14th May 2020
Evolving From Sales to Sales Leadership
Congrats to me! I have been officially promoted from a Senior Financial Consultant to an Associate Financial Services Manager with effect from January 2019. But a promotion does come with a price. Read on to find out more.
Since the days when I was in corporate HR, I have witnessed for myself how employees were being promoted to Managers based on their superior performance as an individual contributor to start managing people. Some of them, who are natural leaders are able to pull off easily. However there are always those who struggle, especially the higher and more senior Management positions, the more challenging the transition.
The promotion in the sales industry takes place in a similar fashion. Financial consultants who had done well in the previous year are able to be promoted once they meet the minimum headcount and sales figures criteria.
But it is a far cry from just Doing sales to Leading a team to deliver the desired sales performance. Personally for me, I was facing some initial struggles during this period of transition. The purpose of writing this article is to share my own humble experience that nothing should be taken for granted. I may have had won several accolades in the past due to my sales achievements. But this does not automatically transform me naturally into a good Sales Leader. There were many moments of uncertainties, feeling lost and stranded in an uncomfortable zone. On one hand, it takes the Sales Leader an extraneous efforts to make a successful transition. Yet on the other hand, the team members would have to have trust and confidence in their new Leader to help them succeed in this new career. It simply takes two hands to clap.
On the first day of my promotion to the entry level of Sales Leadership, when I was still basking in the excitement, I was told this point-blank.
“Now it no longer matters if you are the Top Financial Consultant or not. What truly matters from now onwards is your team sales.”
Honestly, this statement was blunt but yet a genuine good reminder. Those words set me pondering for the next few days and nights subsequently. There is no ill feelings, on the contrary, I felt sincerely grateful for the reminder. The few days of reflection allowed me to distill and clarify my convoluted thoughts. Gradually I was able to discern and list the problems one by one and eventually it gave birth to several ideas for implementation.
Below is the list of my own challenges when evolving from Sales to Sales Leader vis-à-vis their corresponding solutions:
Challenge 1: Time Management. It is so true that once after we become a Sales Leader, our time is hardly ours anymore. This is further exacerbated by the fact that I am a working mother with 2 children. As a Sales Leader, I am now leading a team of 4 Financial Consultants who have all done mid-career switches to join me. Therefore it is my responsibility to guide and help them succeed in this new role. This is on top of me being a Financial Consultant myself to service my existing clients and acquire more new clients. My passion to protect lives continues to fuel my motivation to wake up daily at 5am.
Suggested Approach: After seeking advice from my own Leader, and several veterans in the industry, the approach is to find an Optimal Balance in time management and priority. As a Sales Leader, we must ensure there is adequate time allocated to the team and prioritise our time to guide them whenever they have problems. Especially for the new team members, I would always remember the days when I was as ‘new’ as him/her and be as patient and empathetic as possible. Afterall I had been through the same gruelling steep learning curve before. For them, it is even far more daunting now. The famous quote from SpiderMan has always resonated strong with me.
With great power comes great responsibility. ~ SpiderMan movie
Challenge 2: Knowledge and Skills Transfer. I may be good at Sales but the question has now become:
“Am I able to guide my team to replicate the same success*?”
*Note: The success here does not necessarily mean material or wealth gains. Success to me is a personal measure. What I define as success may not be your definition. My own version of success is an optimal balance of the 5 life pillars of career, family, health, self-development and relationships.
In the span of 18 months, I evolved from a brand new rookie and catapulted my way to become one of the top Financial Consultants. However behind the scenes of the awards and achievements, what I truly appreciate and treasure was the immense product knowledge, polished skills and more importantly the sales experience I had gained from each and every prospect, whether they eventually become my clients or not. Each sit-down experience is transformed into a learning ground and I would synthesize them into learning lessons.
Suggested Approach: On top of the standard Company and agency training sessions, all my team members would receive dedicated 1:1 product training and sales coaching from me. I am someone who always believe in the Management philosophy of ‘rolling up one’s sleeves’ and remain ‘hands-on’. As a Sales Leader, if I am not on the ground, I would not be able to guide my team members in sales pitching and handling objections. That was why I decided to push myself last year to qualify for the “Court of Table” (COT).
Challenge 3: Strategic Planning. On hindsight, as I reflected on my past 18 months’ journey, I realised that one of the key actions which differentiated me from many others was my own targets/goals tracking. I am someone has a firm belief in “What gets measured gets done”, perhaps this trait was internalised in me since my corporate days due to annual performance goal-setting.
“What gets measured gets done.” ~Bob Thompson
Suggested Approach: I have since came up with a targets/goal setting template for each of my individual team member. Personally for me as a Sales Leader, I can only facilitate the process to help them achieve each of their desired goals. I am never someone who believe in setting top-down goals. The reason for them to specify their own goals is a process for them to internalise that they are doing this for themselves. Not for me. As a Financial Consultant now, we are all self-employed driving their own careers. I am only the GPS who guides and directs them to the way to their desired destination. But I do not decide where they should land.
Of course there were many other little challenges along the way but I have listed the above biggest challenges in my own perspective. Hope that this article can inspire you to find your way out of the darkness if you are facing one today. I am sure you will see the light at the end of the tunnel soon!
14th May 2020