Saturday Morning Sales

Kevin Latchford


Promoted Too Soon - March 25, 2017

A little over one year ago I was providing guidance and mentorship to a younger sales person. He finished grad school just a few years prior and moved his way into a sales position within his uncle’s business. He had done quite well and was meeting or exceeding the goals set forth for him. In fact, the only reason I was asked to provide some direction was more refinement of sales tactics than anything new. I spent two hours per week for about six weeks and when we parted ways I was rather confident he would continue to grow and hit his numbers for the foreseeable future. What I wasn’t expecting was that he would be promoted.


Mathew continued to meet and exceed his sales goals. Each month following our sessions he was gaining more and more confidence, and was willing to take on the toughest of sales calls. And, with the tougher sales calls, the larger the deals became, and his closing rate was nothing short of outstanding. So, the management team felt it was time for Mathew to take on more responsibility, and his uncle agreed with them and promoted him to director of sales.


Mathew embraced the new role and added responsibility with open arms. He continued to do well with his own sales and began the planning stages for advancing and growing the sales team. He laid out well intentioned strategies for marketing, lead generation, and a sales team, and he obtained buy-in from all around him. A problem, however, soon arose. Mathew had no experience in this role, and he bit off more than he could chew.


Growing sales is one thing, but growing a sales organization requires patience and the ability to be a mentor and manager, while at the same time leading by example. Mathew’s best laid plans were not working out. While he hired a few genuinely nice people, they were much like himself, young and ambitious, but with little-to-no experience. Mathew’s eyes were big and bright and full of “spitfire” (as his uncle called it). He easily rallied the management team around his ideas for growth, built a small (new) team he called his own, and he set off on a course for amazing sustainable revenue growth.


Mathew is now about a year into his new role and his team is struggling. The numbers are not adding up, so to speak. While effort is being made in the areas of cold calling, marketing through online advertising, blogging, and emailing existing clients, sales are going down. Mathew’s team are now making excuses and I’ve gone back in to help dissect the issues.


In talking with his team, to begin with, it appears the excitement and drive is still in place. However, it would appear to me that a new sales tactic is being discussed every other day. Instead of relying on what has worked in the past, the lack of experience is overriding commonsense, and the young team is beginning to grasp for anything that works. Mathew, himself, rose to fame within the organization rather quickly, and had never experienced a slump. Thinking in baseball terms, Mathew did not manage a batters slump or two in the minor league, he went straight to hitting doubles, triples, and home runs in the majors. Now, unfortunately, he cannot manage to get out of the slump he and his team are in, and much of it lies in experience. He’s not “been there done that”.


Now, some of the blame does rest on Mathew’s shoulders. He continues to talk a good talk, seems to always be agreeable with upper management, but then lacks the fortitude to step back before stepping forward. And, some of the blame rests on management, especially his uncle. Mathew did not have any go at the sport of sales in the minors. In other words, instead of dealing with at least one sales slump and learning from it, he is finding it difficult to deal with his own slump which is currently compounded by his team being in a slump.


Sometimes, with all of the best of intentions, we promote someone too soon. We, us in management roles, talk ourselves into the promoting of a subordinate for a variety of reasons, but none worthy of the disappointment when the promotion does not work out. Maybe you, as the vice president of sales, are worried you’ll lose a good sales person, so you offer them a promotion. Maybe the president of the company just likes the sales rep, believes a promotion will be healthy encouragement, only to find out they don’t really want to be in management after all.


It is important when promoting to play a bit of devil’s advocate, so to speak, and consider more about failure than success. Has the person failed in a sales call, lost a deal or two, or truly managed themselves out of a sales slump. What does the future of this employee look like if they cannot manage the promotion successfully? Will they leave, accept a demotion, or will you fire them? In Mathew’s case, he wants to take a step back voluntarily, and learn. He wants to take a few management classes directly dealing with sales and sales people. And, he wants to be patient and accept a promotion again down the road, once the necessary experience is in hand. Fortunately, for Mathew, his uncle owns the company and he’s being afforded this opportunity. Not everyone has the uncle as owner. Management: be aware of the pitfalls of promoting too soon. Sales Person: be aware of the pitfalls of accepting the promotion too soon.

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