According to a Harvard Professor, this is why salespeople struggle at leading

According to a Harvard Professor, this is why salespeople struggle at leading 

It happened! You finally got that promotion and moved from selling to leading a team of hungry (or ambivalent) reps. The transition isn’t always easy — becoming a leader doesn’t automatically happen when you change your LinkedIn title. Oftentimes, salespeople, driven by their autonomy and self-reliance, struggle when assuming leadership roles that require overseeing and managing a team.

The transition from being an individual contributor to leading a team demands a shift in mindset, priorities, and skills, which can be challenging for sales reps who are used to being lone wolves and excelling at independent work. Consequently, many sales leaders find it difficult to let go of control and tend to micromanage their team members, which, as everybody knows, is a recipe for bad feelings, high turnover, and complaining in text messages (never over slack, they can probably read that).

According to Frank V. Cespedes, author and professor at Harvard Business School, there are a few reasons behind the micromanagement tendencies exhibited by sales leaders:

Salespeople often get promoted leadership positions based solely on their individual sales performance, without receiving adequate training in leadership skills. This lack of preparation leaves them ill-equipped to effectively delegate, provide feedback in a constructive way, and empower their team members.

Secondly, sales leaders can struggle with trust issues. Their intense focus on achieving sales targets and meeting performance goals can create a mindset of skepticism, leading to a reluctance to delegate and a desire to maintain tight control over the sales process (“what do you have cooking today?”) This lack of trust undermines morale, diminishes employee engagement, and makes it so that reps operate from a position of distrust rather than cohesiveness.

But fear not, because there are several things sales orgs can do to address these challenges and ensure more successful transitions into leadership roles.

First, companies should invest in leadership development programs. We train reps, why not train sales leaders too? Ongoing coaching, mentorship, and feedback, can also aid in building the confidence and (more importantly) capabilities of new leaders.

Next, organizations should encourage a culture of trust and empowerment. This can be achieved by clearly defining roles and expectations, promoting open communication, and fostering an environment that values collaboration. Creating opportunities for sales leaders to collaborate with their peers and learn from experienced mentors can also broaden perspectives and enhance their leadership acumen.

The journey from salesperson to sales leader can be complex, and sometimes ends in disaster. Micromanagement tendencies often arise due to a lack of leadership development and trust-related challenges. But companies that truly care about creating great leaders can invest in leadership development programs, foster a culture of trust, and provide ongoing support. Oh, and they should always make sure the sales managers are compensated fairly. Otherwise, why would anyone ever want to step away from an IC role? 

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