So You Want to Manage, Eh? Things They Don’t Tell You About Software Sales Management.

At some point in most software seller’s career, you get to a point where you start to contemplate – is it time to manage?  For most people, this is ego talking vs. a true “calling.”  Deciphering the difference is necessary…and yet so many people get it wrong.  Ask me how I know this.

I was 33 when I got both the itch and the nod.  I have often said, most get an “F” their first time managing.  I sure did.  The reason for my failure?  Simple.  Pride was my motivation vs. having a true passion around making others excellent.  When pride rules your decision making, you’ll find your decisions are driven based on how events and outcomes benefit you vs. others around you.  Management isn’t about showcasing your intelligence, ideas, or world-class selling skills, but rather it’s about making others great through the exploration and exploitation of their abilities.  Sounds simple, huh?  It ain’t.

While managing isn’t easy, it’s incredibly simple.  Here are a few hidden gems I’ve collected over several years of managing humans:

  1. No one is as motivated as you. It took me several years to figure this out.  The fact that you’re being considered for leadership is likely an indicator that you’re very different.  Drive and passion for excellence are the 2 leading indicators of great software sellers…and upon taking your first leadership role, you’ll be perplexed why everyone doesn’t care as much as you.  Don’t be so hard on the Beaver, Ward.  Remember, it takes all kinds to make the world go ‘round.
  2. They will only implement 5% of what you teach.   Hours and hours and hours and hours…you’ll pour your soul into ‘em.  And in the end, they will likely revert back to their old ways of mediocrity.  If you’ve been a parent of teenagers, you’ll know what I mean here.  The secret here is consistency.  Just keep plugging away because that 5% can mean the difference between winning and losing.  Club or 50% of your team’s number…
  3. Be prepared to get no glory in victory, but the sword upon defeat. One of my reps recently signed a 2 comma-deal.  When he called me to thank me, he literally cried as my role in that particular deal was pretty instrumental.  This recognition was very appreciated, but certainly not normal.  My CEO, however, has no idea what role I played in that transaction, as my sales rep’s name is on the deal…not mine.  Software Sales leaders are similar to blocking full backs in football.  How many people think about Matt Suhey’s role in all the touchdowns Walter Payton scored?  Emmitt Smith thanked Daryl Johnston in his hall of fame speech, but most people wouldn’t know his name otherwise.  Matt and Daryl were motivated not for the glory or the gold, but for the love of the game!
  4. Much of the time, the most powerful action is no action. Being “super-rep” is usually the most common flag-on-the-field for sales leaders.  Most sales leaders have the best ideas…it’s why they’re in the chair.  However, by spewing your great ideas every chance you get, it not only dilutes your messaging, but it fosters a subconscious dynamic in which your reps won’t think for themselves.
  5. Trust is won or lost in the day-to-day. Most software sellers are very emotionally intelligent.  A change in your tone, a look on your face, word choice…they all matter…every day.  I remember I got a phone call from a former sales leader who was new to me one Friday morning.  For 5 minutes he made small talk, which wasn’t unusual for him to do from what I knew of him.  However, after about 5 minutes, he kindly asked me whether or not I intended to join our team’s forecast call on the other line.  I was soooo embarrassed as I had totally forgotten about our standing forecast call….that happens every Friday…at the same time!  He knew that this behavior was NOT normal for me, so rather than light me up with a text message, he won my heart that day with kindness.  Ya think I ever missed another forecast call on his team?

Managing is simple, but not easy.  If you’re up for it, leave your recognition, W-2, and pride behind.  For me, I know I’m a better sales leader than I am a seller…as I’m highly interested in the development of my people.  It’s my calling.  What about you?

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