select the right people
The selection process should identify
those who demonstrate the ability to
Train and support managers
Most sales managers are former
salespeople who come into their jobs
lacking management skills. Without training and support, they often
have to improvise, which can lead to
varying and sometimes consistently
poor performance. Organizations
that regularly develop strong managers typically have a training program
devoted specifically to sales managers
and do not simply repackage financial
advisor-oriented training on products,
prospecting and closing.
Sales managers must be adept
at recruiting, training and coaching
financial advisors; they need the ability
and insight to evaluate performance
and help their team succeed. In addition, they must be effective at motivating their team and must have leadership qualities to establish and maintain
a winning sales force culture. The best
organizations create programs that
enhance sales-manager development
in each of these areas.
In addition to training, sales
managers need ongoing support.
The role must be structured in a way
that enables success. For example,
firms should limit the number of
direct reports each sales manager has,
particularly when the sales manager has duties as both producer and
manager. Furthermore, firms can
provide resources to enhance sales-manager effectiveness. For example,
easy-to-interpret data and tools can
aid performance evaluation and quota
assignment; well-defined processes
and expectations can help managers
in advisor recruiting and sales-activity
management. Finally, goals and incentives for sales managers must reinforce desired behavior.
The multifaceted role of the first-line sales manager is one of the most
difficult for any advisory firm to support. But the payoff from investing in
sales-manager selection and development can be significant for the firm, its
financial advisors and customers. ;
Andris A. Zoltners, Prabhakant Sinha and
Sally E. Lorimer are co-authors of Building
a Winning Sales Force: Powerful Strategies
for Driving High Performance, from which
they adapted this article. Zoltners is professor of marketing at the Kellogg School of
Management at Northwestern University and
co-chairman of ZS Associates, a consulting
firm. Sinha is co-chairman of ZS Associates.
Lorimer is a sales and marketing consultant.