Transitioning From Sales Manager To Sales Director – Why Many Find It So Hard

In coaching sales managers a reoccurring development need that comes from their boss is ‘they need to be more strategic’. Below we list the six major issues we’ve found helpful in repositioning sales managers:


  1. Many sales managers achieved the position because of their energy and industry. As managers they still run their teams by being into every facet, making sure everything happens and generally being a constant cheer leader for the performance of the team. This makes them very tactical in outlook. They need to learn to stand back a little more, be less of a ‘plate spinner’ more orchestra conductor.
  2. They often remain the best sales person on the team. This is a dead end. The only way they are going to position themselves differently is by recruiting and developing people who are better than they are.
  3. Many people who go into selling have a very practical, task focused approach to work. To make career progress they need to add (not replace) to that a more conceptual perspective. ‘How’ and ‘When’ are the sales managers watchwords, ‘What’ and ‘Why’ are the Sales Directors.
  4. They need to learn about strategy. They need a bigger picture perspective, their world has been sales targets and budgets, it now needs to be more strategic, as much about tomorrow as today. This intimidates a lot of sales managers; thinking strategy is very theoretical with lots of models to learn. It isn’t. Fundamentally strategy is about a five step process; doing some analysis, making some choices, writing a plan that moves the business from a current to desired state, implementation, and finally reviewing and monitoring progress.
  5. They need to manage up in a more sophisticated way. Rather than simply focusing on the numbers they need to focus on raising their profile in more senior circles. Boss management and internal networking need to move up their agenda.
  6. They need to make themselves available for project work and development initiatives. Always being too busy to widen their role means they will be permanently labelled Manager.


Put simply they need to direct more and manage less.

Is Didactic Sales Development Relevant In The 21st Century?

Use Our 10-Point Checklist To Determine Your Sales Orientation

In our fast-changing age of diversity, technology and talent management, can a sales organisation continue with traditional didactic sales development “this is how you do it” style of training and gain any competitive advantage? As sales people increasingly aspire to be seen as business professionals, does the didactic approach have any relevance today?


Key Challenges

Hierarchical, Rigid silos

Sales Structures

Flatter, flexible networks

Position / Role

Status Attachment


Command and Control

Management Style

Transformational, Empowerment

Focus on Outputs
Results and KPIs

Work Style

Focus on Inputs,
Value-adding activities

‘how many do you want?’

Selling Style

‘my advice would be’

Tactical focus on next period’s target

Planning Time Horizon

Strategic focus on long-term improvement

Supplier of products and services

Sales Orientation

Business Partner

Waits to be told what to do and
how to do it

Learning Style

Open, Questioning, Challenging

Shoving in

Training Style

Drawing out

Us and Them

View of Customer

We’re in it together

Which side of the table is your sales organisation on?

In case you haven’t spotted the obvious; we believe that the traits described on the left-hand side of the table belong to the sort of organisation that favours the ‘didactic’ school of training and development for its sales people. The biggest problem with the didactic approach is that it becomes a self-fulfilling prophecy – the more of it you do – the more of it you need to do.

The characteristics in the right, we believe, are exactly those which will enable sales organisations to position themselves for the challenges of the 21st Century and lead the way in defining what a successful sales team can look like in a rapidly-evolving, increasingly competitive world.

How To Hard Wire Improved Sales Performance Into Your Organisation

Every business would like to improve its sales performance.  That being the case, why do most sales organisations struggle to do anything more than just exhort their sales people to do better?  The fundamental problem lies with a lack of rigour and understanding around the relationship of cause and effect.


What are the inputs that directly correlate to achieving the desired output? It’s not effective to say ‘we want more sales’, or ‘go out and close more orders’, or mandating sales people to make a minimum number of visits/phone calls etc.  These kinds of actions make sales managers feel better because they are direct and action orientated, but have limited performance impact.

What about really changing your sales organisation to create a significant, sustainable and appropriate performance uplift?

To do that you need answers around five key, inter-related questions:

  1. What are the key buying motives/decision points of our target customer group?
  2. What are the compelling points of difference in our sales offer?
  3. What are the sales Critical Success Factors?
  4. How motivated are our salespeople to perform?
  5. Do we have a high ownership sales culture?

When these five questions can be aligned around a set of compelling answers you will see sales performance improve.  The sales organisation moves from being a passive reactor to events and circumstance and begins to drive its own performance agenda. Optimi5ed™ uses a simple, structured process for focusing on the levers of performance improvement.

Sales performance is not something that should be left to individuals to deliver or not, based on their personality and extrinsic motivations (monetary reward).  It can be designed and managed.  It can be developed and improved.  Optimi5ed™ will show you how.

Laminated Or Live?

We often visit organisations with clearly articulated values. They’re easy to spot, they have posters with the values on in reception, and often employees each have a handy little credit card sized version of them to carry around. Some even wear their security passes on values embossed lanyards.


We occasionally visit organisations with a well embedded set of corporate values. They sometimes have those values on posters, but what is striking is that the people throughout the organisation exhibit those values all the time in everything they do.

The second type of organisation is far less common. We often find that values are simply seen as a marketing or HR project that will go away sometime next year when the next initiative is launched. We’ve experienced selfish sales behaviour rewarded in companies with ‘Teamwork’ as a core value, and incredible rudeness and discrimination as the norm in an organisation with ‘Valuing All Our People’ printed on the mugs on everyone’s desks.

So how do organisations make the transition from laminating their values to really living them?
We’ve found that an important early step is to express those values in behavioural terms, making clear how those values can become a part of everyone’s role at every level of the organisation, every day. This allows people to think about how they can personally make a difference.

Another key feature of organisations that really live values is open discussion about them. This can be hard to engender, particularly where upward challenge is not the norm. An effective route to activating debate is 360° feedback around the values behaviours, giving people a structured and safe way to give and receive objective, behaviourally based feedback. Once people begin talking about values based behaviours, they quickly engage with them and build the confidence to challenge not only the behaviour of others, but what they personally are doing in values terms.


360° feedback also gives the organisation a view of its collective strengths and areas for development, allowing targeting of interventions, and identifying any pockets of excellence.

How Do Your Business Proposals Compare To Your Competitors?

Evaluating Your Existing Sales Proposals
Read the following statements, circle 1 if it is very true, ½ if it is moderately true, 0 if untrue.

  1. We send out sales proposals not quotations 1 ½ 0
  2. Our sales documentation is easy to read 1 ½ 0
  3. The content is free of detailed technical information 1 ½ 0
  4. Sales offers are specifically written for all new business opportunities 1 ½ 0
  5. We frequently use a bullet-point format 1 ½ 0
  6. The text includes words and phrases used by the customer 1 ½ 0
  7. The binder adds value to the contents 1 ½ 0
  8. The most important sales documents are delivered personally 1 ½ 0
  9. Our pricing is always cost justified 1 ½ 0
  10. We provide evidence to support our solutions 1 ½ 0

Self Development

Compare your proposals to those of competitors. What does it tell you? Ask customers for feedback on layout and legibility of proposals. Consider the best time to write proposals to achieve best results.


Selling… Developing Your Sales Experience will equip you with tips on how to structure a value-add proposal that is attractive to read and gain commitment from your clients. It will also deliver an injection of new ideas and fresh approaches that will increase sales performance.


The Top 10 Reasons Why Training Your People In Tough Economic Times Is A Bad Idea

We thought it was time to stop all this political correctness around valuing your people in a downturn and tell it like it really is, with the top ten reasons not to train people – the real deal.


1. It gives people new skills and new ideas which they have to try out back in the workplace. This is dangerous because they are finding the job difficult enough as it is.

2. It can send out the wrong signal – like you value them. What you really want is for people to feel like you might fire them at any minute, it keeps them sharp.

3. It’s a great way to save some money. A few hundred pounds not spent on a training course for someone responsible for thousands, perhaps millions of pounds of customer/product/process/organisational value is better than increasing their ability to unlock new opportunities or reduce our business risk.

4. It confuses them. We need the gloom and doom message to be consistent, so giving them a positive, enjoyable experience shows us as being inconsistent.

5. It implies we have a plan of which training is only a part. This will raise expectations that we know what we are doing, when in reality we don’t.

6. It introduces them to people from other organisations (if an open training course) which might give them thoughts about comparing pay, conditions or work practices. People are better off kept ignorant.

7. It forces a dialogue with their line-manager, around business objectives, coaching points and development goals. Managers haven’t got time for this; they’ve got too much other pressure to cope with.

8. It takes people way from the job, and they’re off enough already through low morale.

9. It improves people’s CVs, and they might leave if they think they’re too smart.

10. It’s a waste of time and money. We never implement new stuff when they come back because we’ve been too busy covering for them whilst they’ve been away. Anyway, after the brief positivity we see for the first few days, they seem to become even more miserable than before they went on the course.


Training people on April 1st?  You’ve got to be having a laugh!