The most successful salespeople are often promoted to sales management. They have demonstrated knowledge of selling, and they have a pattern of success. Yet after a year or two many new sales managers are unsuccessful, and after a relatively short time some burn out and leave the position. Why? [Note: This is the second part of Jim’s analysis of sales manager performance. Click here for part one: ‘Why Your Top Sales Person Might Struggle After a Promotion’]
Selling and Managing Have Different Stress Loads
Those who thrive and appear eligible for promotion are often socially optimistic high-achievers, who have become adept at letting stress roll off them. Yet some of these optimistic producers crash and burn out under the challenges of management.
To find out why, I interviewed my friend, Dr. Joe Arpaia, a psychiatrist who specializes in stress-management. He introduced a way of thinking about what we call “stress” that helped me see the problem in a new light. He said:
“For people to understand stress management they must distinguish between stress and strain. This distinction is made in engineering. ‘Stress’ is the load on a structure, and ‘strain’ is the deformation of the structure under the load.
“We need to make the same distinction when talking about the stress on a person. Stress refers to the load, or demands, the person is facing. Strain is the body’s response to the load. When we separate stress and strain in this manner we understand how to manage stress more effectively.”
I asked if it would be correct to say that a typical successful salesperson experiences stress but deals with it without excessive “strain” because he or she is competent to handle the load. And that when the salesperson is promoted to management, the skill sets that worked before as a lone ranger are often no longer appropriate for managing others.
“Exactly,” said Dr. Arpaia. “When the salesperson is promoted, the stress of managing is a different kind of load and the behaviors that used to work no longer do. The new sales manager experiences strain. Ideally the new sales manager would develop effective behaviors to deal with the stress of managing thereby reducing strain. However, if the sales manager is not able to develop new behaviors quickly enough he or she is likely to revert to the behaviors that worked for selling. However, those won’t be effective enough when the sales manager has to sell enough to make goal for the whole team.”
Here are several useful techniques that can help newly promoted sales managers:
• Introduce new stresses in a stepwise manner so that the new sales manager becomes effective at handling each step before the next is introduced.
• Become skilled at reducing tension, keeping the breath calm and deep.
• Use these techniques throughout the day.
• Learn to recharge when coasting, like a hybrid car. This increases efficiency.
Enhance Effective Learning
• Take the time to review successes. Each review strengthens effective learning.
• Redo mistakes using virtual rehearsal.
Joseph Arpaia, MD, lives and practices in Eugene, OR. He is the co-author of Real Meditation in Minutes a Day. He specializes in helping people deal with stress-related conditions to improve their health and personal effectiveness. Jim Elliott is president of the James G. Elliott Co, Inc., a national advertising sales and consulting company, and a regular contributor to FOLIO:.