Chris Moerdyk
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Chris Moerdyk
Marketing Tips

Common mistakes in appointing sales managers

A common myth about marketing is that it is so shrouded in mystery it is difficult to make sense of it all. In actual fact, it is so down-to-earth and logical it would probably be the most deadly boring of all the business disciplines if so-called marketing gurus didn't keep confusing their clients with unnecessary ambiguity and enchantment, with the result that the unwary end up trying to make magic mountains out of marketing molehills.
Take the sales process for example. How often does one see a company take its best salesman and make him a manager only to see him fail dismally? And conversely, it seems to be an almost sure-fire bet that good sales managers were never really much good at their jobs when they were salesmen. Mysterious? Not really - just plain, old fashioned human nature at work.

Peter Gilbert, who heads a local South African company called Growth Partners and who would be president of the Institute for Logical Marketing if such an organisation actually existed, reckons that three bad things happen when you make your best sales person a manager:
"You gain a mediocre manager, you lose a great salesperson and nobody is happy."

There is, he says, a very simple and logical reason for this: "For years the myth has been perpetuated that salespeople are made not born. If this were true, the millions of rand spent on sales training every year would yield a bountiful crop of talented salespeople. However, this is simply not happening and many companies, notably in the information technology sector, are desperately seeking 'rainmakers' who can close multi-million rand deals. Top-notch salespeople are in desperately short supply.

"The truth is that positions such as an entrepreneur, software designer, artist, and salesperson are based on innate talents, not training or education. This probably explains why so many organisations have dysfunctional sales teams. Because they select salespeople for their technical knowledge and not for their ability to sell. A recent advertisement for a 'senior business development manager' (read salesperson) for a specialist logistics and supply chain company required that candidates have an advanced degree in these disciplines."

The chances of finding someone with these qualifications and the ability to sell, says Gilbert, are quite slender. "The truth is that it is much easier to teach a talented salesperson the technical skills he or she needs, than it is to teach a technical person to sell. At best, sales training will improve an individual's performance by 20%. If he is 20% competent to start with, you will get to 24%. A gifted salesperson will start at 80% and a 20% improvement will take him to 96% - a far better proposition."

It doesn't get more logical than that.

This is the thing about marketing, too. Its success relies to a large extent on latent talents with which a person is born. Talents such as the power of logical deduction, communications ability on an interpersonal level, the ability to listen and similar attributes that are God-given and very difficult to learn for someone to whom none of these come naturally.

Of course, there are always exceptions to the rule but by and large, great marketers and subsequently salesmen, are very much like artisans and artists whose success stems from natural talents rather than acquired skills.

And some people are born managers and others aren't. So, all because someone is a good salesman doesn't mean he will be a good manager.
30 Jan 2007 15:24


About Chris Moerdyk

Apart from being a corporate marketing analyst, advisor and media commentator, Chris Moerdyk is a former chairman of Bizcommunity. He was head of strategic planning and public affairs for BMW South Africa and spent 16 years in the creative and client service departments of ad agencies, ending up as resident director of Lindsay Smithers-FCB in KwaZulu-Natal. Email Chris on moc.liamg@ckydreom and follow him on Twitter at @chrismoerdyk.