Promotion! Now What?

So, I wanted to fol­low up on Tuna’s last post (Achiev­ing Total Sales Con­scious­ness, 9/7/2009).

Becom­ing a con­scious com­pe­tent and  the whole issue of self coach­ing  is a pretty inter­est­ing topic.

How some­one moves through these stages, how man­agers are sup­posed to help guide their reports, and how, in the end, you are the only one respon­si­ble for your own development.

I’m sure you’ve all had plenty of man­agers who were pro­moted to high­est level of their incom­pe­tence, or per­haps it hap­pened to you? You were suc­cess­ful a cou­ple years, knock­ing it out of the park, rely­ing very lit­tle on your VP for in fun­nel or con­tract­ing help, and then, you got promoted.

And then what?

What the hell do you do now?

Have any man­age­ment expe­ri­ence? How about  man­age­ment skills?

Are YOU going to receive any man­age­ment or men­tor­ing? Do you know how to work your team’s fun­nel? Can you see through the sand­bag­gers and the unend­ing opti­mists to get to the accu­rate forecast?

This deci­sion – to carry the bag or man­age the bag car­ri­ers is a big one. And a really impor­tant one. Because, frankly, if you don’t know how to do those things above and you don’t have a men­tor who will teach you, you should run like hell.

And I mean it. It’s not a pro­mo­tion in that case. It’s a death wish.

You won’t make money.  Your guys may strug­gle with­out the right coach­ing to make money. And you’ll be out of that job in a year or two. And by then, your super­star years will be out­dated when you’re head­ing back to get another bag car­ry­ing gig. And then, what will you do? You’ll be start­ing all over again prov­ing your­self in a job that may not be the best ven­dor, best ter­ri­tory, best product….

The thing about sales man­age­ment is (and one of the secrets that most peo­ple who’ve never done it don’t con­sider)…. It’s not where the money is. Res­cue Me’s lat­est post, tells you when where the money is. (Integrity & Promises, 7/14/2009) .

It’s when you carry a bag, build a rep­u­ta­tion and trust in your ter­ri­tory plus sell to the same peo­ple year after year. That’s how you build a career,  a con­sis­tent pay­check and a lifestyle to brag about.

The other thing about the man­age­ment gig is  you have to really enjoy it. You have to like coach­ing and men­tor­ing.  You have to like iden­ti­fy­ing your team’s indi­vid­ual strengths and weak­nesses and then find­ing ways to help them be suc­cess­ful with their strengths while you ini­tially com­pen­sate for and then help work though their weaknesses.

And you have to be pre­pared to fail and let your guys fail occasionally.

I still remem­ber drown­ing in one of the first meet­ings I con­ducted on my own.

For the begin­ning of my sell­ing career, my boss and I would run calls together, work cold call scripts together, etc. These were my uncon­scious incom­pe­tent days. I could barely book a plane ticket on my own.

And I had to ana­lyze and talk and ana­lyze and talk about EVERY sales event. No event too small, no call too big… (You can see how the long blog posts come nat­u­rally. No com­ments on the “chick” in my name, btw.) But the con­stant break­ing things down helped me fig­ure things out. That’s how I moved through the stages.

Next, con­scious incom­pe­tent. And the all time worst meet­ing of my life. I drowned. Pub­licly. And in humil­i­at­ing fash­ion. And my boss just sat there. And I was dying. In front of the TWO C-levels. TWO. I was talk­ing in cir­cles. Not hit­ting their pain points or any­thing. And then it ended. With no next steps. Just a handshake.

And we walked out, got in the car and I remem­ber just star­ing at my boss. “How could you let me die like that?” And I con­tin­ued, “I should have done this, instead of that. This is where I messed up. This I was kind of on the right track, but mix­ing it up…” I was start­ing to get it. Or at least fig­ur­ing out what I did and didn’t know. With­out all of the talk­ing and ana­lyz­ing. My boss must have been tremen­dously relieved the days of those con­ver­sa­tions were com­ing to an end.

So, I moved through the stages, had a cou­ple of ball park years, then the call…. “You seem to know what you’re doing. Want to manage?”

And it began again. I knew how to tell them what to do, have them repeat it and then get deals done, but I didn’t know how to teach them to fig­ure that out on their own or how to help them develop.  I asked for help. Advice about what to say to my new team, how to help them, how to read a pipe, fig­ure out a fore­cast, etc. My poor boss was prob­a­bly reliv­ing the years of talk­ing and ana­lyz­ing and wak­ing up in the mid­dle of the night with cold sweats and flash­backs. Déjà vu all over again.

But, alas, the oppor­tu­nity for me to sit back and not talk while one of my guys drowned. It’s funny. You know nei­ther of you will be going to back to that prospect ever again, but fail­ing is part of the process. And you have to take that hit to get the big wins later. And get your team to advance through the stages to being inde­pen­dent.  So peo­ple learn and grow. (Hint: don’t do this at the top prospects, use a B account for let­ting total fail­ure occur..)

I haven’t worked my way through the stages again quite yet in my cur­rent role. As a man­ager, I’d still say I’m in the con­scious com­pe­tent stage. I won­der how many times you can work through the stages? Is it every time you start a new job? Cer­tainly you can’t walk into some­thing you’ve never sold before and be at con­scious com­pe­tent can you? Or do you go through them with each advance­ment in your career? Tuna?

I’d argue that most of the time, it’s rare to have a boss like I have pro­vide so much coach­ing.  It would have been really tough if I was try­ing to fig­ure it out and improve solely on my own.

How about you? Do you have the sup­port you need learn­ing and mas­ter­ing sales or man­age­ment skills? Or are you work­ing your way through on your own? Or are you just a nomad with no self aware­ness screw­ing it up for the rest of us?

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